Boy Scout leading volunteers in restoring old cemetery

HOWE, Ind. (WANE) – The first work in restoring an old cemetery began Saturday. Volunteers, led by a local Boy Scout, cleaned out the Anderson Cemetery, which had not had anyone buried there in more than a hundred years.

Leaders in Greenfield Township said records indicated that the last time someone was laid to rest there was in 1859. However, Saturday volunteers found headstones from 1884.

Township leaders suggested the project to Blake Johnson, 17, a Boy Scout who needed the project to become an Eagle Scout.

“You have to do a project that somehow benefits something in your community,” said Johnson, who lives in nearby Orland.

Much like many old cemeteries, Anderson Cemetery has been the victim of urbanization and agriculture over the last several decades. According to volunteers, some headstones were destroyed when the 1.5-acre site was bulldozed for farming. Some could be found in a nearby pile of tree branches. Other headstones remained, covered by mounds of dirt from the bulldozing, by farmers and possibly when County Road 375 East first paved. The cemetery is on the west side of the county road, a little north of S.R. 120.

Since then, the area has grown with trees, bushes, and into a heavy wooded area.  Saturday’s job was to clear out as much of that as possible.

“We couldn’t even find the cemetery when we first started looking for it,” Johnson, a senior at Prairie Heights High School, said. “I was expecting a fence to be around it. Then I started walking through the trees and found a few headstones.”

Before Saturday’s work, only two headstones had been uncovered. By the end of the day, nearly a dozen had been found.

Some of the headstones volunteers have found at Anderson Cemetery.
Some of the headstones volunteers have found at Anderson Cemetery.

According to Mary Lou Pfenning, 87, who is on the Greenfield Township Board, county records show there are 21 people buried at the cemetery. She thought there could be as many as 50 people, including those who were never documented.

Pfenning grew up about a half mile away from the cemetery. “I remember walking to my cousin’s house, and we would walk around and look around in the cemetery,” she said. “I always said I wanted to see this project completed before I pass.” She’s also a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, a women’s service organization dedicated to promoting to historic preservation and honoring the servicemen of the Revolutionary War, according to the DAR’s website.

Pfenning said her research has led her to believe there are Revolutionary War, and Civil War, veterans possibly buried at the Anderson Cemetery. Her hopes are that once the cemetery is cleaned up, and all the headstones are found and properly documented, women with the DAR will fund the work needed to restore the headstones.Johnson said it’ll take a few weekends to clean up the entire site. He added once all the work is complete, the plan is to also build a sign and turn the land into a memorial.

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