About 20 students spent three days in West Farmington Cemetery in Farmington Hills this fall as a part of their class, becoming more familiar with the layout and documenting those whose remains are buried in the cemetery.
Several Schoolcraft College students got into the spirit of the season earlier this year, spending part of their fall semester working in the cemetery.
Students in Professor Alec Thomson’s HIST 152: 19th Century American History class took their studies out of the classroom and into the final resting place for those who settled in present-day Farmington Hills. About 20 students spent three days in West Farmington Cemetery this fall as a part of their class, becoming more familiar with the layout and documenting those whose remains are buried in the cemetery.
“This is our first term undertaking this type of project, but I think it has gone very well and students appear to be making good connections between these historical events and our commitment to the past,” said Thomson, who teaches political science and history. “Ultimately, we want students to think of studying history as a dynamic exercise that not only provides us with opportunity for reflection but a deeper understanding for mapping our future. The work of the students creates a tangible link between the past and the present.”
A service-learning project, the work the students did fit into developing the research skills of historical study, including, but not limited to, data gathering and analyzing primary sources.
Thomson, who also serves on the Farmington Hills Historic District Commission, said students used a mobile application to map the locations of the graves, as well as to record the information displayed on the headstones.
The goal is to have this data hosted on a website that will be accessible to the public and allow members of the local community and those around the world to wish to learn more about the people buried in the cemetery. Visitors will be able to search for individual names, veteran status or by date.
The cemetery, located at 12 Mile and Halsted roads in Farmington Hills, was established in 1835 as the Baptist Burying Ground. It contains more than 200 gravesites, with many dating back to the 19th century.
“In class, we discussed how the cemetery started and what the surrounding area used to look like. As someone who loves history, I found it extremely interesting and thought-provoking to see how far the area has come, in what is my opinion, in not a very long time,” said Declan O’Hare, one of the students in Thomson’s class. “I think cemeteries are often thought to be sad places or even off limits, so being able to walk around and gather information from different graves was an eye-opening experience for me. I also took the opportunity to look at the ages of some of the people buried there, some my age, some older, and even younger than me.
“This gave me the chance to put myself in their shoes and draw questions as to what life was like in the time they lived.”