Forest Lawn Cemetery, Dexter, Michigan


8095 Grand St, Dexter, MI 48130.  734.426.4961  Inquiries may also be made by email:

The Forest Lawn Cemetery is the oldest cemetery in Dexter. It is an historical site located near Mill Creek. Many of the early leaders of the Dexter area are buried there.

Samuel William Dexter came to The Michigan Territory in 1824 and purchased many acres in Washtenaw County. He plotted the village of Dexter in 1830 and named it for his father, also Samuel Dexter. He donated the initial parcel of land for the cemetery, probably upon the death of his second wife Susan Dunham.

In the beginning, the Dexter Cemetery was open to anyone who lost a loved one and they were allowed to bury them anywhere they wanted.  In 1842 the Dexter Cemetery Corporation and its elected governing board was established. Shares were sold to approximately 75 interested persons, which gave them the right of burial for themselves and their families. The original book for this cemetery still exists. Of the original shareholders, 35 tombstones have been located. By 1868 there were 168 shareholders.  The first organized plan was created at that time, and areas were assigned for the family burials and graves. The area was divided into Ranges and Lots and the graves in each lot were sold as needed.

There have been many attempts to locate where each person was buried, but these have not always been successful. The physical guides are the tombstones, many of which have deteriorated over the years. And some tombstones or markers were made of wood and so have rotted or were destroyed by fire. In other cases, families ordered a special stone from the East. By the time the stone arrived, the placement might not be accurate. Or, not having the funds to purchase a stone, a family would wait until they did–time again allowing for misplacement. And it seems some sextons (or who ever sold the lots), over the years, may have made some inaccurate entries. There was also a “Potter’s Field,” usually with no markers at all. Research of sexton records, church, and obituary records have provided some information. However, in many cases, we will never know for sure where some burials occurred.

The Forest Lawn Cemetery of Dexter, Inc. has been non-profit organization for many years, dedicated to the preservation of this historic site and maintenance of the cemetery grounds. It is funded by income from investments, sales of lots, bequests, donations and volunteer assistance. Members of the Board are lot owners and are elected at the Annual Meetings of the owners of the Corporation in August at the Dexter Area Museum.

Many of the early leaders of the Dexter area are buried in this cemetery:

Samuel William Dexter (1792-1863) was a Harvard graduate, who came to Michigan in 1824 from New York State. He was the son of Samuel Dexter, an early United States Senator, Secretary of War and Secretary of the Treasury. His mother was Catherine Gordon of Boston.

In 1826, when Washtenaw County was organized apart from Wayne County, Samuel Dexter was appointed County Court Justice, and he became the first postmaster. Judge Dexter is buried next to his third wife Millicent Bond Dexter (1811-1899) and their son Marshall Dexter (1858-1880). Other members of the family are buried there as well.

Susan Dunham (1809-1827) was the second wife of Judge Samuel Dexter. They were married in New York and he brought her to Dexter. Susan died in August in childbirth at only 18 years old, and her “infant” died one month later. These are the earliest graves so far identified.

Harrison H. Jeffords (1834-1863) graduated from the Law School at the University of Michigan. He felt compelled to join the Union Army during the Civil War. He served as a Colonel and Commander of the 4th Michigan Volunteer Infantry.  During the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg (July 2, 1863), Jeffords was mortally wounded in brutal fighting in the wheat field by a Confederate bayonet. He was attempting to rescue the 4th Michigan’s colors (their flag). He lingered until the next day before dying. The townspeople of Dexter raised the needed funds to purchase and install a monument in his honor.

Calvin Fillmore (1810-1879) was a brother of US President Millard Fillmore. Calvin designed and built Gordon Hall (1841-43), the home of Judge Samuel Dexter, and the first Methodist Church and many other buildings in the Dexter area.

Nathaniel and Sylvester Noble were the first settlers of Dexter Township. Nathaniel Died 11 May 1858 age 66, and Sylvanus died 21 May 1829 age 41. Both are buried there.

Alexander D. Crane (1809-1893) arrived in 1830. He was the first blacksmith, and later became a lawyer and judge.

Dennis Warner (1812-1900) was one of the leading merchants in Dexter. He spearheaded the construction of the viaduct under the railroad crossing at Island Lake Rd after the death of his wife Martha (1825-1887) at the old crossing there.







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