People of faith are uniting to uncover a sacred space on the outskirts of Superior.
The Superior Area Ministerium is holding an All Saints' Day cleanup at Parkland Cemetery from 1-4 p.m. Saturday Oct. 26. Residents are invited to lend a hand.
Also known as the Poor Farm Cemetery, Potter’s Field and County Hospital Cemetery, the field along County Highway Z is the final resting spot for more than 1,000 people who died, indigent, in Douglas County between 1900 and 1946.
A marble monument near where the Parkland Health Facility once stood marks the cemetery. Inside a fenced area, each grave is marked with a concrete paver block. The painted numbers have come off most of the blocks, which lie hidden under grass and brush.
“Knowing that it was part of an old asylum, knowing that that’s where people who couldn’t afford anywhere else have gone, it just it feels very sad they were kind of relegated to this area with not a lot of signage and then it’s just been kind of abandoned,” said Bridget Jones, pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church in Superior.
She learned about the cemetery from Lucas Dietsche of Superior. He found information on the cemetery and health facility while researching area history. When he trekked to the site on Mother’s Day in 2018, Dietsche planted marigolds by the marble marker.
“I came out here and I wanted to preserve it because it’s kind of a very forgotten morsel of history, especially when there’s 1,000 people out here,” he said.
He planted the idea for a cemetery cleanup with Jones. She proposed it to the Ministerium when leaders were seeking a joint project.
“We have all these churches together. We could really make an impact in our community,” she said.
The cleanup is ecumenical, something everyone can dig into and will show results right away.
“Hopefully, this will be successful and then we can see what other things people of faith can accomplish in the city of Superior,” Jones said.
Joel Certa-Werner, pastor of Faith United Methodist Church, said God’s word calls people to remember the poor.
“This is a great way to honor those who were so poor that they couldn't even afford a proper burial,” he said. “This demonstrates practical love and care for those whom Jesus loves and cherishes.”
“I came out here and I wanted to preserve it because it's kind of a very forgotten morsel of history, especially when there's 1,000 people out here.”
Jones and her goldendoodle, Ginny, scouted the cemetery with Dietsche on Saturday, Oct. 19. The scope of the work was daunting.
“We’re just going to rely on faith a little bit and if only a small group shows up, we’ll do what we can,” Jones said.
She’d like to find the rows of stones and lay a foundation for future workdays.
There have been cleanup efforts in the past. Keith Fine of Amnicon and Janine Seis of Lake Nebagamon focused on the area in 2015. The Douglas County Genealogy Club visited the site with Fine in 2016. When Dietsche came to visit in 2018, there were worn flags marking some of the rows of markers. No groups, however, have taken on the chore of breathing life into the spot, and no flags were visible Saturday.
“My hope now is that this is an ongoing project,” Jones said. “It seems the people who were out here before have not forgotten about (the cemetery), even though maybe the work seems overwhelming. And so, as we bring more people out here, the hope is that they will also not forget about Parkland. That it will continue to be remembered.”
Participants are asked to dress for the weather, expect to hike through wetlands and bring weed whackers, work gloves and yard waste bags if possible. Visit the "All Saints Cemetery Clean Up" Facebook page for more information. Learn more about the people buried at the site by searching for Parkland Cemetery at findagrave.com.