Merlene Davis: Donated electronics can revitalize a Frankfort cemetery

The Green Hill Cemetery is home to one of only four African-American Civil War monuments in the country.
The Green Hill Cemetery is home to one of only four African-American Civil War monuments in the country.

I love two-fers, and that's exactly what you will get when you donate old or damaged electronics to the Office of Educational Outreach and the Green Society at Kentucky State University.

The donated items will be recycled and the money made from that recycling will be used to help fund the Green Hill Cemetery Revitalization Project.

Green Hill, which was established in 1800, once served as the final resting place for black residents in Frankfort. It is listed on the National Historic Register, as is nearby Frankfort Cemetery where Daniel Boone rests. But the Frankfort Cemetery is well maintained, while Green Hill, at the corner of East Main Street and Versailles Road, has fallen into disrepair.

The outreach service program coordinator, Irma Johnson, said she and groups of KSU students have been working with the cemetery since last year cleaning brush and weeds, and painting the chain-link fence. The city provides some funds, but simply mowing the grass depletes most of them, said Johnson, a cemetery board member.

"This cemetery houses one of the four African-American Civil War monuments in the entire country," she said. "But that monument is hidden by overgrown trees."

The monument was donated by the Colored Women's Relief Corps No. 8 of the Grand Army of the Republic in 1924. It is the only monument dedicated to Kentucky African-American Civil War soldiers.

Blacks and whites contributed to the monument, which features the names of 142 African-American soldiers from Central Kentucky.

"We have so many things to do to give the cemetery the dignity and pride it deserves," Johnson said.

In the rear of the cemetery, she said, is the potter's field, where the bodies of some 200 unknown or indigent people are buried. The wooden crosses that once marked the graves have long ago disintegrated.

"We want to put a monument up with just the names of those buried there," Johnson said. "Even my students who haven't quite caught up with my passion say we have got to clean that up."

Nancy Thompson, an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer in the outreach office, said the cemetery needs a new fence as well as a new retaining wall that runs along Main Street.

"It is bulging now," she said, "and it will give way in the future."

Graves sit along the top of the wall, so if it is compromised, the graves will be disturbed.

Johnson hopes to send two large shipments to a recycling company by March so that the money can be used on Earth Day in April when students and area volunteers will descend on the cemetery to work.

"It is a win-win symbiotic relationship," Johnson said. "You could have a yard sale, but this way you know it will go to a good source."

Jeanette Walker, president of the Green Hill board, said once the immediate issues are addressed, the board wants to make a grid of the grave sites in the older part of the cemetery. Many of the headstones there are missing.

"Once or twice a month we receive a call from someone looking for their dad's grave or looking for their mother's grave," she said. "Our vision is to have a grid made, and that is a long and tedious job."

The board wants to hear from anyone who knows where a relative may have been buried in the old sections so grave sites can be pinpointed, she said.

Meanwhile, get your churches, classrooms and clubs involved to help provide a better final resting place for those who have gone before us.

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