For as much as we praise the city of Detroit for preserving its historical roots, nothing says historical preservation like the tombstones of our city’s greatest leaders and most interesting people.
Tucked away in Detroit’s southwest neighborhood of Springwells, the Woodmere Cemetery serves as a home to more than just a handful of Detroit’s past deceased leaders. With more than 190,000 occupying plot spaces, this hidden gem of a cemetery is a historical bonanza of people that helped give this city life.
Take a look below at our list of 10 Detroit notables that you can find buried at the Woodmere Cemetery, and maybe even take a visit to pay your respects yourself.
1. Hamilton Carhartt (1857 – 1937)
That jacket you’re wearing? You can thank this guy, Hamilton Carhartt, for putting that on your back. Founder of Carhartt Manufacturer, Inc., this New Yorker developed products made of denim fabric and duck, what we know today as canvas. Still headquartered in Dearborn, Michigan, Carhartt, Inc. lives on with the memory of the Carhartt family, who tragically died in a car accident in 1937.
2. James E. Scripps (1835-1906)
Originally working as a proofreader for the Chicago Tribune, James E. Scripps lived a life full of lay-offs and near-bankruptcy that eventually lead him to begin publishing the Detroit News in 1873 and assist in the launch of the E.W. Scripps Company media conglomerate with his brother and sister.
3. James Vernor (1843-1927)
You can thank James Vernor for your favorite whiskey accomplice, Vernor’s Ginger Ale. How the formula was developed is still quite arguable, but it’s been said to be “Aged 4 Years in Wood.” Whether a batch was accidentally left in an oak keg while at war with the Union Army, or he thought of the idea while there, all we Detroiters know is that we’re pretty proud of it.
4. David Whitney, Jr. (1830-1900)
Born into fortune in 1830, David Whitney, Jr. succeeded in the family lumber business. Whitney is known by many of us from the David Whitney Building, a historic Detroit office building named in his honor, and The Whitney restaurant, which previously served as Whitney’s elegant home. With holdings estimating at $15 million, David Whitney, Jr. was Detroit’s wealthiest citizen at the time of his passing in 1900.
5. David D. Buick (1854-1929)
Despite his fame for founding the Buick Manufacturing Company, Buick first launched his career by inventing a bathtub enameling process. Proving himself as an inventor, he set up the Buick Auto-Vim and Power Company to market engines for agricultural use, and eventually the Buick Manufacturing Company to market engines to other car companies and to sell cars of its own. Eventually running out of money, Buick partnered with fellow car enthusiast Benjamin Briscoe, who loaned him the money to share a partnership of the Buick Motor Company, which we now recognize as part of General Motors.
6. John J. Bagley (1832-1881)
Though he isn’t a native Detroiter, John Judson Bagley not only served as a Michigan governor from 1873 to 1877, but also president of the Woodmere Cemetery from its inception until 1875. Sadly while many of us these days only know his name by Detroit’s own Bagley Street, this determined politician also served on the common council and police board, meanwhile also developing his own tobacco brand, May-Flower.
7. David A. Brown (1875-1958)
Though he was one of Detroit’s wealthiest people, David A. Brown acted as anything but. As co-founder of the Old Newsboys (with James Brady) and president of the Goodfellows, he provided a hope of “no kid without a Christmas.” Brown also served as president of the General Necessities Corporation and the Brownie drugstore chain.
8. Henry M. Leland (1843-1932)
Finding much success in Michigan, Henry M. Leland spent most of his life working in a machine shop where he invented the electric barber hair clippers. In his late 50’s, he created the Cadillac automobile, which was later bought out by General Motors and later founded Lincoln Motor Company, which was purchased by the Ford Motor Company.
9. Private Eddie Slovik (1920-1945)
Still praised with honors for his service, Private Eddie Slovik was the only WWII U.S. soldier to be executed for desertion. Escaping the war twice in France, he eventually was caught and was court-martialed for desertion under fire. Though others were also caught for desertion, only Slovik was sentenced to death.
10. David Vartanian (1890-1966)
As a survivor of the Titanic, David Vartanian is well respected beyond his years for getting through such a tragedy. It was and still is up for debate on whether he was saved by someone, or manage to save himself – but regardless this brave survivor was able to live through to the age of 76 until he passed away in 1966.