The recent investigation into a possible rural cemetery in the Auburn area being destroyed sparks question as to what to do if someone has a cemetery on their property, but doesn’t know how to or who is responsible for taking care of it. There are many old off the beaten path cemeteries located in rural communities, including Logan County. Family cemeteries were very popular over a century ago, and can be found in numerous areas including fields and woods. Some of these final resting places are only marked by field stones, and unless paid close attention to, can blend into the environment.
There have been several instances over the years where old cemeteries have been destroyed either intentionally or unintentionally. Knowing where a cemetery is located is the first step. People who own property should know what is on it. Walking the property is the main way to know if a cemetery exists or not. A lot of times when you look out into an open field and see a clump of trees that has been left alone it usually means there is either a cemetery there or a sinkhole. If you do locate what you think may be a cemetery, contact your county’s archive or the state’s Historical Society and let them know about the location of the cemetery and any information you can obtain as to who is buried there. This will create a document of the cemetery, which can be very helpful if something does happen to destroy it.
The recent story involving the possible cemetery in Auburn on Quarry Road remains a mystery. There may or may not be a cemetery located there. According to the county’s cemetery book, there is no record of one. This doesn’t mean there wasn’t one, however, because there are many cemeteries out there still not listed in the book. Documentation is the key to helping save these old cemeteries.
According to the Kentucky Historical Society cemeteries are important historical assets that tell about a community’s past. They hold valuable resources for historical and genealogical research. More importantly, they are monuments to the people who once inhabited our communities.
Historic cemeteries are irreplaceable and once destroyed, if not documented, are lost forever erasing the memories of those that have gone before us.
Many of the historic cemeteries have been neglected over the years, some more endangered than others. A lot of rural cemeteries have been forgotten because they are out of sight and usually are located in remote areas. The plight of both rural and urban cemeteries can be attributed to such factors as abandonment, apathy, encroachment, environmental factors, vandalism and theft.
Before we lose any more of these valuable historic documents from our memory, we must do what we can to preserve our historic burial grounds. From creating a plan of action to implementation, it will take the effort of local citizens to save our cemeteries. Beyond individual involvement, local, regional and state cemetery preservation societies are needed to seek a broader base of support for their efforts.
The Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) provides support to communities across the commonwealth to assist with the preservation and care of cemeteries and gravestones. Through seminars that teach best practices in cemetery preservation and educational materials that provide guidance and instruction to local citizens, KHS partners with communities to preserve and promote this important part of the state’s history and heritage.
The Cemetery Preservation Program’s database of registered cemeteries is a continuation of the work started by the Attorney General’s Office in 2000. This database is a compliment to the reference library’s database currently available. Historical information is contained detailing the cemetery name and location, sorted by county name and is updated as additional cemeteries are added. You can find the site and more information on www.history.ky.gov.
The Cemetery Preservation Program is continuing the work begun by the Kentucky Attorney General’s 2001 Cemetery Task Force to develop a comprehensive survey of all cemeteries and burial sites in the state. Cites, county historical societies, and other organizations are encouraged to work with the program to develop a database that will provide a permanent record of Kentucky’s cemeteries and burial sites.
You have to ask yourself, if you or your family members were gone wouldn’t you want someone to care for your graves?