Oak Hill Cemetery is located at 216 University Drive in Pontiac, Michigan. It is considered to be one of the oldest cemeteries in Oakland County, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.
Pontiac was founded by the Pontiac Company in 1818, and the town’s first burying grounds were located on Stephen Mack’s land on the ridge east of the Clinton river (about where City Hall stands today), and in a small graveyard on the corner of Saginaw and Huron Streets. As the town expanded, a new burying ground was needed and in 1822 land was set aside by the Pontiac Company for a cemetery, church and parsonage east and north of town. In 1839 the cemetery was platted and burials began there in 1841, beginning with relocating the graves from the earlier burying grounds.
In 1825, Elizabeth Denison Forth, a freed slave and the first black woman to own land in Michigan, purchased 4 lots in Pontiac. She leased these lots to her brother, Scipio Forth, selling them in 1836 or 1837 to the village of Pontiac. Portions of this land became part of Oak Hill Cemetery. A historical marker stands on what was Ms. Forth’s land, commemorating her ownership of the property.
Oak Hill today consists of about 15 acres of land north of University Drive, crossing Paddock Street to the east, and an additional 7 acres south of University. The northern portion of the cemetery stands on the highest point of ground in Pontiac and is the oldest part of the grounds. it is laid out in a rectangular fashion. The section south of University is laid out in a more free form pattern and is bordered by the Clinton River on its southern boundary.
The cemetery is owned by the City of Pontiac and operates under its Department of Public Works. The grounds and landscaping are maintained by Covenant Cemetery Services of Davison, Michigan under contract to the City of Pontiac.
Covenant’s area of responsibility to the cemetery is limited by its contract. Maintenance and repair to monuments, mausoleums and other certain cemetery assets falls to the local community. This aspect of maintaining Oak Hill is most often provided by a volunteer group we unofficially call the Friends of Oak Hill Cemetery.
A walking tour booklet created in 1976 is available here.