South Carrollton Cemetery
Images taken and contributed by Jean Wells
Images taken May 11, 2002
Located in South Carrollton at the intersection of US 431 North and KY 81.
The tombstone on the left is not listed in the Hammers' Muhlenberg County Kentucky Cemeteries Book:
March 29, 1809
___ 27, 1857
Source: Leader-News article by Sam Ford, Leader-News Staff Writer
Contributed by Jean Wells
Toppled gravestones rest beneath underbrush, above, as Kentucky General Ben Chandler and Muhlenberg County Judge Executive Rodney Kirtley, below right, examine the neglected old South Carrollton Cemetery, which American Legion Post 61 of Central City has been trying to restore.
Former South Carrollton resident James Henry's tombstone lies in pieces amongst trees and thickets in the old South Carrollton Cemetery, one of many neglected plots in Muhlenberg County's 259 cemeteries.
Attorney General visits county, leads restoration efforts
When James Henry died on March 2, 1867 his family wanted to leave a lasting memory for him. Now, his monument lays upside down and in two pieces in a wooded area of South Carrollton.
Kentucky Attorney General Ben chandler says that former residents' monuments need to be remembered and honored, not neglected.
“Some of these people in this cemetery were probably founders here at South Carrollton,” Chandler said to a crowd of concerned residents at the South Carrollton Cemetery on Tuesday, Dec. 18, “and they deserve to be remembered.”
Chandler has been making a concerted effort to clean up neglected cemeteries across the state and came to Muhlenberg County to look at some of its 259 cemeteries.
In May 2001, Chandler began a Task Force for the Preservation of Cemeteries. The situation was noticed about a decade ago after surveying an African-American cemetery next to Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville.
Cave Hill was one of the nicest cemeteries in the state, while the African-American Eastern Cemetery had trees down in the road and weeds higher than the cars that went in to survey the property. Eastern contained monuments for founders of the Underground Railroad, the first black state representative in the South, and many other prominent members of the black community.
“There are currently 14,000 known cemeteries reported into our offices,” said Todd Leatherman, Director of the Consumer Protection Division for the Commonwealth. “Many of these cemeteries are neglected or abandoned.”
Muhlenberg County Judge Executive Rodney Kirtley says that mines would strip around the cemeteries and then abandon them.
“There's one cemetery in the county where the strip mines left the cemetery standing on a knoll and stripped all the ground around it,” Kirtley said. “Now there isn't even a way to reach the cemetery.”
Attorney General Chandler plans to propose that money Kentucky has gained through consumer protection suits, which is not included in the General Assembly's budgeting, should be alotted to the cemeteries, an amount that he estimated to be about $2 million. He will make this appeal when the General Assembly resumes in January.
Judge Kirtley was concerned about what the county government can do to help the situation.
“The money can be used for any cemetery that serves a public purpose,” Chandles said, “and the Fiscal Court here has the final say on what is and is not a public purpose.”
Sandra Gaylen, the Outreach Director of the Muhlenberg Public Libraries, has been gathering information from around the county and from records to locate all of the cemeteries in Muhlenberg County. Many of the cemeteries that have been located were not even on county records.
The cemetery at South Carrollton lies on land that has no recorded ownership and has remained behind a now-closed gas station amidst trees and thickets for years. The cemetery is on U.S. Highway 431 in South Carrollton, across from Brewer's Grocery.
After American Legion member Rufus Geary read about Chandler's Task Force, he urged his Central City Post 61 to organize a cleanup of the lot, which he had viewed every day when going to his Bremen home. The cleaning effort began in August.
About one month ago, the gas station was cleared, and the American Legion has continued cutting through trees to uncover graves.
“Some of the weeds were over my head, and the fence was covered with honeysuckle,” Geary said.
Attorney General Chandler also visited cemeteries near Powderly.
“No one else in the area is involved in a project like this,&rdquo Geary said, “But someone needs to get out here and keep these graves up became these people can't do it for themselves.”
Chandler's request will grant money to projects that have already established a will to clean up a cemetery. The request also includes a proposal to declare a Cemetery Clean-Up Week close to Memorial Day for cemetery maintenance.
“Our Eagle Scouts and the Job Corps students have started doing some cleanup jobs for the county,” Kirtley said. “If several groups would just adopt one cemetery to help maintain, then we could take care of all these problems.”
The cleanup in South Carrollton has halted due to the changing of weather, but the group plans to uncover the rest of the cemetery during the spring.
For at least one more winter, James Henry's monument will lay toppled amongst the trees, waiting to be uncovered. And hundreds of other monuments are overgrown and overturned - monuments once built to honor the lives of former Muhlenberg County residents.