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The original archway donated to the Oak Grove Cemetery by the Ladies of Hillsdale, who raised the funds by selling goods at the Hillsdale County Fair.  Carol Lackey/Courtesy
The original archway donated to the Oak Grove Cemetery by the Ladies of Hillsdale, who raised the funds by selling goods at the Hillsdale County Fair. Carol Lackey/Courtesy

A mon­ument built in honor of The Ladies of Hillsdale was com­pleted at the Oak Grove Cemetery this month.

After designing a plan for the mon­ument, Carol Lackey, a lifelong Hillsdale res­ident, pre­sented her idea to the cemetery board this past Feb. The Hillsdale city council then approved her plans for the mon­ument, located near the former fountain and windmill at the center of the cemetery grounds.

The remains for the mon­ument orig­i­nated from the stone archway at the entrance to the cemetery, which was donated by the ladies of Oak Grove Cemetery Asso­ci­ation in 1870. The Ladies of Hillsdale formed in an effort to care for the cemetery after upkeep was neglected during the Civil War. Through their hard work, they were able to fund the archway by selling goods at the Hillsdale County Fair. It stood until 1960, when it was taken down due to safety con­cerns.

In con­junction with both the Hillsdale His­torical Society Board and the Oak Grove Cemetery Asso­ci­ation, the building of the mon­ument itself came together through the gen­erosity of many in the com­munity. James O. Taylor, a former His­torical Society Member, left funds for the cemetery upon his death, which were used to assist in the com­pletion of the memorial.

Lackey came across the idea for a memorial mon­ument back in 2013.

As a member of both the Hillsdale His­torical Society Board and the Oak Grove Cemetery Asso­ci­ation, she ded­i­cated her life to the preser­vation and research of many parts of his­toric Hillsdale through her vol­unteer work at the Mitchell Research Library.

“Out at the cemetery one day and back behind the potter’s field, I was looking around and found some stones,” Lackey said.

These stones she dis­covered to be pieces from the original 1870 archway that sat at the old entrance to the cemetery on Mont­gomery Street. She was able to pre­serve the pieces from when she first found them, to this year, when the mon­ument was built.

Three of the original stones were used in the mon­ument: one reading, “Erected by the Ladies of Hillsdale,” the 1870 head­stone, and the original key­stone.

“I think it’s nice that they were able to do some­thing with some of those old stones to show off the work that was put in before when the arch was built back in the 1870s,” Frank Engle, sexton of Oak Grove Cemetery, said.

Jason Blake, foreman of the Department of Public Ser­vices, sees the mon­ument as a symbol that brings back some of the history to the cemetery that was lost for the past 60 years, he said.

Blake and his crew con­tributed to the mon­ument by exca­vating the area and assisting with the foun­dation structure.

A grand ded­i­cation will be orga­nized for Spring 2017, where they hope to have a Civil War reen­actment to focus on the people of the era that greatly influ­enced the city of Hillsdale, Lackey said.

Today, the memorial is sur­rounded by stone benches for the rest and relax­ation of cemetery vis­itors who come to enjoy the beauty found in this secluded corner of  Hillsdale.

“At one time they held local picnics at the circle,” Lackey said. “I enjoy going to the cemetery and thinking about the history of the com­munity.”