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Ray Township, Michigan

Located in Section 15, Indian Trail Road bet. 29 Mile Rd and Wolcott, Ray Township

In a secluded bend of Indian Trail road lies a quiet country burial ground known as the Lee Cemetery. Located less than a half-mile from the once thriving, small town of Ray Center, this peaceful site is the final resting place for some of Ray Township’s earliest settlers. Lee Cemetery is one of three historic cemeteries that exist in Ray Township. 

Thanks to M.A. Leeson and Company, who published History of Macomb County, Michigan in 1882, we know that some of the people laid to rest in the Lee Cemetery had very important roles in Ray. A few that are named in Leeson’s book and those we know were laid to rest in the Lee Cemetery include; Wilson W. Miller, Ray Township treasurer 1839-40 and William Lee - Ray Township Clerk from 1847-48 and 1854.

The cemetery was once part of the Lee family farm. Macomb County records show that on January 28, 1859 at 12 noon, a deed was recorded in the Macomb County Clerk’s Office transferring ownership of the cemetery from Josiah Lee to Thomas Cooper, et al. Josiah was the son of William Lee and Electa Loucks. The new owners included; Thomas Cooper, Thomas G. Omans, Eva S. Perry, Samuel Butterfield, John Goodell, Simon Stone, William Lee, David Stone, Josiah Lee, Wilson W. Miller, Daniel Lee and Edmund W. (last name illegible - perhaps Steward ?). The purchase price was $1.00. Although the deed was recorded in 1859, the sale actually took place prior to that. A notation within the deed recording states that on November 2, 1841, Josiah Lee acknowledged to the Macomb County Justice of the Peace that he had “signed, sealed and delivered the parcel of land documented in the deed to the said parties for the purpose of being used and occupied as a burial ground.”

The first known burial in the Lee Cemetery took place three months prior to Ray actually becoming an officially formed township. Thirty-one-year old Asenath Chubb, died on January 7, 1827 and was buried in the northeast corner of the cemetery. Idillia Butterfield died on October 30, 1906 and is the last known burial to have taken place here.

In the following years, the cemetery was known by a few different names. These names are documented in the Michigan Cemetery Atlas. A copy of this atlas is housed in various libraries including the State of Michigan Library and locally at the Mt. Clemens Public Library.

In 1943, the Daughters of the American Revolutionary War (DAR) recorded the deaths in what they noted was the Ray Center Cemetery.

In 1948, the Detroit Society for Genealogical Research (DSGR) performed a recording and noted the site as the Wolcott Cemetery.

Many years later in 1970, DeWees, et al. completed a survey of the site which was called the Indian Trail Cemetery.

Although this listing is not published, Delores Fowler, the former Ray Township Historical Society president, recorded the cemetery burials in the 1970s.

Gilsdorf/Hemme-Rogers also recorded the burials of what they called the Indian Trail Cemetery. This recording took place in 1991.

In May 2005, Bernard Pearl, one of Macomb County’s foremost cemetery researchers, assisted the Ray Township Historical Society (RTHS) with its quest to find lost graves in the cemetery. As a result of his work, Bernard published the most current recording of the burials.

This serene little place has been through some very rough times. Throughout the 1900’s many of the gravestones were damaged, moved from their original locations and perhaps even stolen. As a result, only the few headstones that remain provide us with a glimpse of who is buried there. To complicate matters, the burial records are nowhere to be found. In the 1800’s and 1900’s, these types of records were often kept in someone’s home. Remember, Ray Township did not have an official office until the mid 1980’s. Additionally, when a person passed away they were often laid out in a private home rather than a funeral home. Official death records to Macomb County were only required beginning in 1867, so burial records prior to that year may be non-existent.

In the spring of 2005, with the help of Bernard Pearl, the Ray Township Historical Society set out to locate lost gravestones in the cemetery. That very first day, the RTHS discovered four stones that had settled a foot or more into the earth, one of which we learned was a Civil War veteran – the second one buried in the cemetery. In the years following, the RTHS found two additional stones

The cemetery was surrounded by a very old and dilapidated farm fence. The farm fence gates were broken and presented a potentially dangerous hazard for anyone visiting and no protection for the headstones. Through the assistance of many generous donors and grant funding, the Ray Township Historical Society erected a new fence to properly secure the cemetery. The next goal of the RTHS is to raise enough funds to professionally preserve the remaining headstones, as an ongoing tribute to those who rest there.

Our heartfelt gratitude goes to the many people who pointed the RTHS in the right direction to find historical data on this cemetery, provided donations and sweat equity to preserve this special place. To protect their privacy, no names are mentioned, but they know who they are. Your assistance is so very much appreciated!

For more information on how you can help with the continued restoration of this precious place, please see the Lee Cemetery Brochure under the Lee Cemetery link located on our website. Thank you!

Authored by: Connie Firestine, Terry Goike and Kim O’Brien (November 2008)