Michigan Trip

April 2010

Part One


* * * Part One * * * Part Two * * * Part Three * * *






By April of 2010, there were just two presidential burial sites that I had 

left to visit. Lyndon Johnson, the famous Texan who took over the presidency 

after the Kennedy assassination in 1963, is buried at his ranch in a place called 

Stonewall. However, it would save us substantial airline fees if, rather than go 

visit LBJ in Texas, we went to pay our respects to Gerald Ford, who was laid to 

rest at his presidential museum in Michigan. After holding a yard sale to help 

fund our adventure, we were ready and able to get on the road again and 

become one step closer to finally completing this quest.


We surmised that the quickest way to get to President Ford's presidential 

museum would be to drive up through New York, cross into Canada, and re-

enter the United States near Detroit. And, as we knew, we would be passing by 

several other historic sites on our way. Unfortunately, we started out a little 

later than I had hoped that Saturday afternoon, so I opted to cross off the first 

site on my list, which was the New York State Capitol in Albany. Instead, our 

first stop was in Utica, where the 27th vice president was laid to rest in 1912. 

Without too much trouble, we found James Sherman's personal mausoleum, 

which is located atop a hill, looking out at his hometown. Next, my father and I 

headed toward the very rural Westernville, where Declaration of Independence 

signatory William Floyd is eternally resting. Several incredibly steep and hilly 

roads later, and we were at the churchyard where Floyd is buried. He is buried 

not too far from the entrance to the grounds, so finding him was no problem. 

Less easy to find were the two famous people interred at the next cemetery 

we visited. Most cemetery offices are closed on Saturdays, and we could not 

acquire a map of Fort Hill Cemetery, meaning that we were forced to search 

for William Seward and Harriet Tubman ourselves.


After a few minutes, however, we soon realized that we were way over 

our heads. Fort Hill Cemetery is huge, and it would be almost impossible to find 

either one of the graves we were looking for. After driving around for what 

seemed like an eternity, we spotted a man walking along one of the cemetery’s 

roads and asked him if he knew where Seward and Tubman were buried. 

Although he couldn’t tell us about Seward, he led us half way around the 

cemetery and brought us to the grave of the woman made famous by her work 

with the Underground Railroad. After taking our pictures, thanking the stranger, 

and promoting my website, we set off in search of the man responsible for the 

purchase of the 49th state. We probably spent a half an hour more looking for 

Seward by car when we decided to try it by foot. My dad and I subsequently 

went our separate ways, determined to locate Secretary Seward. Though we 

had split up, we eventually found Seward’s resting place, hidden inside a sort of 

valley. Having finally taken the photographs we wanted, we set out for the final 

grave of the day: Frederick Douglass’ Rochester burial site.


Though it was dark and the cemetery should have been locked up 

already, the gates to Mount Hope Cemetery were wide open when we arrived 

that night. I knew that the abolitionist was buried in section T, but that 

information proved useless without a map, as the order of sections in a 

cemetery hardly ever makes any sense. Luckily, we stumbled upon a sign which 

led us in the right direction, which was soon followed by another sign, and 

finally Douglass himself. We finished up there rather quickly and were headed 

back out to the street when we made an unpleasant discovery: The gate was 

locked! On all of our trips, this had never happened to us. Amazingly, there was 

a sign attached to the gate that had a phone number to call if one were to be 

trapped in the cemetery. We tried the number and it failed, as a robotic voice 

on the line requested an area code. Fortunately, I had all of the info on the 

cemetery, including a phone number, so I had the correct area code. Within ten 

minutes, we had been let out and were on our way to our hotel in Batavia.


Sadly, I had not realized that Susan B. Anthony, the famed women's rights 

activist, is buried in the same cemetery that holds the remains of Frederick 

Douglass. Despite that blunder, I was very pleased with what had been 

accomplished.


Day two of the trip ended up being a little more frustrating. One of the 

highlights of the day was that we were going to go see something that changed 

history: The gun used by Leon Czolgosz to assassinate President McKinley in 

1901. On the internet, I read that the weapon was in the possession of The 

Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, but their museum did not open until 

noon. In the meantime, we went to the spot where McKinley was shot (now only 

plaque mounted to a rock) and Forest Lawn Cemetery. We revisited President 

Fillmore, paid our respects to some of Forest Lawn's other famous residents, 

and left to go to the museum. However, when we arrived, we were flabbergasted 

to hear the the gun, contrary to what was listed on the internet, is kept in a 

separate building which is open by appointment only. Frustrated, we drove to
the 
building where the revolver is kept, but it was closed.


The two of us, still angry that we had been misled by erroneous information 

on the internet, continued on our way. The next step was to drive through a 

stretch of Canadian land and re-emerge into the U.S. a few miles from Detroit. 

Before long, we were at the Canadian border. Somehow, after having it in his 

hand just a few moments earlier, my father misplaced his passport card. That 

delayed us for a few moments, but the border patrolman eventually let us go. All 

the same, we could have gone without another foul-up.


Hours later, we were in Detroit and searching for more graves. This time, 

they belonged to businessman Henry Ford and the famous Rosa Parks. Finding 

Ford was no issue, but we ended up looking for Mrs. Parks in the wrong 

mausoleum and weren't able to find her before the cemetery closed. That meant 

we would have to go back the following day, taking time away from the other 

sites we were to see that day.


All in all, it could have gone better.

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