Controversy over Civil War veteran’s burial site at Ionia County cemetery

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IONIA TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- There's concern that part of a Civil War veteran's final resting place, along with his son's, may have been destroyed at an Ionia County cemetery.

What used to be the burial vault for Albert Clark and his son is now just a grassy patch.   Ionia Township officials say the site was a safety hazard, so they took off the roof and the front of the structure and buried it.

"It was a hazard to people and it was an eyesore," said  Ionia Township Supervisor Larry Listerman "There was no markings and no stones."

According to records on the genealogical website Find A Grave, Clark and his son's death certificates were buried in the vault.   Pictures from 2011 show the grave was clearly labeled by a headstone that sat on the ground leaning against the structure.

Photographs taken by a professional photographer who grew up in Ionia Township show the structure was in fair condition.

The former caretaker of the cemetery, Mark Barna, said its removal is a disgrace.

"Oh there's definitely bodies in there," he said.  "People paid for the lot, the land, and they are there forever.  You can't disturb them unless you get the permits to move."

Under Michigan law, a permit is required to move a deceased person.

According to Barna, the health department has no record of the burial.

When asked how he knew for sure there were no bodies inside, especially when it could be sealed in cement, Listerman responded:

If there were bodies in it, they are in the ground underneath.  If that's a tomb underneath the building, I am not going to break into a tomb, there is no reason to.  If there is bodies in there it's nicely covered up with dirt and seeded and it will be mowed.  I'm not going to disturb them.

Barna says the township had the burial site destroyed "for no good reason."

The township board voted to have the vault taken down last year, and claim Barna has a chip on his shoulder because he was replaced as caretaker of the cemetery.  Barna said he wants to get the authorities involved.

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  • Devin McKellips

    This IS a disgrace.
    Me and about fifteen of my peers from Ionia High School could explain to you what it was, because we all explored that place (to satisfy paranormal urban legend) under the starlight, 7/8 years ago.
    The mausoleum was partially underground anyways, because of the hill it sat in. The ‘roof’ looked like bare, weathered, ground from above. You could walk over to it from the main path. I also recall a small hole in the roof that was patched.

    Anyway, I have no idea why they would decide to tear it down. They surely could have done something with the roof, but it was simply not very well maintained, even though essentially the entire structure was stone least the big, heavy, iron door that served as the main entrance.

    I wonder what happened to that door….

    And I’m also not sure what Mr. Listerman means when he says “If that’s a tomb underneath the building..”, because when you entered the “building”, there were obviously two large stone, rectangle-shaped, vaults on either side of the room.
    You couldn’t miss them because they were right there; there were hardly enough room for three people in there.
    Sounds like bullocks to me.

    • D. Ayres

      I agree with Devin. I took part in various explorations for I lived on the other side of the north facing valley. Honestly that site and the Brocks site were my landmarks to get into the cemetery from the woods. How will I ever find my way again?! Haha. Still that’s too bad. Some things are best left un-touched, especially the dead.

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