Livingston County is filled with history, much of it can be researched and even seen at the Livingston County Library or the Grand River Historical Society. However, there is a part of history that some fear may be lost or forgotten if more volunteers cannot be found to help the Abandoned Cemetery Care Association (ACCA) care for abandoned cemeteries across the county.
Robert Pigg, vice president of the association, said, “The ACCA is a group of volunteers who work to rescue and recover historic cemeteries in Livingston County that have lost their financial and administrative support and have fallen into bad shape. We do not have any paid administrative staff and all who work on this project are volunteers.”
The group was once working in conjunction with the Livingston County Genealogy Society, which has since dissolved.
The ACCA has one mission - to maintain local cemeteries that are no deemed abandoned. A cemetery is classified as abandoned if no burial has taken place in 75 years.
Pigg said the number of volunteers has drastically reduced over the years due to aging and death.
“Due to losing volunteers over time we have several cemeteries that have fallen into disrepair,” Pigg said. “At one point we had 25-30 volunteers, but that is not the case anymore.”
Volunteers usually mow, weed and fix fences. Pigg noted there are funds available through the ACCA to help reimburse volunteers for mower blades, sharpening costs, etc.
“The funding we have is strictly from donations and is used to purchase material to reimburse volunteers for supplies used in these rescue projects.,” he said.
There are 127 burial sites in Livingston County.
“Some are Indian burial mounds, old family farm cemeteries, church or community cemeteries where the community has vanished or similar events have happened,” Pigg said. “Many are still under active management or have active custodians working as good samaritan volunteers. Unfortunately, there are many that have no caretaker.”
Over the years, cemeteries have been discovered in unlikely places like when surveyors found six to eight grave markers when looking at land for the new Chillicothe Elementary School.
There is no Missouri law requiring a cemetery to be maintained by any city or county agency.
This is, in part why, Pigg and the other volunteers work to try and preserve abandoned cemeteries.
“They are pieces of history,” he said. “Until a few years ago, it was not illegal to bulldoze a cemetery that no longer had active care. That disrespectful action has occurred in many locations in this county. Now, current Missouri laws make it illegal to remove an identified cemetery. The law does not require a surrounding land owner to maintain the cemetery, only to not obliterate it.”
Pigg said the Livingston County Library has a map, though outdated, that lists the location of known cemeteries in the county. Pigg said he and several others are in the process of updating the map, since the older one doesn’t use the LIV road system Plans are underway to get the GPS locations noted and mapped.
A recent donation from a community member inspired Pigg to reach out, not only to thank the family, but to also help others learn of the ACCA’s mission, to preserve history.
“The Abandoned Cemetery Care Association has received an extremely generous donation from the estate of David N. Walker. We wish to express our most grateful thank you to the family for this compassionate act,” he said.
Pigg also wanted any volunteers and potential volunteers to be aware that there are funds available to help them with their costs when they take care of an abandoned cemetery.
“We don't want anyone to think they have to do it all,” he said. “We do have some funds to help reimburse them.”
Anyone interested in learning more about the ACCA, volunteering or the location of an old cemetery should reach out the the group through the US Mail, at P. O. Box 1061, Chillicothe, MO, 64601.
“Funds of any amount and volunteer labor at any level are always welcome,” Pigg said. “This is an excellent opportunity for a social or church group to perform a community action project that has an extremely satisfying result.”