Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.

CEMETERY FISH POND

Morning Star, December 22, 2002, pg. 3

I’d like to take the time to wish my readers a very Merry Christmas, and best wishes for the coming year. I have very much appreciated your donations of old Albion photographs and items which have helped me in the preparation of these articles each week. I also thank you for your support of my book “Albion in the 20th Century” published this year, which is now nearly sold out. Remaining copies are available at the Albion Chamber of Commerce (517) 629-5533, or from yours truly: Frank Passic, 900 S. Eaton St., Albion, MI 49224. (517) 629-5402.

For your information, L. Park Watson, who managed the WALM radio station in the 1950s and whom was mentioned in the June 17, 2001 of this column, passed away on November 24 at his home in Jacksonville, Texas at the age of 90. He was a member of the Washington Gardner High School Class of 1930, and graduated with the class of 1931. His son Rick is still in the broadcasting business there in Texas (UPDATE: Rick passed away in May, 2003, killed in an automobile accident in Texas.)

It’s sad to see the quaint Riverside Cemetery fish pond being filled in this winter as dirt becomes available. Already one scoop of dirt has been placed in the pond. Plans are in the works for it to be transformed into a flower bed, but many residents still remember the time when it was filled with water and goldfish, and an electric water-jet provided a small fountain in the center.

Ironically, the pond is exactly 100 years old this year. It was constructed in May, 1902 by cemetery superintendent Otto Pahl (1878-1950) and his brother F. Albert Pahl (1864-1947). Otto was cemetery superintendent from 1901 to 1909. The stones used in the construction of the pond and surrounding wall came from the farm of a Mr. Butcher. The pond was originally stocked with goldfish; during the winter months the fish were kept in tanks at the city Water Works on E. Cass St. The pond was a cemetery landmark for many years and provided a place of tranquility and reflection to its many visitors.

It was rumored that a dedicatory “cornerstone” box containing valuable mementos was placed under the pond when it was constructed. As a result, during the 1970s certain investigative city officials tried to “treasure hunt” for this supposed artifact. They dug up a portion of the pond floor itself, breaking the watertight seal and making it insufficient to hold water. Although the damage was partially repaired, the pond was never the same again. In the early 1990s the pond was given a short reprieve. It was temporarily repaired, and a jet-fountain was added, along with a park bench. This arrangement operated only a few years, and during the past several years the pond has just sat empty. Its condition has deteriorated, and of course funds for its repair, restoration, and maintenence are non-existent.

From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photograph of the Riverside Cemetery Pond as it looked just several years after it was constructed. Notice the gravel circular sidewalk which once lined the perimeter of the pond, and the path that came down from the road. It is interesting to note that this particular area of the cemetery was “sparsely populated” at the time. The small trees shown here are either full grown or now gone today. Likewise, the grave lots are now all purchased and mostly filled. In the center of the pond is a small pole fountain with water spurting out on top. This photograph by the way, is published on page 23 of my book “Albion in the 20th Century.”

Relatedly, people driving towards the cemetery this year might have noticed that the three fountains (originally funded by the Albion Civic Foundation) that provided beauty in the Kalamazoo River millpond east of the S. Superior St. M-99 bridge over the past several years were not turned on in 2002. As is with the case of the cemetery fishpond, no funds exist for the expensive operation and maintenance of these fountains. Albion has just experienced the worst year in its 169-year history, complete with wrenching closures, downsizing, budget cuts, and financial and population declines in recent months. Local funds that used to go towards superfluous “extras” such as those fountains are now having to be directed towards basic human services and more pressing needs of the community, as people rally together to help our town. Perhaps someday again we’ll have enough money and leadership when jobs are brought back here to be able to afford things like fountains and fish ponds. I encourage our readers to take a drive through Riverside Cemetery this week for a “last look” at the cemetery fish pond.


The Cemetery Pond, circa 1905

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