HERNANDO, MS (abc24.com) - Saving pieces of Hernando's history. Several volunteers have spent close to a year cleaning up and reclaiming DeSoto County's oldest cemetery. Volunteers have made good progress, but the work is far from finished.
"We don't think we'll ever be through," said volunteer Andrea Michael. "The plans we have are so great that we have years and years of work to do."
Hernando's Springhill Cemetery dates to the 1800's. Hundreds of DeSoto's first residents are buried there. Their stories were almost lost forever, buried with them as the cemetery became abandoned.
"At one time there were literally cattle running through," said Mayor Chip Johnson.
Long forgotten for years, it's now being cleaned up by dedicated volunteers.
"It's a lot of work," Michael told abc24.com.
They've gotten rid of all the overgrown trees, added some new ones for landscaping, and are even clearing a parking lot. A new gate proudly marks the entrance.
"We are trying to treat it reverently and with respect," said Johnson.
But the work's just begun. Now that the cemetery's cleared, the next step will be preserving all of the grave markers, some of which are almost two hundred years old.
"The craftsmanship it took to create these stones and the fact that they're standing all this time later is just incredible," said Michael.
There's a history lesson on each of the broken gravestones, markings for babies or political symbols. All are clues about Hernando's former society.
"Lots of people were buried without tombstones because they couldn't afford them," Johnson told abc24.com.
Historians are putting together a book of everyone they know is buried in the cemetery. Many were victims of yellow fever. Others were significant members of the early town, like the first mayor and sheriff's family.
"Back in the time when it was created Victorian families used it not just as a cemetery, but also as picnic grounds and a place to come and be with family. We'd like that again," said Michael.
The state just approved an official historic marker for the cemetery. They'll put that up sometime in December. There is a Halloween walking tour at the cemetery scheduled for dusk on October 30, 2011.