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Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014

Mistique of cemeteries attracts many

Sunday, October 28, 2007

(Photo)
Southeast Missouri residents say the area's cemeteries reveal much about our forefathers.
SIKESTON -- Cemeteries never interested Marie Hunter of New Madrid -- until she began working in a funeral home about 10 years ago.

"I started going out and looking into these cemeteries," Hunter said. A few years ago a relative of a family of four who were killed on The Autobahn in Germany wrote Hunter looking for their burial site, Hunter recalled.

"I knew exactly where it was because I'd heard about this. It was in Mounds Park Cemetery and four stones for each family member sit in a line," Hunter said.

When probed about a cemetery, Hunter said she generally will look for them. "You kind of want to find out for them. It grows on you, I guess you would say," Hunter said.

And a few years ago Hunter took on the task of finding Big Opening Cemetery in New Madrid County. After searching through old record books, Hunter finally found the cemetery, which has three names.

"I took my husband with me, and we looked around that cemetery," Hunter said.

The cemetery, located on Highway AA about three to five miles north of Highway 80, was located about half a mile behind a residence and was overgrown. Hunter and her husband literally got lost while looking around the cemetery, she said.

"It's fun. They had different things on (the headstones), and they were interesting. I like looking at the old stones and wonder about the people buried there, but you know ... you are never gonna know."

Cemeteries of all types seem to attract people for different reasons. Julie Grant loves the fact a small, slightly overgrown, cemetery sits in the middle of a field on the family farm in rural Sikeston. Only a few headstones sit on the land.

"I think it's neat that heritage is staying in place. We're proud it's on our land, but it wasn't our land to begin with," Grant said.

One of the Hunter families -- she isn't sure which one -- owned the land and sold it to the Grant family years ago.

"To me, it's fun to know that it's there and there's all sorts of mixed feelings," Grant said.

Jean Wells' husband, parents, grandparents and other relatives are buried in the five-acre family cemetery, Hickory Grove, located off Highway C between Morley and Blodgett in Scott County.

"I plan to be buried there," the 77-year-old Morley resident said. "I've got some nieces, and they've already staked out where they want to be buried there."

Wells said the French cemetery was part of the Louisiana Purchase, and the oldest person buried there is a Civil War veteran.

"Part of it was my grandfather's family farm, and they lost it during the Depression. Later it was deeded to my father and two other people, and since that time, one of those people deeded his part to me," Wells said.

Although it's considered a family cemetery, anyone can bury out there, Wells said.

"You just have to let us know in advance and where you want to bury someone. It's free. As long as we don't charge people, we don't have to pay taxes," Wells said.

One couple who parked at the cemetery when they were teenagers, and when the man died, he wanted to be buried there. And he was, Wells said.

Regardless, its important cemeteries are maintained in order to preserve their history, Hunter, Wells and Grant agreed.

"A lot of them are privately owned and you can't just go in and do it. A lot of times you have to have permission to do clean them," Hunter said.

Keeping cemeteries maintained is a tough and expensive job, Wells said, adding she thinks Scott County offenders could clean off the headstones and cemetery as a form of restitution.

Grant said members of the Hunter family recently cleaned headstones in the cemetery.

Out of respect to the family, the farm operators even rigged the irrigation pivot so water wouldn't hit the cemetery, Grant said.

She said: "Any farm that has a cemetery should leave the cemetery alone because those (buried there) were our forefathers."