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WHAT THE FUDGE: Headstone used to make fudge returned to gravesite after 146 years

Peter Weller's gravestone mysteriously disappeared in transit to a Lansing cemetery in 1875. It reappeared 146 years later with fudge stains on the back.

LANSING, Mich. — What are some things we tend to always lose? 

Car keys, cell phones, TV remotes, glasses and items of stationary certainly top the list.

Is it possible to lose a gravestone? The answer is yes.

About 146 years after a prominent Lansing businessman's gravestone mysteriously vanished, it has been found. And it's now on the way back home after a family in Okemos used it for making fudge.

Peter J. Weller was a Lansing pioneer and businessman who, along with his descendants, and their spouses, made significant contributions to the growing city.

"Mr. Weller arrived in Lansing in the early 1840s and passed away the day after Christmas in 1849," said Loretta Stanaway, president of The Friends of Lansing's Historic Cemeteries. "His burial was initially at Oak Park Cemetery in Lansing, but after it closed, he was disinterred and moved to Mount Hope Cemetery."

But, at some point during the trip between cemeteries, Weller's grave marker was misplaced. 

"What happened to it remains a mystery to this day," Stanaway said.

The mystery shockingly solved itself 146 years after the gravestone's disappearance. 

"In February of this year, we were contacted by a man who lives in California who had previously been a Lansing resident," said Stanaway. "He said he saw [Weller's gravestone] on an auction website and thought it may have belonged to somebody buried at Mount Hope."

Stanaway says that's when she began the process of doing research to both determine if a Peter Weller was buried at Mount Hope and if he in fact did have a gravestone. 

She contacted the auction website, told them the story behind the gravestone, and the auctioneer pulled the listing for it down and graciously donated it.

"We were able to verify that he was interred [at Mount Hope] and he did have a marker," said Stanaway. "We then contacted a genealogist to look into the Weller family tree to see if there were any survivors who could give us permission to put the gravestone where it belongs."

No surviving family members were identified so the City of Lansing gave clearance for Weller's marker to be placed above his burial site. 

Stanaway added that when the gravestone arrived, with it came an unusual story that helped piece together a portion of what happened to it during the years it had vanished.

"A family in Okemos had it," Stanaway said. "We don't know how they came into possession of it, but we learned that they used it to make fudge."

Peter Weller's gravestone is made of marble and the back of it is flat, which made it a perfect surface to spread and cool hot fudge.

"Most likely, [the Okemos family] assumed it was a reject, misengraved and replaced," added Stanaway. "We'll likely never get the true answer."

Though a little discolored from all the fudge-making, Peter J. Weller has his cemetery identifier back for the first time since the Civil War.

Credit: The Friends of Lansing's Historic Cemeteries
Peter J. Weller's gravestone had been missing for 146 years, until it surfaced earlier this year, after being used to make fudge.
Credit: The Friends of Lansing's Historic Cemeteries
Peter J. Weller's gravestone had been missing for 146 years, until it surfaced earlier this year, after being used to make fudge.

"We want to flesh out Peter Weller's life and times to show that there's more to this man than somebody whose gravestone was used to make fudge," said Stanaway.

On Sunday, Sept. 26, a re-dedication ceremony was held at Peter Weller's gravesite. The hosts of the event provided, what else, fudge for all those in attendance.

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