As flowers start to color the canvas of greening grass and nature begins its spring rebirth, so does the beautification program at the Eminence Cemetery.
The Eminence Cemetery Company secured resources through community member support and fundraising efforts to plant 13 trees on the cemetery grounds. Ted Bright Bates, chairman of the Eminence Cemetery Company, said this is just the beginning.
“The board was elected in 2011, and our goal is to bring back and re-beautify the Eminence Cemetery with landscaping and trees,” Bates said. “We have only started and hopefully we can also repair and clean the monuments and blacktop the roadways.”
Two Brothers Garden Center of Lexington planted hoopsi blue spruce, October glory maples, willow oak and dogwoods. Pyramid boxwoods with knock out roses now line the original entrance facing Mulberry Pike with juddi viburnum.
“The tornadoes of the 70s and later damaged trees and the dead ones were taken out,” Bates said. “No new landscaping has been brought in. The board is pleased with the response and support for the cemetery. We are encouraged by that and plan to continue.”
The General Assembly House and Senate records point to the Eminence Cemetery acquisition in an act dating Feb. 27, 1860. Later in 1872, both legislative branches amended section 1 of the act to incorporate the Eminence Cemetery Company.
The General Assembly passed the act in Jan. 30 for cemetery officials as, “…Authorized to acquire and hold 25 acres of land (presumably for future expansion of the cemetery), and a conveyance therefore.”
The cemetery presently sits on 13 acres purchased from W. B. Wilson at $125 per acre in 1860 and according to bylaws sat half of a mile south of the Eminence city limits with 400 plots.
The 1860 first board of trustees consisted of D. N. Porter, Gideon King, J.H. Drane, O. Ford, L.E. Brown, N. Bright and W.B. Wilson.
The original plat surveyed and drawn by Prof. J.J. Rucker of Georgetown College included a nursery, stables for the horses used for work at the cemetery, a garden area and included a vault thought to have existed until the early 1980s.
“The cemetery has about 20 burials a year and those places on the plat have been replaced by graves,” Bates said. “In the bylaws it says, ‘…(the cemetery) is used not inconsistent with reverence and respect for the dead…and be among the most beautiful portions of the state’ and when I knew it in the early 1930s it truly was one of the most beautiful portions of the state.”
Bates said burial costs don’t sufficiently cover daily operational costs and the year-to-year expenses of maintaining the cemetery.
“My grandparents lived here and I never gave up Eminence. I moved back here with them after graduating from high school when my parents moved to Louisville,” Bates said. “Newton Bright, my grandfather served on the board for about 18 years. He thought it was his civic duty and I know he would want to see the cemetery re-beautified.”
Bates said the board will continue to conduct fund raisers and hope to acquire friends of the cemetery to help progress and preservation.
“We wrote to everyone during our fundraising efforts about our intentions for the cemetery—what it once was and can be again,” Bates said. “We are planning to have classes by professionals on how to clean the stones and involve people in the community with the right way to do it. Many stones have accumulated moss and mold that need to cleaned, straightened and repaired. We hope to have residents form as ‘Friends of the Cemetery’ who would help with the upkeep.”
Bates said members of his family came east from Virginia and settled in Henry and Shelby Counties and had small family cemeteries on their farm. When the Eminence Cemetery opened later, family members were exhumed and brought to Eminence.
“I think my relatives realized that the cemetery would be protected and not become overgrown or disheveled like so many farm cemeteries are now,” Bates said. “There is no money involved in our positions and many board members including Bill Brammel, who is important to our operation, do it out of civic pride.”
Bates emphasized the board is grateful for support from the community and supporters of the cemetery.
“I am encouraged that more people will have a concern for the beauty and dignity of the cemetery,” Bates said. “I hope residents who take an interest will help make the cemetery a thing of pride in the Eminence community and as a preservation of our past.”