Small Cemeteries

I grew up in a small town in Western Kentucky, where many small cemeteries sprinkle the region. They’re not quite family cemeteries, but small, private community cemeteries. Most hold annual gatherings. Originally, these were for family members of the deceased to come and clean the graveyard. They removed weeds and scraped the vegetation off gravesites, right down to the dirt. This kept them from becoming overgrown before the next year’s cleaning. They gather for a meal, pass a collection plate for the general fund and spend time together. The collected money pays for mowing and maintenance. My family has relatives buried at McNeely Cemetery (among others). It is in rural Western Kentucky in Olney, Hopkins County, near Dawson Springs. My mother and I take an active role in this meeting each year. She is the cemetery’s treasurer, and I usually send out reminder letters and requests for donations.

The web site for the cemetery is and includes a great plot map and pictures of gravestones. I think it’s probably one of those dying traditions that municipal cemeteries and a more mobile society will make obsolete in 20 or 30 years. Still, I’d like to keep it going as long as possible. In these times when everyone wants so desperately to connect to their cultural roots, cemetery cleanings are a good source of heritage.

Reported by Nikole Christensen, Lexington, Kentucky.