St. John the Baptist Catholic Cemetery, by James Mann
The Catholic community in Ypsilanti had its beginning in the 1830's when the first Catholic families settled in the area. This community was small with fifty Catholics out of a population of about one thousand in 1836. Mass was occasionally said by a visiting Priest in the home of a member. Over time the community grew and, with the growth in numbers, the problem of what to do with the remains of those who had died became apparent. The dead of the community were, at first, sent to Northville for burial.
In 1865, the men of the 14th Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment donated $500 to the Parish. This was a gift in appreciation for the many acts of kindness they had received from the members of the Parish. This money was used to purchase land for use as a cemetery. The site purchased was at the foot of St. John Street and north of West Forest. This is now the site of the Phelps-Sellers Residence Halls, the Dining Commons, and part of Wise and of Buell Resident Halls on the Eastern Michigan University campus.
When the cemetery opened, the site originally included a small building, 8 feet square, for use by family members as they stood watch over fresh graves. This was to prevent body snatching which was, at the time, an active trade!