The Jefferson City Cemetery Resources Board is working to identify and place gravestones on veterans' graves but is seeking community help on the project.
While working to identify more than 750 unmarked graves at the Woodland Old City Cemetery, board members realized not all veterans had military markers, Cemetery Resources Board Chair Nancy Thompson said during a Thursday meeting. The board started a secondary project to identify all of the veterans buried in the cemetery and provide gravestones for them so they could be honored on Memorial Day.
Thompson said while veterans who have military stones are well-marked, some veterans' gravestones that do not contain military markers are unreadable.
Using birth dates, the board created a list of 161 possible veterans and is trying to verify they served in the military.
They have identified 116 veterans at Woodland Old City Cemetery so far, 11 of those veterans being in unmarked graves, Thompson said. She said some people do not realize veterans are buried at that cemetery because they assume veterans are buried at the Jefferson City National Cemetery, which is near Woodland Old City Cemetery.
The board is filling out applications for veterans to receive free gravestones from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The first group of applications will be for Civil War veterans. However, filling out the application can be difficult if the board members do not have all the information.
"You have to prove to them that this person was a veteran and that they served and that they are in fact buried at that spot; but for some of these people, that's just impossible to do because we don't know all of their information," Thompson said. "Some of these burials, we're not going to be able to supply sufficient documentation to get the government to buy us a tombstone."
Since the board might not have all of the documentation, it is considering possibly purchasing the tombstones. The board will seek community partnerships to help pay for gravestones for some of the identified veterans, Thompson said. These gravestones could cost $70-100 each.
The reason there are so many unmarked graves at the Woodland Old City Cemetery is it was a "pauper cemetery," Thompson said, which means poor and unidentifiable individuals were buried there, many times without headstones.
"By identifying the people, identifying the stones and saying, 'Yes, these people are buried here,' then you're preserving the history so that others can come along and capitalize on that," Thompson said. "I think that's important because you can also help people find their relatives."