While driving thru Bluffton, I noticed that the tombstones at Shannon Cemetery, a closed cemetery which dates back to the mid 1830’s, were removed and stacked up. Upon investigating I found out that this cemetery was being renovated into a park. Forty plus gravestones and bases had been removed.
The village’s plan, which alone cost $2,000, is to put all the gravestones in a concrete memorial wall, add a gazebo, parking lot, gardens, walking path, etc. However this is being built over the top of graves. The military gravestone of Joseph DeFord, a revolutionary war veteran and the founding father of Shannon (Bluffton), was removed, as were the military gravestones of civil war veterans.
The plans for the park, which are on file at the village fiscal officer’s office, did not state that gravestones would be removed. We were told that the gravestones were at an inside secure site. However we found them at storage site, on ten pallets, one stacked six gravestones high, outside, unsecured. The Village at our request has since moved them into a locked storage unit. The Village’s sanctioned volunteer agent, no record of this appointment on file, estimates the cost to transform this cemetery to a park at $109,000. These are some of the reasons “Save Shannon Cemetery” group was formed. Our Save Shannon Cemetery Plan is to preserve, restore the gravestones and memorialize, not a park, but a cemetery, Shannon Cemetery. We have offered to restore these stones with the guidance of a cemetery conservationist, restore gravestones back on their graves.
The mayor has appointed a 12-member commission to recommend to the village council how to proceed. Not one member of the Save Shannon Cemetery group, which includes several descendants were appointed to this commission. The mayor, several present and former village officials, along with relatives, are some of whom are on this commission. Even the sanctioned agent responsible for digging/ removing the gravestones in on this commission.
Mistakes can be corrected, wrongs can be righted, gravestones can be restored and placed back on their graves, compromises can even be made. We are willing to work together with the Shannon Cemetery Commission to come up with a new modified plan, to preserve, restore and memorialize Shannon Cemetery.
We just want this cemetery restored properly.
Tracy McIlroy is the chairman of the Friends of Shannon Cemetery group.