Much of old cemetery in Lead in disarrayLEAD (AP) — Much of the century-old West Lead Cemetery has fallen into disarray, with thick patches of weeds, half-toppled headstones, mossy concrete and deteriorated retaining walls.
LEAD (AP) — Much of the century-old West Lead Cemetery has fallen into disarray, with thick patches of weeds, half-toppled headstones, mossy concrete and deteriorated retaining walls.
The private cemetery near the Homestake Mansion on U.S. Highway 14 has been owned by three community groups since it was established in 1879, but two of the groups are having a hard time finding help to maintain it.
The cemetery’s upper section is owned by the Masons, who are still a functioning group in Lead and regularly maintain their area. Its grave sites are in good repair, with neatly manicured grass and little clutter.
But the lower and southern portions stand largely untouched, apart from volunteers occasionally lending a hand to pick up branches. The sections are owned by the Odd Fellows, whose members are aging, and the Knights of Pythias, which has left South Dakota entirely.
Denise Parker, a city commissioner appointed two years ago to oversee city cemeteries, said if the cemetery is not maintained, the city should step up.
“I think we have an obligation to take care of that cemetery,” she said. “It’s the most visible cemetery that people see as they drive through the community.”
Bill Glover, a former grand master of Lead Lodge No. 17 for the Odd Fellows, said he’s one of the youngest members of the order at 62 and there haven’t been many volunteers to help maintain the cemetery.
Glover said the order is looking into securing grants and working with Lead-Deadwood High School to allow high school students to fulfill community service requirements by mowing or cleaning the Odd Fellows’ sections.
Allen Morris, supreme secretary for the Knights of Pythias headquartered in Stoughton, Mass., said the fraternity is sending a representative from Nebraska to take a look at the cemetery, but the Knights have not yet decided what to do about their portion.
“At this point, I don’t know that there’s any money available for it,” Morris said. “The cemetery, which was probably started by a Lodge or Lodges in the area, is pretty much on its own right now.”
Parker cited a state law that says a municipality may legally step in and maintain an abandoned cemetery using money from the general fund.
The cemetery is the final resting place of such notable Lead citizens as Thomas Grier, a former superintendent of the Homestake Mine, and Peter Thompson, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Little Big Horn.
“I can guarantee you, they never ever thought that they wouldn’t have family in the area that would take care of their plots,” Parker said.