HERNANDO, MS (abc24.com) - It has taken five years, countless hours and dozens of volunteers, but one of Mississippi's oldest cemeteries is getting the recognition it deserves.
Hernando's Spring Hill Cemetery was long neglected, even used as a cow pasture at one time. That's all changed. The cemetery is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
"It's just another accomplishment of many more we have to do," says Tom Ferguson. "This is legally going to be preserved."
It hasn't been an easy journey. As the cemetery was neglected, the graves deteriorated.
"A lot of them were toppled, it was grown up in brush," says archaeologist Mary Evelyn Starr.
That is until Ferguson got the ball rolling. He brought in Starr, and put local residents, students and town leaders to work. It's paid off with this week's listing.
Cemeteries are extremely difficult to get on the national register. Spring Hill was added because it dates back to the founding of Hernando. The land was laid out when the town was created in the 1800's.
"This was the first place people were buried," says Mayor Chip Johnson. Those laid to rest there range from the town's first mayor to a former sheriff and more than 150 others. "This is just a part of our history and we need to preserve that at all costs."
The group is also working on a 600 page book of the cemetery's history and biographies of who's buried there.
"It's all about heritage," says Ferguson. He adds that, like the cemetery, is also a work in progress.