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September 26, 2007

8:54 p.m.: Descendants want cemetery reborn

neal.mcnamara@heraldbulletin.com

A Missouri family is seeking to have a dilapidated pioneer-era graveyard in Fall Creek Township refurbished and marked as a cemetery, saying that it contains the remains of their ancestors, some of whom were veterans of the War of 1812.

But in 1973, a developer bought the land that contains the cemetery, and now Brandon and Sonni Lawson, of West Plains, Mo., are asking that the local government step in to help them honor their ancestors’ final resting place since the land is privately owned.

The Lawsons claim that Arthur Beer, the developer, ignored the graveyard while building homes on the property. Resident Rick Dawson now lives in the home located on the land and appears to have ownership over the cemetery.

The Lawsons gave a presentation Wednesday to the Madison County Cemetery Commission, which oversees the refurbishment of cemeteries. Also present at the meeting were Madison County Commissioners John Richwine, Pat Dillon and Paul Wilson, and Fall Creek Township Trustee Michael Hart.

Over the course of their ancestral research, which began four years ago, the Lawsons discovered that remains were located in Madison County. Upon discovering that the graveyard had been developed upon, the couple was “crushed.”

“Why would anybody (develop a cemetery)?” said Brandon Lawson. “We think (the cemetery) was destroyed by greed.”

The Lawsons claim relation to Martin Brown Jr., an early Madison County farmer who moved here from Virginia, and Samuel Hardy Jr., both of whom were purportedly veterans of the War of 1812. The Lawsons say they have at least 10 other relatives buried in the cemetery.

The Lawsons are asking that the cemetery be cordoned off by a fence, that a sign marking the area as the Hardy-Culp cemetery be erected, and that military medals and plaques be placed around the graves. The Lawsons are also asking for a right of way or road giving access to the cemetery.

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