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story.lead_photo.caption Many older gravestones in the Old Town cemetery are in disrepair and it is now hard or impossible to read the names of those buried at those locations. Photo by Ethan Weston, News Tribune

Broken. Worn. Knocked over. Missing.

That describes an unknown number of headstones belonging to some of Jefferson City's first residents.

The cemetery resources board wants to preserve the city's history by ensuring as many graves as possible are identified in city cemeteries. A new project focuses on making sure information on the cemetery's residents is available when people visit.

The city owns and operates three cemeteries: Longview which is on Scotts Station Road, and Fairview (also called Old City) and Woodland cemeteries, which are on East McCarty street near Chestnut Street. Longview is the only one of the three accepting new internments.

The cemetery board oversees the cemeteries along with the preservation of them. Chairwoman Rebecca Gordon said the committee is getting started on its next big project: keeping the graves identified.

"Some of them are so worn, you can't read any of the information on them," she said. "It's not vandalism. It's the nature of the wear and tear from the elements. Some of them, you can just see one date, whether it's a birth date or death date."

Through the years, several groups worked on lists and photos of the graves.

The Daughters of the American Revolution went through Woodland and Old City Cemeteries in the 1970s and put together a book of information from the headstones.

Then, in recent years, the committee worked with Lincoln University students to go through and digitize the records for all three city cemeteries. That information is available through midmogis-jeffcitymogis.hub.arcgis.com.

The oldest identified grave in either project is of Eliza Jane, who died Aug. 12, 1826, at 5 years old.

Gordon said the new focus is slightly different. While those projects worked to identify final resting places on paper or online, she wants to make sure every grave has a stone.

The first step, she said, is comparing the already existing lists.

"We're going to take this book, and we're going to take the work that was done by Lincoln University, and we're going to walk the cemetery and identify which markers can still be read," Gordon said. "It's possible that they disappear over time, not because people take them per say, but because they've just gone back into the earth or whatever."

She said there's roughly 2,000 burials in Old City Cemetery, which needs the most attention as the oldest city cemetery.

This isn't the first time the cemetery board has purchased additional stones.

David Grellner, environmental health manager, said the group purchased around 24 small granite markers in 2018-19 with the person's name, date of birth and date of death. Each marker cost around $60.

Board members are interested in the same style of marker this time around.

At the time, the project focused on graves that have an older style, flat tombstone, that covered the length of the burial site. Grellner said the stone on those tend to break as the ground freezes and thaws or get worn due to weather. The project didn't replace the stones, but rather left the original one there and added the granite marker next to it so the person's name and important dates are still visible.

Once the list of graves that need new stones is set, the issue becomes the money to add an additional marker. Gordon said these wouldn't replace the existing headstones, but would be added next to them so people walking the cemetery can identify the graves.

The ultimate goal is to take the information before the City Council to request funds. Gordon also discussed fundraising for money through events such as cemetery tours and then request for City Council match the amount raised.

Gordon said she'd like to see $5,000-$10,000 go toward the project, either through private donations or city funds, which would cover 83-166 markers.

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