Thayer County Historical Society vice-president Debi Aron says the county’s abandoned cemeteries are in sore need of maintenance and wondered if the commissioners could help out. During the April 17 commissioner’s meeting, Aron described the abandoned cemeteries as those no longer used and those that are seriously neglected. Unfortunately, the county leaders’ hands are tied unless the abandoned cemetery is designated as a “pioneer” cemetery.
“The way the law reads,” said commissioner Chris Frye, “is we can’t use any funds to help maintain any cemeteries not designated as pioneer cemeteries.”
Although Aron pinpoints six cemeteries that have been abandoned and are in need of upkeep in the county, only one carries the “pioneer” designation; Hebron Pioneer Cemetery located on Dove Road next to the Hebron City Cemetery.
A couple of years ago, Frye said he cleaned that historical cemetery and has continued to keep it mowed.
Aron said in the 1980s, the Thayer County Genealogical Society maintained the county’s old burial spots, but the organization has now disbanded. While some individuals volunteer to mow and pick up trash, the cemeteries continue to become overrun with trees, brush and weeds. Aron added that she often visits the different sites and has to re-set headstones that have fallen or been knocked over.
Aron said her main concern is that even though individuals take an interest in cemeteries from time to time, they usually are not able to continue the upkeep. “If the county weed control or county road department were assigned to care for these cemeteries,” she said, “they would fare much better and have a chance for ongoing upkeep for years to come.”
The commissioners, meeting today, list on the agenda a meeting with the county historical society members and county attorney Dan Werner to discuss the matter further.
Cemeteries needing upkeep include Mt. Gilead, Letterman, and Hebron Pioneer cemeteries. The Keim and Pleasant Plain cemeteries are currently being looked after. The county poor farm historical cemetery is state owned.