The city of Richmond has added the Martin Family Cemetery to a list of projects seeking federal stimulus funding.
City Administrator Rick Childers said this morning that the project was added, but doubts it will go anywhere.
The cemetery is located at the end of West Lexington Street where the road deadends. The cemetery is in the middle of the road surrounded by a rock wall that was constructed about 15 years ago, according to Ray County Historical Society Board Member Jean Hamacher. She said the wall was constructed with the help of donations and assistance from the public.
The cemetery carries a lot of historical significance not only because it is one of the oldest cemeteries in the area, but because of some of the people who call it their final resting place.
The most famous person buried in the cemetery is Maj. Gen. Israel Hendley. Hendley was a veteran of the War of 1812 and was killed in New Mexico in 1847 during the American Mexican War. Hendley was also married to one of Richmond’s founding fathers, William Martin’s sister.
Last May part of the wall surrounding the cemetery was knocked over and still remains that way today. Area residents said they believe a trash truck knocked over the wall.
Last July the Richmond Public Works and Finance Committees visited the wall to assess the damage. Childers told committee members at the time that the city did not know who was responsible for fixing the wall.
Childers said this morning the only reasonable option at this point is to repair the wall.
“We’re going to move forward with something, we just don’t know what we’re going to move forward doing,” Childers said.
Hamacher said the city asked the historical society to take over maintenance of the cemetery about five years ago. She said the city was told the Historical Society had no funding to cover the cost.
In December, Childers notified council members that the city had been approached by a landowner willing to donate a strip of land near the cemetery to move the cemetery. He said the land is not suitable to build anything on and would get the cemetery out of the middle of the road.
Historical Society President Jim Carter said last week that he had been told by the city that moving the cemetery would only be a last resort. Carter said the board is against moving the cemetery and would consider it a desecration.
“They might as well move it into a ditch,” Carter said.
He said the cemetery is so old that moving anything underground would not be worth it and the cemetery would lose all of it’s historical value.
The project posted on the Mid America Regional Council’s Web site for possible stimulus projects says, “Relocation is the best long-term solution.”
The posting has attracted the attention of many concerned residents.
Most looked at the project as more of a convenience issue with the city. One post said the dead buried in the graveyard are at the mercy of those who are living and that none of us would want this to happen to a family member.
Others say that there are several other options besides relocation and that the city needs to begin prosecuting vandalism.
The city has the project listed at $135,000, but then says in its comments that relocation would be at an unknown cost.
According to a report in the May 13, 2008 edition of the Daily News, the wall has been run into at least five times before.
Childers said the city doesn’t have any money to replace the wall, but did say he is currently in discussions with the State Historical Preservation Society to help with funding.
“We’re trying to figure out all of the options,” Childers said.
Photo: The Martin Family Cemetery at the end of West Lexington Street holds about a dozen graves including Maj. Gen. Israel Hendley. (Photo by Dennis Sharkey/The Daily News)