Woman's passion for history keeps stories alive in Wyandotte cemetery

Posted at 3:15 PM, Mar 07, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-07 18:27:48-05

(WXYZ) — I first met Mary-Johna Wein a few weeks ago when we came out to Oakwood Cemetery to do a story on some would-be thieves, and I was fascinated by just how much she knew about the people buried there — and passion for history.

"I never thought Oakwood would be my passion place, but I kind of got drafted here, and I love it," said Mary-Johna.

Related Video: Would-be thieves target historic cemetery in Wyandotte that is maintained by volunteers:

Would-be thieves target historic cemetery in Wyandotte that is maintained by volunteers

Mary-Johna has always loved history, and she knows it well — especially the stories of those buried in Wyandotte's Oakwood Cemetery.

Like Frank Manor, a Civil War veteran who, after the death of his teenage son, struggled in his marriage, especially after taking up with a mistress.

"She had a father who did not like Frank because he was a married man. I mean, you don't, you know, you don't get with a married man. You don't want that for your child. So he threatened Frank. Few weeks later, Frank's body shows up. You know, right by where modern day Elizabeth Park is today," she explained.

Mary-Johna showed us around Wyandotte's historical museum, a place rich with some rather unique history, like an old family wreath from the 1800s. It's made from human hair, considered special because it represented the members of the family.

"I've always loved history, but, you know, I didn't think I'd help save a house in Wyandotte," she said.

And that's how Mary-Johna got involved in Wyandotte's historical society about 12 years ago when she was a senior in high school.

"The city was going to tear down ... this big, beautiful Victorian home and I did not want to see it torn down," said Mary-Johna.

Preserving history has become her passion. She's like a walking encyclopedia.

"Some of them have really just sad stories. Margaret Campau, who she was 27 when she died of postpartum complications," explained Mary-Johna.

There's a photo that exists of Margaret in her wedding dress.

"Absolutely beautiful. And, you know, for the family to still have that. And it's not a traditional wedding dress, you know, it was striped, and it was like an olive green type color. You know, that's really cool that they held on to stuff like that," she said.

And by teaching her own children and others, she hopes to preserve the stories of the past, like that of Civil War veteran Lewis Crist whose headstone seemingly disappeared over the decades.

"So after looking at old maps, we found that his headstone belonged in this general area, and we dug down and found it. It was about four feet deep and ... it had sank," she said.

The old headstone was destroyed, but Mary-Johna applied for a new one for veterans. Take a look:

"Lewis has been forgotten. He was forgotten in time, and nobody even knew who was here. And so now that if you're walking through the cemetery, you know, you can at least say, 'oh, Lewis Crist, I don't know who you are, but it's really cool to see you,'" she said.

Where Your Voice Matters

Contact our newsroom
Have a tip, story idea or comment on our coverage? Send us a message. Please be sure to include your direct contact information.