Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Gone, But Not Forgotten

The photographing of cemetery stones is an ongoing project in Barry County, MO, and is something that we began four and a half years ago on the Barry County, MO, GenWeb site. It has taken a lot of hands on keyboards and on camera buttons to move this project where it is today. 

On the web site we have 165 cemeteries listed in Barry County and a total of 173 on the site. Some of the 175 include cemeteries near the border. We have now completed most of the county cemeteries and hope to finish the project later this year. That is something no other Missouri county has done.  

As we stand in the cemetery reading these old weather-beaten stones we often see stones that are almost gone - and other problems. “Gone but Not Forgotten” is a line we often read.  Sometimes we see a stone that is on the ground and off its base. Maybe this statement was true for one generation - and this person was not forgotten. 

Whose responsibility is it to remember now? Is it not everyone’s responsibility to help preserve our cemeteries? Aren't we each suppose to help preserve old stones and cemeteries?  

As we tread through these worn down and beaten up old burial grounds we also see stones that are crumbling and literately falling apart in front of our eyes. This is not just a problem in Barry County but is happening all over the United States. Present day families have lost contact with relatives that were buried in the home base areas of their ancestors.  Also, it is possible that the younger generation of people, in most communities, probably are not aware that they have relatives who are buried locality with stones that are now off the base setting and broken in two or three pieces - and if they are aware they may not have the means or the initiative to do anything about it.  

As a group of caring individuals it is impossible to go out to our local cemeteries and repair and replace thousands of stones so the present solution seems to take a picture of what is left so that we can save the history that was reported there in writing. There will be a day that some of our photos will be the only record of some of the deaths that we have listed.

In Barry County one problem is that there are a few cemeteries that there is so much brush and grass growing in then that a person can't even walk through them must less take a photo of the stones there. Many of these are on private owned land where cows walk over the stones and in some cases people care very little about who is buried there. So, the truth is that, in many of cases - in these rural burial places very little attention is paid to the upkeep and care of these burial grounds and stones. 

It appears that in the public cemeteries the problem is similar as it is on private owned land. In some of the older ones very little attention is being paid to the upkeep – and in some cases mowing is not done very often. Since this problem circles around money what is the solution here? If it should become a county problem then cemetery care could be listed as a tax item. Would people really object to paying a few cents more a year for cemetery upkeep? 

Perhaps our communities should start looking at cemetery upkeep in a different way than they presently are and find a solution to this problem. It may take some aggressive people who are really interested in this subject before any changes are made.

It is pretty clear that the mowing of the yard is not all the upkeep that we should be looking at and that the maintaining of the cemetery should be a bigger concern than it is. It is now time to open our eyes to these problems.

Cemetery chairmen probably could set up a maintainable fund - one for repair and replacement. In many cases if a fund were available like that then people would probably make donations to it.

It is likely that if a letter went out to people in the community asking for small donations it might surprise everyone what would happen and just how many people would jump in and help because I don’t think any of us really want to see our historical stones disappear.

There are a lot of "someones" out there who have the power to change this situation. Are you one of them?

Link to the Barry County, MO, web site -


Donna Cooper, Coordinator, Barry County, MO

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