Fulton Street Cemetery, today tucked neatly into the Uptown/Midtown area at 801 E. Fulton St., was once surrounded by farmland at the eastern edge of a growing settlement. It predates Oak Hill by more than 20 years.
The cemetery opened in 1838, 12 years after city founder Louis Campau arrived in the area. The village of Grand Rapids bought the original six acres for $300 from Rev. James Ballard, the first pastor of the First (Park) Congregational Church downtown. By 1869, the cemetery had doubled in size to 12 acres.
“This is a pioneer site,” says Dilley. “Lots of people buried here were ‘firsts.’”
Venerable pioneer John Ball once survived a shipwreck off the Georgia coast, swam six miles to shore and paid for his ticket home by teaching school children for a winter in the town of Darien. Besides John Ball, other notable folks buried in Fulton Street include:
• Abraham Pike, who built the Greek Revival-style house at 230 E. Fulton St. in 1845 with pillars from the failed Port Sheldon Company’s Ottawa House hotel.
• Joel Guild, the first non-native settler in Grand Rapids. Guild built the first frame house in the village on land purchased from Campau. It was located where McKay Tower is now. In 1833, a letter he sent to family in New York urging them to relocate to Grand Rapids brought multiple new families to the area.
• Albert Baxter, a newspaper editor and historian whose 1891 book “The History of the City of Grand Rapids,” is the basis for much of what local historians know about early Grand Rapids.
• Dorothy Leonard Judd, a 20th century Grand Rapids activist who became a nationally recognized expert on civil service reform. Judd spearheaded the postwar Citizen’s Action movement that reformed “machine” politics in the city.
-from Mlive article written 9/3/14