The verdant landscape and unique topography of Lake Forest make it one of the most tranquil spots in the city of Grand Haven. Some lots are located on steep slopes that require retaining walls to keep the earth from eroding onto nearby roadways. Block 18, for example, features two retaining walls—one of which has an intriguing history.
Humble in its appearance, the wall supports the burial plot of Edwin Fuller, whose marker sits just above. Originally from Middlesex County, New Jersey, Fuller had a banking and exchange business located on Water Street (Harbor Ave.) halfway between Franklin and Clinton Streets. According to the August 9, 1866 edition of the Jackson Citizen Patriot, Fuller died eight days earlier when he was attempting to jump from Clark Albee’s warehouse dock onto the tug St. Mary’s. He missed the tug and fell into the water near the pilings. As the tug kept approaching the dock, it crushed him between it and the dock timbers. After his death, Fuller’s sons took over his business and continued its success.
During the Victorian era, it was customary for affluent families to erect large and elaborate funerary monuments as an outward display of their social standing, so in 1874, Fuller’s son Edward G. and another business man, Edwin D. Blair, purchased a plot in Lake Forest Cemetery and had a sizable mausoleum built into the hillside where the wall is now. It was about this time that Edwin Fullers remains were moved here from the Washington Street Cemetery location (now Central Park). Alleged to be of gothic design, it measured 20 feet wide by 30 feet deep, and was 20 feet high from the floor to the ceiling arch. From the outside, no one at the time would expect that it could hold up to 60 bodies, since most of the vault was underground. It was at about this time that his remains were transferred from the Washington Street cemetery to the Lake Forest location, and then interred in the first mausoleum built in the cemetery.
Most of what is known about the vault comes from an article in the April 30, 1948 edition of the Grand Haven Daily Tribune titled, “Old Fuller Vault, Landmark in Lake Forest, Is Razed.” Unfortunately, the vault had suffered years of damage from the hands of curious visitors and shameless vandals that relentlessly picked and pried at the soft sandstone blocks, compromising its structural integrity. By the 1940s, the city needed to take drastic measures to secure the vault’s contents, which included Fuller’s remains along with the remains of five other adults and three children. The article stated that Fuller’s casket was of “unusual interest,” in that it was made of three-quarter inch iron, weighed 250 pounds, and shaped like an Egyptian mummy case. According to sexton Stewart, moving the casket from the vault, and then later to the burial plot, was quite a job.
No photos of the mausoleum exist, as far as we know. Lake Forest burial records ambiguously indicate the remains of nine members of the Fuller and Blair families sharing the same space. Only Edwin Fuller’s name, however, is carved on the stone. After searching census, marriage, birth, and death records, I can positively place the names of the following individuals on the Blair/Fuller burial plot:
- Edwin L. Fuller b. 1819, d. 1866
- Edwin L. Fuller (infant) b. 1899, d. 1899
- Edwin D. Blair b. 1828, d. 1909
- George S. Blair (infant) b. 1875, d. 1875
So far, I have not been able to determine how the two families are connected. E.G. Fuller and E.D. Blair were probably close business associates, and perhaps good friends, but would two individuals not related by blood be compelled to have their families share the same burial space?
If you’re aware of any photo of the vault that exists, or if you know of how the Fuller and Blair families were associated, please contact me through this website or leave a comment.