A Friend of Falling Waters Historic Park

This In Memoriam is published by The Recorder online, in part, due to its regional interest, and also due to some of the details about the sacred hill in Falling Waters Park.  This information is highlighted below.


Contributing Writer
July 22, 2019

Becky’s Final Hilltop Overview

About sixty people gathered last Saturday, July 20, to honor the legacy of Spring Arbor’s “First Lady” – Becky Cunningham. It  could hardly have been a more idyllic scene. A year after her passing at age 96, friends and family met on a hilltop at Falling Waters Historic Park to witness the dedication of a stone memorial bench.

Hilltop ceremony for Becky Cunningham

On it was a plaque bearing the words:  “In memory of Beverly ‘Becky’ Cunningham 1922-2018 to the community she loved”.
Township Supervisor David Herlein called the gathering to order at 11 a.m.  He summarized Becky’s personal history in preserving the history of the township and area. He then introduced two other speakers – Todd Zeller and Todd Holton. Both had worked extensively on projects for Becky, and recounted some of their memories.

Becky Cunningham Friend of Falling Waters
Todd Holton shared with the audience some of his memories of working with Becky Cunningham on a range of historic projects, including the park.

Holton recalled words that reflected Becky’s intense appreciation for the historic past: “Every time a house was torn down, she’d say, ‘There goes another piece of history!'”

And he hit a theme that was heard repeatedly from others at the park dedication and the dedication afterward of a new Becky Cunningham Local History Room at Spring Arbor University Library.

“Becky got lots of people involved in projects. She was Spring Arbor’s First Lady.”

Zeller recalled how she got himself and others to do things she wanted done. “I’m in the construction field,” he explained. “Becky ran things like a sergeant.” But then he added, “We came to rank her as a colonel.”

Becky Cunningham was for years the postmistress at Spring Arbor. Even back then she had a keen interest in township history. She assembled a committee of like-minded people and put out a township history.

Later she focused her interest on the site of the original village of Spring Arbor, which ultimately became Falling Waters Historic Park. Other projects included historic markers in Spring Arbor and along nearby Falling Waters Trail, the placement of the old Snyder School building in the village, and a veterans’ memorial.

Originally the park acreage was in private hands, but Becky’s relationship with the land owners, George and Faith Kline, led to their contribution of the land.

In recent years, Becky would continue developing the site, adding layers of historic significance for Albion and Hillsdale colleages, as well as Spring Arbor University.

Its pre-settlement history as a Pottawatomi village was another area of her interest.

Its pre-settlement history as a Pottawatomi village was another area of her interest. Before her death, she was able to add acreage to the park – the hilltop where she had concluded five Indian chiefs are buried. And it is that hilltop where the stone bench was placed to honor Becky’s memory.

In his remarks, Supervisor Herlein noted that Saturday was a year to the day of Becky’s passing in 2018. Indeed, she suffered injuries in a traffic accident just after leaving the park one day. Those injuries led to her death.

However, she had already discussed the park’s ongoing care with township officials. After her death, Herlein said the township board, parks board and West Foundation discussed the possibilities. Becky’s family became a part of the conversation. That led to a decision to have the stone bench built by Maka Wall Builders of Jackson.”We’re trying to honor her by doing the best we can to preserve this facility,” Herlein said.Becky’s daughter, Kris Peterson, was at the Saturday ceremonies with other family members.

The historic park is located about half a mile south of M-60 just west of Spring Arbor. Take Mathews Road south to Hammond Road, and west a short distance.

More information about the former location of Spring Arbor, the Native Americans who lived there, and the birthplace of Albion College, will be published on this site soon.

This story is reprinted with permission from The Recorder.
© 2019 The Recorder Newspaper. All rights reserved.

The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of The Recorder.

Read more about Falling Waters Historic Park, and one of the chiefs that was buried here on this article by Frank Passic.