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Henry County families, historians hope to preserve 200-year-old cemetery frequented by vandals

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Henry County, Indiana – Batson Cemetery is a peaceful resting spot as old as Henry County itself, nestled among farms and off the usual route.

The centuries-old gardens are reportedly plagued by vandals rather than ghosts. They are thought to be teens since they have shotgun shells and spray-painted profanities all over the place.

“Even people who don’t have family here would be distressed by that. It’s very disrespectful,” Soni Mullen, who has four generations of family buried there, said. “We have veterans here. We have a lot of history here. We don’t know what anyone would gain from that.”

The worst of all is that scores of headstones belonging to Civil War troops and victims of a cholera outbreak in the 1830s have been broken, fallen, or torn completely out of the ground, on top of the normal wear and tear.

“Many of these stones – because of the way they were formed originally – we may not be able to match the workmanship,” Mullen explained. “The most we can hope for is to put them back so they’re at least upright.”

Though moss and time have distorted many of the names nestled away in the northeast corner, they have not been forgotten. Thus, Mullen and a few local historians intend to raise funds in order to renovate the dilapidated one-room church building, clean it up, and install security cameras and fences.

“Recent restoration back about 25 years ago added a metal roof, which has saved us this far, or this might already be gone,” Mullen added, about the church.

The congregation and preacher have left to take care of the broken windows and missing flooring. Jim Millikan is one of the trustees overseeing the property.

“We’ve done everything we could do [to protect Batson],” Millikan said. “In spite of that, vandalism has occurred.”

They ran out of money, according to Millikan, as maintenance expenditures increased over time. The most their insurance would pay out for recent damage would be $1,000. According to Millikan, they are willing to accept volunteers to assist with cleanup this spring as they search for additional financing with the township. However, he claimed fencing was “ineffective” un the past.

“Anyone that would come out here would feel the peace of the place,” Mullen said. “I think that more than anything we just want to preserve the fact that it’s been here 200 years.”

There are many who demand that police patrol the neighborhood more frequently. According to Millikan, the sheriff’s office is aware of the problem.

By phone at 765-529-1315 or through his office at 1315 Broad Street in New Castle, Millikan can be reached by anybody interested in contributing time or money to cemetery restoration efforts.

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