Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, July 24, 2011
Recently I had the rare opportunity to tour a building that most people have never been in. Itís the Riverside Abbey Mausoleum in Riverside Cemetery. I took pictures of each crypt nameplate and posted them on the www.findagrave.com website. I wrote about the Abbey in the February 28, 1999 edition of this column and listed all those who were interred within.
The Riverside Mausoleum Association was formed in 1914. Its first officers were: Professor Frederick Lutz, president; C. F. Godfrey, treasurer; and William H. Barney, Secretary. The group purchased a parcel of land in the northeast corner of the cemetery for $800. This was along the old pioneer road which once ran between present-day M-99 and Haven Road, encompassing todayís Haven Lane. We all wish that road was still in place this year while the M-99 bridge is out.
The Mausoleum was erected by W. H. Hamilton of Battle Creek, who had erected the Oak Hill Abbey there in 1912. Hamilton was a promoter of the mausoleum concept until his death in 1949. The Riverside Abbey was completed in 1914, and an "open houseĒ was held on October 8 and 9 of that year.
There are 144 crypts in the mausoleum, and approximately 120 persons are entombed there now. In looking at the layout (no pun intended) of the interior, I noticed that most of the unfilled tombs are on the first (bottom) row. I suspect this is because many of the Association members remembered the great Flood of 1908 and didnít want their remains to get wet should another such flood occur again.
The Association was supposed to pay for maintenance and upkeep of the structure. Unfortunately all those who would have had the money to pay for such repairs are now entombed therein. As relatives moved away, less and less visitors came, and maintenance for this private mausoleum has fallen to the City of Albion. Visitors are now virtually non-existent. Blair (Cox) Vaughn, wife of Vaughnís Menís Wear owner Lige H. Vaughn, was the final interment in December, 1986.
The Abbey used to be cleaned and opened for Memorial Day each year, but that practice was abandoned many years ago. In 1995 I was able to conduct a rare tour of Riverside Abbey as part of my annual Cemetery tour, and the event was recorded and aired on the now-defunct Hometown TV. In February 1999 a new tile roof was installed by Rahm Industrial Services.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a "head-onĒ view of one of the front sections of entombments, showing the various faceplates with names and dates. If youíre wondering what happened to the empty tomb on the bottom lower right, no they didnít escape. Because of the feared future deterioration of the structure, a couple of families have had their ancestors removed from the Abbey and interred in the ground elsewhere in Riverside Cemetery. Such is the case here with the crypt of local dentist Dr. Wilbert L. Neil (1885-1977). His original faceplate however is still laying there in the lower right. Special thanks to Cemetery sexton Steve Williamson for making this picture session possible. When was the last time you visited Riverside Abbey? Thereís still room in there on the bottom level.
Interior of the Riverside Abbey Mausoleum
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic