County officials plan event for historic cemetery

GREENFIELD — County officials have turned an effort to preserve the area’s oldest cemeteries into an annual family-friendly event.

The second-annual Day of Caring, organized by the Hancock County Pioneer Cemetery Commission, is slated for 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Mt. Gilead/Reeves cemetery, 132 W. County Road 375N.

The free event pairs historical re-enactments with an invitation to residents to contribute their time and strength to the upkeep of the cemetery, which dates back to the mid-1800s, officials said.

In addition, nine Greenfield-Central High School students guided by the research of a local historian will dress in period costumes and portray the lives of some of the people buried in the cemetery, said cemetery commission president Marciann Miller.

Miller and other members of the commission share concerns the cemeteries holding the remains of the county’s earliest settlers are not being cared for as they should be, she said.

The annual day of caring is an attempt to bring attention to the plight of the historic places of rest tucked throughout the county.

The cemetery commission receives about $1,500 a year to tend to more than 92 pioneer cemeteries across the county, many of which have fallen into disrepair from time, neglect or vandalism, Miller said. Last year, the commission used a grant from NineStar Connect to turn a cleanup project at Caldwell Cemetery into an official Indiana Bicentennial legacy project. The organization received about $3,000 in grant funding from NineStar again this year, Miller said.

On Saturday, tools will be provided for those who attend who want to record gravestones with grave rubbings or help clean and repair gravestones, Miller said.

The commission worked to reprint a book by Sue Baker, “Hancock County, Indiana Tombstone Inscriptions: One Hundred Years, 1833-1933,” which lists all the known pioneer cemeteries in Hancock County’s nine townships — a valuable resource for people studying genealogy, Miller said. Copies of the book will be for sale during the event, she said.

Commission member Tom Van Duyn, who has spent the summer repairing gravestones in the cemetery, will be on hand to explain the process, and historian Cindy True will speak about some of the more fascinating people buried in the cemetery.

True located one of the oldest gravestones in the cemetery and researched newspaper archives and historical records to trace the connections between the eldest and the most recently buried there; most of the people in the cemetery are related at least distantly to each other, she said.

Many of the people buried in the cemetery, which was first recorded on county maps in 1835, bear the surnames Reeves, Frazier, Leary or Kingen, True said.

Van Duyn said his group of volunteers has reset about 30 gravestones and cleaned dozens of others.

“It can be pretty labor-intensive; we could use more volunteers,” Van Duyn said.

“We’ve been coming along pretty good this summer, but there’s always more to do than we can get done.”

If you go

Hancock County Pioneer Cemetery Commission Day of Caring:

  • 9 a.m. to noon Saturday
  • Mt. Gilead/Reeves cemetery, 132 W. County Road 375N.
Author photo
Rorye Hatcher is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at ​317-477-3211 or rhatcher@greenfieldreporter.com.