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Maple Hill Cemetery – Hartford, Michigan

September 27, 2007
Tri-City Record
   by Angela Stair

Maple Hill vault refurbished;
a piece of Hartford history saved

  Local residents have been helping Cemetery Sexton Gerrie Heskett to save the vault and a piece of history at Maple Hill Cemetery in Hartford.
    Heskett said the vault, located in the cemetery, was used in days gone by for storing bodies during the winter months when the ground was too frozen to bury them.  The caskets would be shelved and then buried the following spring.

The exact date of the building is unknown, but the cemetery itself was created in 1898 and a sidewalk in front of the vault was made in 1912, so she believes it is prior to 1912 that it was built.
    With the help of Gene Snodgrass, John Fries, Jack Wilkins, Terri Hazen, Tom Norden and Chris Norden, Heskett said they are finally nearing completion of the repairs on the building.



Work on the building started last summer (2006) with volunteer Jack Wilkens, who used his equipment and expertise to power-wash the building.  Heskett said he had to remove years of mold growth and other things on the roof and sides of the building.

The building was made of blocks that Wilkins said were made locally at the Brick Yard in Hartford, which was located where the City Garage now stands.

Approximately 40 shrubs had to be removed that had long since outgrown themselves and Heskett said the shrubs had cracked the sidewalk in front of the building.  John Fries and Tom Norden are planning on repairing the cement so the engraved name, Conklin & Simpson Contractors, and date, October 19, 1912, can be preserved.

The repairs included rebuilding the cement overhangs; tearing out the door and reframing it so it would work; and much, much cleaning.  Heskett said a clear seal coat was applied to the building last fall, but it was too late to do the painting until this year.

A waterproof seal is being applied now and the white paint will follow.  Heskett said the lettering on the front of the vault –   Maple Hill Vault  – and the wood trim would be in Hartford green.

Heskett said the vault is no longer used to hold bodies for spring burial.  She said the ground doesn’t seem to freeze as hard as it used to, and she does a lot of winter burials.  Heskett said she started working at cemeteries 33 years ago.  At that time, they would sometimes have to use a jackhammer to break the surface, but she hasn’t had to use that process for the last 20 years.

All of the work has been done by volunteers, Heskett said.  Materials that were needed to be purchased came from the approximately $400 Hartford Township Board had approved for the project.

Heskett said a special thank you goes out to Mark Kellogg and his crew down at Kellogg’s Ace Hardware and to Bob Anderson and his crew at Red Arrow Lumber for all the expertise and help they gave on what to use and how to use it.

    October 9, 2007
Herald Palladium
     by John Madill


  Gerrie Heskett, sexton at the Maple Hill Cemetery in Hartford, finishes painting the vault, which she believes dates to the cemetery’s creation in 1898. A century ago burials weren’t conducted in the winter and caskets were stored in the vault to await the spring thaw.
    Heskett said Friday that volunteers have been busy repairing the vault.



A beautiful finished restoration of the Maple Hill Cemetery Vault
Finished vault photo by Emma Thornburg Sefcik
October 29, 2007

Information for this web site was gathered from personal interviews, newspaper articles, scrapbooks, personal photo albums, and other documented materials - many available to the public at the Hartford Public Library or Van Buren County Historical Museum.  Please report any typographical errors, updated information, or incorrectly stated information to the webmaster for correction.  Reprinting for personal and instructional purposes is permitted, however, unauthorized commercial reprinting of this information or unauthorized linking to photos-pictures on this site is strictly prohibited without written permission from the webmaster. 

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HartfordHistory Icon - Hartford MI

Pearls In Our Past - Hartford Michigan
A Pictorial History of Hartford Michigan
Emma Thornburg Sefcik
Competent Secretarial Service
History of Hartford Michigan
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Revised: March 23, 2009