Sacred Heart cemetery tour Saturday
Chief Leopold Pokagon and his tribe of Potawatomi Indians built a log chapel near Priest Lake in 1838 and deeded 40 acres of land on which it stood to the Catholic bishop of Detroit.
Pokagon came to Cass County’s Silver Creek Township from his village outside of Niles. He was buried on the site in 1841.
During the early 1840s, the Holy Cross Fathers of Notre Dame in Indiana ministered to the Indians.
In 1844, Father Theophile Marivault became the church’s permanent priest.
He was followed by Father Louis Baroux, who served most of the years from 1847 to 1870 and was buried there in 1897.
In the mid-19th century, many Irish immigrants, including such names prevalent in the cemetery as Cullinane and Brosnan, settled in the vicinity and attended the parish.
A white frame church built in 1861 burned in 1868 and was immediately replaced by the present third structure at 51841 Leach Road, which is a Michigan historic site.
As the parish celebrates its 175th anniversary, Howard Poole, a Western Michigan University professor who lives at Magician Lake, recalled the rift the addition of the adjacent church hall and pavilion caused.
“There were people who were desperately afraid that once we built this building down here, the church up on the hill would somehow be closed up or done away with. There was lots of controversy because the old guard wanted to protect the church on the hill and they didn’t want to deal with summer visitors who only showed up in July and August.”
“Another controversy that came up,” Poole said Wednesday night. “They were convinced garage doors were going to be put on the pavilion to make it a church.”
Outdoor Masses in the summer attracted thousands.
The hall was enlarged in the early ’90s to add classroom space.
“This church was unique at one time,” Poole said, “because it had some of the first electrical things in the county. The priests bought a generator and attached lights to the back of the altar. The old light fixtures and wires are still back there. During Mass, at a certain time, they literally lit up the altar. It was a special sacrament.”
Longtime Postmaster Dan Brosnan was said to know precisely how many lights there were because he counted them. He is a character in Saturday night’s cemetery tour.
Sacred Heart of Mary offers a cemetery tour Saturday evening, July 13, at 6:30 p.m. for its 175th anniversary.
There have been many romances, family feuds, storms at sea, hard times and good times.
Actors will portray pioneer parishioners.
History will come alive as they and Potawatomi and others through the 1990s tell of their lives and times.
Tickets cost $10 each or three for $25. The event starts in the church and continues through the cemetery, weather permitting. Contact the office at (269) 782-8048.