A tour group listens to reenactor David Lehman Oct. 9 at the Clinton Grove Cemetery. Guided tours took folks on a history of those buried at the cemetery. Lehman portrays Ludwik Wesolowski.

A tour group listens to reenactor David Lehman Oct. 9 at the Clinton Grove Cemetery. Guided tours took folks on a history of those buried at the cemetery. Lehman portrays Ludwik Wesolowski.

Photo by Alex Szwarc

Cemetery stroll gives a historical look at Macomb County

By: Alex Szwarc | C&G Newspapers | Published October 23, 2021


CLINTON TOWNSHIP — It was described as a place that holds a treasure trove of local history.

The afternoon of Oct. 9, folks gathered at Clinton Grove Cemetery in Clinton Township for the cemetery walk. Guided tours began every 15 minutes, each lasting about 90 minutes. Over 120 people attended the walk, which included six presentations on individuals buried at the 166-year-old cemetery.

This year’s walk featured two women who portrayed their mothers.

One was Leslie Lynch-Wilson who portrayed Marian Roberta Kooker Lynch, an architect at a time when women architects were rather rare. The other was Mary Vick-Spaulding, who portrayed her mother, Viola Emma Heldt Vick, in honoring the 50th anniversary of Harold Vick Funeral Home in Mount Clemens.

Kim Parr organized the walk and owns Michstory Tours, a company that features historical trips throughout Michigan, most using reenactors to tell the stories of the people who built the state.

“I think people were looking for something to go to, so they could do something outside,“ she said. “We could not have asked for a better day.”

She has been involved with the walks since 2006.

“People gained an appreciation for the diverse stories our local ancestors hold,” Parr said. “They don’t have to be wealthy to have interesting stories. In fact, it’s sometimes the opposite.”

Other characters at the walk included William Alexander Lorway, portrayed by Tom Jarrell; George “Old Man” Brooks, played by Dan Woitulewicz; Anna Bannow Pingel, played by Linda Paton; and Ludwik Wesolowski, portrayed by David Lehman.

“This is history that’s not documented anywhere, so if not for people coming forward and saying, ‘I’d like you to present the history of one of my ancestors,’ it’s a chance to document history that otherwise might be lost,” Parr said.

Wesolowski died in 1870 and was born in Warsaw, Poland. He is said to be the first Polish immigrant in Macomb County.

“It’s been a very positive experience,” Lehman said. “We’re able to pull out facts from the past and teach them about local history.”

Part of Lehman’s presentation included a story on Cass Avenue, the road in front of Clinton Grove.

“It’s named after Lewis Cass, territorial governor,” he said, speaking as Wesolowski. “Before Lewis Cass, I was here. I platted this road when it was put in. This is Shelby Road.”

He educated folks about the city of Warsaw, which was located along present-day Cass Avenue and the railroad tracks and depot in Mount Clemens.

“I had the honor of naming that,” Lehman said in character. “I was the first surveyor for the county.”

Wesolowski was pushed out of Poland into Austria as a prisoner. He arrived in New York in 1834.

Lehman said the family settled in the Mount Clemens area in the 1840s, living at an estate not far from the cemetery. Wesolowski became a naturalized citizen in 1846.

To study his character, Lehman said he studied a script and did additional research with related items. He said the Warsaw name stuck around for about 25 years in the second half of the 1800s.

For Lehman, he said his favorite part of portraying Wesolowski was finding out some of the unusual details and sharing knowledge with folks who have an interest in history. He works at a plastics plant in Utica and is a retired educator.

Wesolowski and his wife Sarah are buried at the cemetery. The couple had three children.

Basil DeNardo, 21, attended the walk. As a youngster in Girl Scouts, she had previously attended.

“It’s interesting to hear the history of the area and where everyone came from and ended up here,” she said. “I’ve learned how the people buried here helped build the area.”

Parr said some money from the walk will go toward historical grave marker restoration projects at the cemetery.