CENTREVILLE, Ill. (AP) - Authorities in southwestern Illinois are investigating damage to a historic black cemetery that has gravesites dating to the 1800s, including some belonging to Civil War soldiers.
Genealogists and archaeologists say logging trucks driving through the property about 15 miles east of St. Louis have knocked over, broken or moved headstones, the Belleville News-Democrat reported (https://bit.ly/2j05RUC ). Some headstones are more than a century old.
Cemetery researcher Judy Jennings, a member of the St. Clair County Genealogical Society, said during a visit to the area known as St. George Cemetery in May she saw large tire marks, roads that traveled over stones and jugs of chemicals used to kill weeds and oil “all over the place.”
“It was a mess,” she said. “It’s history, and it’s being destroyed, and nobody seems to care.”
An investigation into the damage was turned over to the St. Clair County state’s attorney’s office as a possible violation of the Human Skeletal Remains Act. That act prohibits people from disturbing protected remains or grave markers without a permit from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.
The sheriff’s department filed its report on Sept. 6.
State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly called the case “complicated.” He said his office had received the sheriff’s department report and requested follow-up investigation. That’s currently taking place.
Authorities say there have been questions about who owns and is responsible for the property, and what types of activities have occurred there.
Researchers believe the unregistered cemetery may contain hundreds of graves. Some are marked, while others are unmarked or partially marked with pottery shards and knickknacks - common markers from that era. The land is overgrown, however, and they weren’t able to reach the oldest section because of steep inclines.
Information from: Belleville News-Democrat, https://www.bnd.com
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