Saturday, March 31, 2012

22. Beech Grove Cemetery Situation

    They do things different in Beech Grove; not only do they bury the bodies, they bury the headstones, too. If you want to assist, you might contact the BG Historical Society.
[Thanks to Bob Alloway for this tip.]

Published February 29th, 2012

by Karla Richardson
Dick Templin decided to volunteer at the Beech Grove Public Library and was told to research history files to become familiar and help others with research. In doing his research, Templin came across a book with names of people buried at the two cemeteries in Beech Grove. Templin’s interest was sparked upon finding a souvenir book published in 1930 by the BG Civic League, which referenced the Lick Creek Cemetery (formerly known as Blackwell Cemetery). Templin stated, “This sparked my interest, as when I was a young boy, I walked through Lick Creek Cemetery many times and remembered what it had looked like. My grandmother had always told me there were Civil War Soldiers buried there. This is true and I am currently researching this.”
A resolution was passed more than 55 years ago by the City of Beech Grove to convert the Lick Creek graveyard or Blackwell Cemetery into the Beech Grove City Park. Under this resolution, they were to follow Indiana Code 23, which states, “a notice must be given to any relative of any person who may be buried in the cemetery and they shall have six months from personal notification or from last publication of such notice to remove the body along with any monuments, markers or other embellishments installed on or belonging to the grave of such person.” After the six-month wait, the resolution allowed the city of Beech Grove to declare the cemetery as a town park.
Any remaining unclaimed monuments were to be removed and placed in a convenient part of the park in the form of a memorial shaft. It is believed the remaining bodies were never removed and the tombstones were placed on top of the bodies.
Templin has diligently been working with the historical society to locate records of such notices. To date, he has not yet been able to locate such records to confirm that all provisions were followed. In addition, the memorial that stands in the park is a tribute to Beech Grove residents who died in war. None of these veterans were buried in this cemetery. The bodies still believed to be buried were those of pioneers of Beech Grove before it became a city.
The first to be buried was Henry Coffman, who was born 1811 and died at 36. The last to be buried is believed to be Gilbert Reynolds in 1903. He was the uncle of longtime Beech Grove Resident Norman Middleton. Alice Mae Crider Reynolds, great-great-grandmother of Middleton, died at the age of 41 and remains in the Lick Creek Cemetery. Middleton said he has an infant relative buried there as well. Middleton provided a picture of Alice and Gilbert Reynolds from his hobby of genealogy work.
Jeanie Dinius with DNR-DHPA has been working with the historical society to determine if the city did anything wrong at the time the cemetery was converted into a park. She does not believe anything illegal occurred. However, several residents question that.
The historical society has asked the parks department for permission to resurrect the tombstones from the graves and place them properly and legally. This will involve a change of ordinance and approximately $5,000 for equipment to locate the underground tombs in addition to the cost of restoring the grounds after excavation.
Janice McCartney, one of three homeowners whose property adjoins the cemetery, said she learned the details in the fall. McCartney said, “I think this is the appropriate thing to do for the bodies that remain in the ground. I just ask they repair any damage to my yard.”
Park board member Rick Skirvin said, “I believe it is in the best interest of history to preserve what was once part of Beech Grove. I think we owe it to the resting departed to acknowledge the cemetery’s existence.”
What do you think about this? Should the city do this to the unclaimed graves or leave them alone? A previous homeowner found the pictured tombstone in his back yard while plowing. A tombstone was also hit several years ago while digging to install the black iron fence that is now at the park entrance off Churchman Avenue.

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