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Cemetery crasher: graveyard caretakers perturbed by vandals

Chris Buchanan

1 vandalism2What started as an attempt to keep one of Brantley County’s oldest cemeteries and churches in pristine condition has turned into an all out war with unknown entities.

Smyrna Cemetery Committee President C.R. Lynn told the Enterprise in an interview this week that he hopes to get the community’s help in catching those who continue to destroy portions of a new fence placed up along the perimeter of the church grounds and litter and vandalize other parts.

“It ain’t that I object to people partying and having a good time because I was young once,” Lynn said. “It’s just that I was taught better than to leave my trash somewhere.”

The fence was first added to help cut down on littering and dumping that occurred when people were for any reason unable to leave their trash at the landfill and to cut down on “partying” that sometimes occurred at at a newly cleared side of the lot for new graves.”

“We had the fence put up some time in June,” Lynn said. “We just decided since the new committee had been formed and all that we were going to move the fence to encompass the new section.”

“Keg parties” in the old church had also been an issue, he said.

While that has at least helped that situation, Lynn said it had apparently inadvertently angered one or more area residents who have taken it upon themselves to bend railings and even completely run their vehicles through the fence destroying portions in protest.

And that has made the duties of the cemetery committee – to maintain and protect the lands surrounding the hundreds of ancestors of many in the area – that much more difficult.

Lynn said when the committee first re-formed earlier this year, the cemetery was a very different scene with overgrowth consuming older fencing and parts in the rear of the cemetery.  But with a lot of hard work, the group was able to push back nature’s grip on the nearly two century old lot and make it assessable to the public.

The new fence that now encompasses the old church in the front of the cemetery was never designed to hinder that ability, Lynn said, and the gates at various parts of the entrance aren’t even locked.

“If you want to come work around your relative’s grave site or put flowers or they’re coming to bury someone, all they’ve got to do is open the gate,” Lynn said. “All we did is move the gates.”

But that hasn’t stopped at least one person from running over the fence with a four wheeler, possibly another bending posts at another point using the weight of a vehicle and, most recently, what is suspected to be a black four-wheel drive truck from ramming a hole right in the middle of the fence in front of the church in late August – presumably in protest.

The estimated cost of over $200 to repair recent damage combined with another $200 for previous repairs to those fences has come out of pocket for members of the committee, Lynn said, since donations made to the committee were meant for cemetery maintenance and not fence repair.

Adding to the problem, some have even spun their tires out in circles around one of the old oaks in the cemetery and even one of the graves in a newly cleaned lot where a long-time keeper of the property was recently buried.

Lynn said he’d found remnants of parties in and around the church in the past and alcohol containers, cigarettes and even condoms strewn through various parts of the lot.

The area is no stranger to vandalism with several large pieces of metal going missing from the nearby landfill – an issue which the county continues to investigate.

The cemetery itself has also had other issues including including people shooting at the name placards on mausoleums at the back of the cemetery though those weren’t a regular issue like current problems.

With three generations buried at the cemetery, Lynn takes the most recent attacks seriously and hopes to bring peace to the situation.

“If I find out who they are, we will get peace – one way or the other,” Lynn said.

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2 Responses to Cemetery crasher: graveyard caretakers perturbed by vandals

  1. Paula Jacobs Reply

    September 13, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    These people have no respect and have never lost a loved one. It upsets me to think our kids are not taught better.

  2. Lajuan Stoodard Reply

    September 13, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    I have relatives that are buried out there. And I love that old church! I remember my mom and dad taking us out there when we were little to show us the old church. Whom ever is oing this please stop. As long as no locks are on stuff to keep us away from our loved ones what is the problem?

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