Final resting places for the indigent were likely to be a spot that was good for nothing else. Setting aside a portion of a cemetery for the use of those not able to purchase their own plot was an unusual gesture for a private cemetery. However, located to the right, running from the road to a stand of trees just a short distance from the gate, you can see the area of Oak Grove Cemetery that was set aside for paupers. Only eight gravestones, difficult to read with some parts broken off, mark the graves of the fifty people buried there. One bears the faint initials ECM and is believed to be the grave of E.C. Middleton, a Civil War Veteran.
The term "Potter's Field" comes from a story in the book of Matthew in the New Testament. After Judas received thirty pieces of silver from the Romans for betraying Jesus he was overcome with guilt. He took the silver to the chief priests of the temple, crying, "I have sinned in betraying innocent blood." When the priests refused to accept it because it was blood money he threw down the silver and left to hang himself. After careful deliberation, the priests decided to use it to purchase a place to bury strangers. It's thought that the original site was in a valley that was the source of potter's clay, from which came the name "Potter's Field."
When the City of Hillsdale, owners of Oak Grove Cemetery since the 1970s, wanted to add to the area available for burials they dropped fill dirt near Potter's Field. Not knowing that there were graves in the area, they inadvertently covered three of the grave markers. Members of the Hillsdale
County Historical Society were concerned about this. With a grant from the Hillsdale County Community Foundation they erected a simple arch and added a memorial stone with the names of the known indigent people buried in Potter's Field and a stone with a plaque explaining the origin of the term Potter's Field. Hopefully, this
JoAnne P. Miller