Jurisdiction: Niles Township Section 14
Status: Niles Township was given fee simple ownership of Higbee Cemetery. BCGS Cemetery Records include information up to August 6, 2012.
Location: Higgins Street Near Third Street on Private Property
Location of Cemetery Records: None
The Niles Township board officials have a difficult decision to make; what to do with Higbee/Protestant Cemetery? The long abandoned Higbee/Protestant Cemetery is the final resting spot for a War of 1812 veteran, Burton R. Prettyman and a Civil War veteran, Sylvester Loux and most of the recorded burials date back to the 1830’s. However, property owners have been encroaching on graves throughout the years by building fences. The question has now arisen as to who actually owns the land-locked cemetery and what are the legal responsibilities of the township?
Nearby resident Jerry Tibbs, has spearheaded the movement to clarify ownership and responsibility and to restore the cemetery’s original boundaries. Mr. Tibbs said that the township had maintained the cemetery in the past, but not for several years. The last known burial in the cemetery was in 1910.
Niles Township Trustee Kevin Tonkin said a local Protestant church that has since dissolved owned the cemetery and title companies have said investigating ownership and easement rights would be difficult and costly. The last recorded owner of the cemetery was Madeline Bertrand. She was the half French and half Indian wife of Joseph Bertrand. The Bertrand’s daughter, Julia married a Higbee, according to records at the Fort St. Joseph Museum.
It appears for the time that no one on the board seemed wants to vacate the cemetery so the Berrien County Genealogical Society has seen a need to become involved with the preservation of Higbee/Protestant Cemetery.
Transcribed in 1975 by David Savage, member of the Berrien County Genealogical Society, Higbee Cemetery had but 32 remaining stones. Of those, the oldest burial was that of Asa Beal, who died on October 31, 1836 at the age of 60 years. Other surnames visible were Barnhart, Bell, Eckler, Higbee, Hilton, Prettyman, Seward, Squires, Weaver and Whipple. It was reported that many original settlers were buried in Higbee, although many stones are illegible.
Written By Chriss Lyon