Nearly 300 Forgotten Souls Now Remembered by Plaque at Sault Ste. Marie Mass Grave
Potter's fields are not common these days, but back in the day they were quite common, and a large one in Sault Ste. Marie now has at least one marker honoring those who are buried there.
The mass grave has been there for more than 125 years, but most residents don't even know that it's there (I can attest to this, as I lived in the area for 20 years, and this is the first time I'm hearing of it.)
The Detroit Free Press featured the mass grave in a piece Sunday. They detailed the hard life of those who lived in Sault Ste. Marie (and really, the Upper Peninsula as a whole) a hundred years ago. (Check out their full piece here.)
Many people died on the job, some from illness, some from "overindulging" in alcohol, and when they had no family, or the family had no funds to bury them, into the pit at the potter's field they went.
The potter's field in the Soo isn't exactly hidden away, it's adjacent to a regular cemetery, Riverside Cemetery (also known as St. Mary's Cemetery if you're buried on the Catholic side). But, after the city stopped using the potter's field space years ago, many forgot about it, and became covered in grass.
So, why honor them now? Caroline Grabowski, a Sault Ste. Marie resident, author, and historian thought that it was important.
Caroline got to work, going through documents and newspapers, trying to figure out who, exactly, had been buried in the potter's field between 1890 and 1935.
She uncovered stories of men who had been killed in accidents on the job, suicides, fire, a few who got drunk and then froze to death while passed out in the frigid U.P. winter.
In all, 284 people were buried in the potter's field. Grabowski was able to identify most of them, including one woman who was identified only as "Mrs. Miller". But, there is a large group of them who were never identified in the first place.
That group is referred to only as the "Twenty-Five Unknowns," and it includes a baby who was strangled to death, corpses found floating in the canal, and two unknown men who were found dead behind City Hall. They weren't identified before being buried, and remain unidentified to this day.
The dead buried in Sault Ste. Marie's Potter's Field were never recognized. There were no headstones. Nothing was there to tell you who was buried there. But now, thanks to the hard work and dedication of Caroline Grabowski, there is a small plaque listing the names of all who were laid to rest there.