My love for genealogy was born in an old family cemetery so it seems only fitting that many of my blogs are about old cemeteries. Cemeteries are the one public place where I skip around like a kid in a candy store excited to see what is around the next bend. Even as a young kid, I was always quick to tag along while someone went to visit a loved one’s grave. I have climbed mountains, crossed the country, and trudged through snake-filled pastures to visit certain cemeteries. To me cemeteries are like a giant open-air genealogical archive.
During a trip to Michigan a couple years ago, I decided to visit the cemetery where my maternal Grandmother’s relatives are laid to rest. She grew up in a small village called Lake and she wanted to see the headstone of a brother that had died in recent years since she lost her mobility. I took my camera and headed off to get the next best thing to a visit…a photo of Uncle Russ’s headstone.
I had never been to the North Brinton Cemetery in Coldwater Township of Isabella County, Michigan. Aside from a couple of my Grandmother’s brothers most of the relatives in the cemetery were either distant or passed away before I was born. Truth be told, until just a few years ago I had not spent much time researching her line and as I wandered stone to stone most of the names were unfamiliar. When she explained it was a family cemetery I assumed more in the aspect of it is where family was buried not that it was a literal family cemetery.
Fast forward a couple years. I have dedicated more time to researching the ancestors of my maternal Grandmother and some of the many collateral lines through the generations. I have a much better picture of how all those many surnames are all connected in one way or another and while the name is not “Spence Cemetery” it has at times been called that through the years in various obituaries published through the area. The actual history of the land and cemetery itself has kept popping up in my research so I decided it was time to give the history of the North Briton Cemetery a blog post of its own.
Brinton is the name of an unincorporated community in Coldwater Township of Isabella County, Michigan. The community was founded in 1862. Originally, it was known as Letson for a local storekeeper who was the first postmaster for the community. In 1886, the town was renamed for Oscar T. Brinton. Records show that James Spence arrived in Coldwater Township after 1890. A land transfer published in the 1893 Isabella County Enterprise show purchases for two sections of land. One of the plots of land James Spence purchased was from Oscar T. Brinton.
Further research shows that James Spence later donated the five acres on which the North Brinton Cemetery sits in 1905. The earliest dated grave in the cemetery is from 1905.
Today the cemetery is still in use. James Spence was buried in the cemetery on the land he donated in 1940. There are several generations of Spence descendants in the cemetery. There are over 800 graves with countless stones dating over a century in age.