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The Carthage Press
  • Overgrown cemetery gets help from inmates

  • Usually four men in prison stripes and orange jumpsuits outside a jail would be cause for concern, but on Wednesday, they were cause for relief and joy for Margie Bull.
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  • Usually four men in prison stripes and orange jumpsuits outside a jail would be cause for concern, but on Wednesday, they were cause for relief and joy for Margie Bull.
    The head of the Jasper County Cemetery Preservation Association said she was "so thrilled" with what a team of four inmates were able to do to clear off the dozens of graves at the Alexander Cemetery, an overgrown thicket off County Lane 183 west of Carthage. Bull said it was especially important to do what they could to improve access to the graves with the upcoming Memorial Day holiday.
    "I went out last night after they were done and I think they did a great job," Bull said. "It's been overgrown for years and people have tried to keep it up, but it's just too much for one family."
    Jasper County Sheriff Randee Kaiser, who was on hand and helped guard the inmates as they worked, said the four men in this team were volunteers who were in jail for non-violent offenses and a very low risk to escape or create mischief.
    The cemetery still looks overgrown even after the inmates worked for several hours, but access to many graves has been greatly improved by their efforts.
    "These are low-risk inmates, in jail for relatively minor offenses," Kaiser said. "We ask them if they want to volunteer for this kind of thing, and if they do meet our screening criteria, meaning they're healthy, and no convicted felons. It gives them a chance to get outside their cells and they enjoy it."
    Bull said she doesn't have much information on the history of the Alexander Cemetery.
    Inmates uncovered the grave of Jesse L. Alexander, a private in the U.S. Army in World War I who was buried in the cemetery in 1978.
    The website findagrave.com., says Alexander was the last person buried in the cemetery.
    Tony Philpot owns the home between the cemetery and County Lane 183.
    Philpot said he's tried to clean up the cemetery over the years, but the growth is too much for one person to handle.
    "There are a few people who come back every year to visit some family grave sites," Philpot said. "It's unfortunate that it's gotten to this point."
    Philpot said between the plant growth and the ice storms bringing down limbs and trees over the years, the cemetery has virtually disappeared into the woods.
    He really appreciated the efforts of the inmates to clear out some of the brush.
    Philpot said he expects some visitors to the cemetery over the Memorial Day weekend. There is an access road to the cemetery that runs on the south side of his yard and he asks that visitors be courteous to the people living around any cemetery they visit.
    Page 2 of 2 - "When you come out, just display some common courtesy," he said. "I had just put in a swing set a few years ago and I had a guy just drive through my yard and park to get to the cemetery. I don't have an issue with people visiting, just be courteous."
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