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L'worth's Cedar Cemetery in need of major repairs

November 19, 2008
There are problems in Leavenworth's Cedar Cemetery, located on the east side of town, major problems.

Sinking ground above graves at Leavenworth's Cedar Cemetery have caused tombstones to become unsettled. (Photos by Chris Adams)
Walking through the cemetery, which dates to the early 1800s, those problems are easily visible. Severe dips in the ground in front of the older tombstones have developed, causing tombstones to sink or fall down.

The reason the ground is sinking, said John Stutzman, president of the Leavenworth Town Council, which oversees the cemetery, is several of the older graves have wooden caskets whose lids have begun to collapse.

Stutzman said "probably at least 50" of the almost 300 graves in the cemetery, including members of the Leavenworth family, which founded the town in 1814, are affected.

Unfortunately, the town hasn't been able to do many repairs, just resetting a few of the stones, because officials are not completely sure how to fix the problems and don't have much money. Unlike newer cemeteries, like Memorial Gardens on the west side of town, Cedar Cemetery doesn't have a perpetuation fund.

"The only way we keep this mowed is we pay enough for the guy to mow the other one," Stutzman said, while inspecting several of the graves with fellow Councilman Ralph Lindauer last month.

Stutzman, who lives across S.R. 62 from the cemetery, tried putting up a locked donation box at the front of the cemetery that he would empty each day, but the money was either stolen or the donations were minimal. The town instead has had to rely on its share of riverboat gaming dollars as well as interest on a CD to help maintain the cemetery.

However, more funding — including donations from descendants of those buried in the cemetery — is needed, as is guidance from experts on how to repair the stones, Stutzman said.

"I'd think what we'd like to do more than anything is get them straightened up and get them repaired," he said, explaining he believes that would mean creating a more solid base and using fill dirt to level the dips in the ground.

In addition to problems caused by the ground sinking on the older graves, the town has had to work to clean up damage from several trees that blew down in the cemetery when the remnants of Hurricane Ike came through Southern Indiana.

"This is the history of Crawford County," Stutzman said, looking around the cemetery. "Leavenworth was the county seat (at one time)."

Persons who would like to make a monetary donation or who can provide information on restoring the tombstones and graves may contact the Leavenworth Town Hall at 739-1221. They may also call Stutzman at 739-2708 or Lindauer at 739-2700.

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