VFW seeks help in restoring cemetery

Published 11:11 am Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Winchester’s Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter is looking for volunteers to help them restore a local cemetery that has been forgotten by most.

Located near the Daniel Grove Cemetery off Old Muddy Creek Road, the cemetery sits on a hillside just beyond two inconspicuous stone pillars.

Janice Martin, quartermaster for VFW Post 2728, said research on the old cemetery shows it was a burial ground for many black families in the county.

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Unfortunately, decades of neglect have left the cemetery in poor condition. Overgrown brush has covered a majority of the tombstones, and over time many markers have fallen over or sunk into the soil.

The dates on the few stones visible to visitors show the names of people buried from the late 1800s to the mid-1960s. A few graves appear less overgrown and some even have decorations from occasional unknown visitors. Most markers cannot be seen at all.

Martin said the VFW has taken the responsibility of restoring and maintaining the cemetery because many of the graves there belong to veterans of both world wars.

“When I walked through here the first time I cried,” she said. “To see how some (veterans) are treated here kills me.”

VFW volunteers have agreed to meet at the cemetery every Saturday at 10 a.m. to clear away the overgrown brush around the graves as well as remove some of the trash dumped nearby. Martin said a small group began the work last weekend, but with a lack of manpower and equipment, the task is daunting.

“We’re looking for tree services who can cut trees and take them away,” She said. “We could use someone with a mulcher who would be willing take the mulch away.”

But in addition to those larger services, Martin said anyone with a chainsaw or a truck would be helpful.

She said work on the project will continue until the weather prevents any more from being done. The VFW’s goal is to clear the entire cemetery so it can be navigated by visitors. The owner of the property the cemetery sits on has requested some trees be kept to provide shade to the area, and Martin said in the long term she would like to see the cemetery turned into a nice place for people to visit.

However, the fact the group doesn’t know how large the cemetery is remains a challenge.

Martin said volunteers do not need to be available on Saturday mornings to help clear the vegetation because the cemetery is accessible all the time. However, she asks anyone going there to work be careful not to damage the markers as they work around them.

Those wishing to volunteer to assist in cleanup efforts can call Martin at 595-1657 or call VFW Post 2728 at 744-9715.