It has been a long time since I took a history class, but I learned a lesson or two about some Madison County history from life-long resident Stewart Davidson last weekend.
Davidson shared with me the history of an abandoned cemetery that sits across the road from the Bluegrass Army Depot on 421 while I was gathering information for a story that appears on Page 1 of this week’s edition.
Like many here in the county, I had no idea this cemetery existed nor did I know the history behind a five-acre piece of land where 901 people are buried. Most of them are our ancestors, who likely were the first to locate in Madison County before the 1800s. Some of them are veterans who served our country before and at the turn of the century.
When I stepped foot on the property, I was stunned by what I saw. Abandoned gravestones, many of which were marked by a rock and many others that were unidentified, with markers that stated, “Known only to God.” Many tombstones were covered by brush and overtaken by nature. Some were vandalized beyond recognition and I can see why the cemetery went all but unnoticed for more than four decades.
It was a sad sight to see and to be honest, an embarrassment to our county and a total lack of respect for those who came before us and left me wondering who dropped the ball and decided it was OK to forget the past?
Apparently in the early 1970s, after the United States Army decided it wasn’t worth the time or effort to maintain the two grave sites, they turned them over to a local board of trustees who would sell plots to help keep the cemetery in top-notch shape. That never happened, at least at Cemetery A. Instead of making sure things were tidied up, it got out of control.
From 1973 on, the cemetery was out of mind and it became an eye sore until Davidson took matters into his own hands and formed a non-profit group to help get the cemetery in proper condition a couple of years ago.
Volunteers have been busy cutting grass, cutting down tress and making the five-acre cemetery presentable again. It’s a beautiful tract of land that has more than enough room for public usage and hopefully our national, state and local leaders can assist in restoring and bringing dignity and respect to the pair of lesser-known burial sites in Madison County.
I’m glad Davidson took it upon himself to restore the cemeteries and I’m hopeful someone in the community will step up and keep them presentable for generations to come. I think it’s disrespectful to just let a piece of our history become a thing of the past and virtually non-existent.
Preserving the past takes time and effort and a little tender loving care. Hopefully a lesson has been learned from past failures.
We can do better. Much better when it comes to preserving our rich history.