Brandywine students clean up, get lesson in history
Published 11:55 pm Sunday, October 17, 2010
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
The trees surrounding the Beeson family mausoleum have all changed their color. Many have fallen within the stone walls that outline this historical place, just across the street from the Beeson mansion. Tucked away on Bond Street in Niles Township.
Sunday however, the often silent resting place of one of Niles’ historical families was lively with the sounds of leaves being blown aside and layers of moss being scraped from those stately stone walls.
Members of the Brandywine High School History Club were at the site for an all-day clean-up, joined by friends and family who kept busy and got dirty raking, scraping and restoring the area.
“My mom and I were just talking and we decided that it would be a good idea,” Hannah Sweet said, scraping moss alongside her younger brother, Ethan.
Sweet, a senior at Brandywine and member of the history club said she saw more than a dozen people come out to help with the project — who hadn’t even signed up to help.
Some of them were friends and family, like Chelsea Coryeou, a freshman at Grand Valley State University and Brandywine graduate who said her sister was a member of the club. Home for the weekend, Coryeou decided to come down and lend a hand.
“Some (people) really don’t care,” about the state of such historical sites, Sweet said. “And I think they should. I think it’s kind of what has shaped us today.”
For that reason, Sweet said she felt it necessary to “preserve things that are our history and our community. Because it’s important.”
Teacher and adviser for the club, Dave Roeder said in addition to field trips and special activities, students will also take part in community service projects such as the clean-up at the Beeson mausoleum.
Following the clean-up, Sweet and Roeder said the group would light candles and tell the story behind the site.
“It’s a lot of local history,” Roeder said.
“We’ve always heard stories about it,” added Sweet. “We kind of just want to hear the real story.”
Told through the Star’s Silverbrook Legacies series, the site has been described as though a “sense of mourning still shrouds the Beeson Mausoleum with a feel of mystery. Indeed many myths have surrounded the quiet place.
“Longtime residents of Niles recall stories of the little baby who died in the mansion, whose mother crossed the street at night to light candles so her child would not be left in the dark. Some would suggest she lost her mind after rocking his little body until it decomposed and she was dragged off to an institution where she supposedly died…
“The truth it seems is not so romantic. At the age of 11 months the child reportedly died at his grandfather’s home, the result of teething according to Berrien County records.
As with most families, the Beeson’s lives were a mixture of successes and sorrows. Strother’s tremendous success and his acquisition of great wealth lent itself then as we see in other successful public figures today to a lot of speculation and gossip.”