Perrin Cemetery: Troy

For every massive, city-park like cemetery with 30-foot obelisks and Parthenon-like private mausoleums, there are dozens of tiny plots that used to belong to families or churches. In thrumming Metropolitan Detroit they are squeezed up against major mile roads, tucked between big box shopping districts. Sometimes they’ll surprise you in the middle of a modern subdivision or just hanging out along some industrial service drive. I like this about family graveyards: they’re unexpected. They remind a little me of the time I spent in Istanbul, a city so old and layered that I’d stumble across a single gated tomb for some minorly important Ottoman pasha on a University campus or some narrow hill street crammed with concrete apartments blocks.

Yesterday I felt lonely for the wide, white, air-conditioned avenues of a Meijer. So I stopped at a gigantic one in Troy on my way home from work.

Just north of that Meijer, south of the Oakland/Troy Airport on Coolidge Highway, is Perrin Cemetery, established in 1840 by Calvin Perrin. Many other Perrins followed suit when Calvin and his wife Mary moved to Troy from New York in the 1830s,  and many of them are buried in the family cemetery, too.

What really impressed me about Perrin Cemetery was the level of restoration that the city has lavished on it. Most cemeteries this old are littered with broken headstones half-swallowed by the lawn — even big, endowed cemeteries like Elmwood.  Way back when I was first getting into Farmington history, I was awed to find the headstone of Theodore Howard, who started what is now West Farmington Cemetery at 12 Mile and Halsted when his 6-year-old twin boys died, almost completely obscured:

The swipe-marks in the dirt where his name is are from me, in what may have been the first moment I realized I was becoming crazed.

The tree he buried his sons beneath dominates that corner now:

At Perrin Cemetery, many of the weather and cracked old headstones are up on new cement slabs. I am sure that other cemeteries elsewhere in the world or even the area have done this, but I’d never seen it before.

I can’t find a lot of information about the people buried in Perrin Cemetery, so if you do, please share.

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