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Abandoned cemetery in Joplin is at risk of having coffins emerge - KOAM TV 7

Abandoned cemetery in Joplin is at risk of having coffins emerge

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Peace Church Cemetery has been a part of Joplin since 1855, but has been abandoned for more than 30 years.  Now damages at the site have created the risk of some graves potentially emerging.
With coffins collapsing under the soil, broken headstones and several unmarked graves, some worry the history of Jasper County's oldest cemetery will be lost.
"Peace Church Cemetery is a really important part of Joplin's history," said volunteer Josh Shackles.  "Some of our earliest pioneers and founders are buried here."
The maintenance of the site has fallen into the hands of volunteers.
"In Missouri, it falls under the abandoned cemetery law," Shackles said.  "The cemetery itself is owned by the inhabitants of the cemetery, so now there is nobody to take care of it."
"I think it is important to preserve cemeteries because ultimately, it is where we all end up," volunteer Bree Shackles said.
There are currently several damages in need of repair, after a controlled burn-off of prairie grass was set at the site last week.  The controlled blaze is set once a year and does cause severe damage to the cemetery and headstones.  The volunteer group hopes that with better maintenance of the site, the controlled burns could be eliminated.
The damages are complicated by the fact that not all coffins at Peace Church Cemetery are buried 6 feet under.
"This is an old cemetery, many of these people were buried before codes were quite as strict as they are now," Josh Shackles said.
The volunteers are concerned that if the retaining walls in some areas are not repaired as soon as possible, when the springtime rains arrive, the soil could easily be washed away, exposing any graves underneath.
The cemetery also has had several issues with vandalism over the years.
"An open cemetery like this has no proper maintenance or care provided, so they come here, they drink, they smoke, they steal the headstones, they really disrespect a place where people have loved ones," said volunteer Bull Westley.  "My main reason for coming out here and helping to maintain the cemetery is to show that it is maintained and it's not okay for people to just come out here to do whatever they want, come here to pay respects and let them rest in peace."
The volunteer group is raising donations to repair damages.
"Our goal is to raise around $500 right now, just to get started with some of the most desperately needed areas," Josh Shackles said.
The volunteers say they hope with some repairs, the cemetery's residents can rest in peace even when it rains.
If you would like to make a donation for the repair efforts at Peace Church Cemetery, you can find more information on the group's Facebook page, at www.facebook.com/peacechurchcemetery.
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