Close Window
Print Window
Return to Main News Page

In the News

CITY COUNCIL MEETING 06 27 16 (Cemetery Research)

City Continues Cemetery Research
By Catherine Stortz Ripley
June 28, 2016

The city of Chillicothe continues to research the ownership of a small, 100-year-old cemetery within the city limits that has been abandoned and not properly maintained for many years. The fact that the cemetery has not been maintained upsets Buckner, Missouri, resident Tim Runyon, who said that his grandfather is buried in that cemetery. Runyon was present at Chillicothe City Council's regular meeting Monday evening at City Hall. In approaching council members, Runyon placed in front of them a golf ball and a larger ball that he had picked up prior to the meeting. "These were just four feet from my grandfather's grave," he said. Part of Runyon's concern is the stacking of brush and other waste believed to have been placed there by the adjacent golf course. Runyon told the council that he raised concerns about alleged desecration of the cemetery years ago, having filed a police report in 2007 and discussed his concerns with the city's codes officer. His concerns, he said, "seemed to have fallen on deaf ears." Desecrating a cemetery with veterans in it is a federal offense, he noted. "Just because my family is at the very back of that cemetery, doesn't give them the right to stack waste," he said. He stated that the city likely would take a different approach and enforce the city's codes if a private citizen had stacked waste in his or her yard. The City Council began discussions earlier this month to take action to make sure the cemetery is maintained. City Attorney Robert Cowherd said that the city is unable to spend money on the cemetery if it is privately owned. The city is now in the process of conducting extensive title research to determine who is the owner. If it is privately owned, the city plans to seek ownership most likely through condemnation proceedings. The cemetery has been called Rose Lawn Cemetery, or more accurately is known as Forest Park Cemetery. It is located north of Chilli Bay Water Park and is in the southwest corner adjacent to Chillicothe Country Club. The cemetery was created by the Chillicothe Cemetery Company in 1914, and it is possible that a clause in the deed may have stated that the cemetery would be deeded to the city if the company failed to maintain the property. An estimated 100 people are buried in the cemetery. The cemetery had been overgrown with brush and trees and several gravestones were broken. Some local Boy Scouts recently worked to clear up a good portion of the cemetery, clearing brush and resetting a few gravestones. Several questions other than ownership remain unanswered, such as the exact boundaries of the cemetery and the number of people buried in the cemetery. Robert Pigg, a member of The American Legion who leads the effort to place Memorial Day flags at the graves of veterans throughout Livingston County and who is familiar with abandoned cemeteries, said that it is unknown how many people are buried in that cemetery and where those graves are located. "I'm coming up with newspaper articles since 1910 of burials that are out there and there's no stone, no marker, no deed," he said. "We've got a whole bunch of burials there that aren't noted."

Updated 08/03/16 - The Chillicothe City Council began looking into the ownership of the small cemetery on Country Club Drive, adjacent from the Chillicothe Country Club and Chilli Bay Water Park, "Forest Park Cemetery," in June. An ownership search began due to the lack of maintenance the cemetery was receiving. The cemetery had been overgrown with brush and trees and several gravestones were broken. Some local boy scouts worked to clear up a good portion of the cemetery a couple months ago, clearing brush and resetting a few gravestones. However, the abandoned cemetery is in need of routine maintenance. The abandoned cemetery is believed to be more than 100 years old and is between one and two acres with around 100 people buried there. The cemetery was created by the Chillicothe Cemetery Company in 1914. Over the past several weeks city attorney, Robert Cowherd, conducted extensive title research to determine who the owner of the cemetery is. After investigating the chain of ownership, he found that the cemetery was deeded to the Chillicothe Country Club in January of 1999. In a memo to the city council, Cowherd stated that the Chillicothe Country Club is responsible for all maintenance of the property.

Return to Top

Close Window
Return to Home Page