cemetary.... maintenance?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by cc-rider, Dec 3, 2004.

  1. cc-rider

    cc-rider Baroness of TisaWee Farm Supporter

    Jul 29, 2003
    flatlands of Ohio - sigh
    I'm looking at a property that supposedly has a cemetary on it. So far, I haven't found out if it is just a small family plot, or a county cemetary, or what. Since it is printed on the map, I'm assuming it is rather large, however. Can't get info from the realtor -- but that's another rant for another string! :)

    Anyway.... my questions.

    How can someone SELL a cemetary!?
    If it is on private property - is there an obligation from the owner to keep it maintained and opened to the families of the deceased??
    Can the stones just happen to disappear..... gosh. I can't believe I said that.

  2. MorrisonCorner

    MorrisonCorner Mansfield, VT for 200 yrs

    Jul 27, 2004
    Yes, No, and it depends.

    Yes a piece of property with an ancestral graveyard can be sold. I happen to own a family farm which indeed has a family graveyard on it. Below me, three other properties share the same distinction. Where our properties differ is in the maintainance of these graveyards.

    If the graveyard has been deeded to the town (usually with an endowment for perpetual care) the town will have a right of way across your property to the graveyard so they can reach it and maintain it. Depending on how historic the occupants are "maintain" can range from "cut brush every couple of years" to "mow weekly." However.. the PUBLIC ALSO has the right to visit this graveyard (usually it would be considered a historic site) and trust me on this one: there are people who take visiting old gravestones VERY seriously, and woe to you if you impede them. One of my neighbors lives with not one, but TWO of these graveyards on their property.

    The next neighbor has a "lost grave." Or, put more accurately... I know where the grave is, the children of the deceased know where it is, but nobody is telling. Once we are all gone, if we don't pass this information down to the next generation, the grave is, for all intents and purposes, lost. If this is the type of graveyard you have on the property... to whit, the owner is disclosing that he knows there are graves here somewhere, and he thinks they're sort of over there (so don't dig there), you are under no obligation to maintain or provide access to these graves.

    The last class of graveyard is the private graveyard, which was built without permits, permission, or even caring, what the town thought of the matter. These graveyards are trickier. If you've got a private graveyard, this means the town doesn't maintain it, and, most likely, some family member (or the owner of the property) has been maintaining it out of respect (or simply because they think it is kind of cool). The actual family may have lost control of this property some time ago, but periodically show up to trim the graves and place flowers. The deed may or may not contain an easement for right of way or the graveyard. How you approach this is going to have an impact on how you're viewed in the community, depending on how long those graves have been there. Can you "lose" the stones? Sure... simply allow the area to grow over. However, losing the stones is not going to lose you the bodies. And if you dig into an area with human remains the state gets involved. I mean... what are you going to do with a human head, ribcage and femurs?

    My advice is to ask around the community (not the real estate agent) about the graveyard. And to be very respectful when buying an ancestral farm with a family graveyard on it... the last piece of property a family is willing to sell is their graveyard, so chances are you will outlive anyone who cares about those graves. Once they pass, you can let the area go and they become "lost graves." Until then, your standing in the community may well depend on the respect you display for the dead.

  3. ed/IL

    ed/IL Well-Known Member

    May 11, 2002
    Try a few different search words on google and see what comes up. I found this in about 5 minutes..............The zoning for a cemetery carries certain perpetuity clauses and restrictions so that later land owners know of the cemetery's existence. The deed to the property has to have a restriction placed on it as well, again, so people will know of the cemetery's existence at a later point in time.--
    and this
    If this is not your family's cemetery:
    If the cemetery is not available to public access such as an existing road, then we recommend getting permission from the landowner before crossing private property. Not only is this courteous but it also avoids trespassing.
    If you are a descendant or heir of someone buried in the cemetery:
    There is not a specific statute that addresses right of entry to cemeteries on private property. However, case law in Georgia has been interpreted to mean that the heirs of those buried in the cemetery have an implied easement on the property. The easement gives the heirs the right to prevent disturbance to the graves and the right of ingress and egress for taking care of the burial plots. However, even descendants or heirs should ask the landowner for permission to come onto the property and discuss notification of intent to visit, the frequency of visitation, and passageway to be used. ............ I would mot mess with head stones.
  4. Shagbarkmtcatle

    Shagbarkmtcatle Hillybilly cattle slaves

    Nov 1, 2004
    Grant Co WV/ Washington Co MD
    We bought a farm in Wv with a family graveyard. It's all fenced in with several headstones that have a gorgeous view of Spruce Knob :)
    The cousin of the gentleman from whom we purchased the farm asked us if he could come in and maintain the graveyard. We said yes of course, less work for us. So for the past 2 Memorial Days he and few other kin come in and mow the cemetary and maintain the fence around it. It works for us and them. This man is older himself so I imagine after he is gone it will be up to us. No one has been buried there since the 1930's.

    Laura Lynn
  5. ratherbefishin

    ratherbefishin Well-Known Member

    Aug 22, 2003
    My family came to Canada in the mid 1700's and farmed in the same location for over 200 years,and since it was a litle distance from town, a corner of the property was ''dedicated''[unnofficially] as a grave yard, and people from the the surrounding farms are buried there, but nobody has been buried there for 70 odd years now.Seven generations of my family are there, and its a bit of a history book.I live 2500 miles away on the west coast and have only been there twice, but somebody obviously mows it occaisionally.Kind of nice actually-these country graveyards, way more personal that the huge manicured ''show'' plots complete with mausoleums and marbel cripts.Since the grave yard is on a corner of a concession road, public access is not an issue
  6. indypartridge

    indypartridge Well-Known Member Supporter

    Oct 25, 2004
    Cemeteries on private property are subject to subject to State laws, so you'll have to research your State. Here in Indiana, within my county, there's a guy in major legal/criminal trouble because he was building a house, moved headstones and put a septic field over the grave sites. Also in Indiana, people must get permission from the property owner to visit such cemeteries, property owners need special permits to build within 100 feet of them, but can get a reduced property tax assessment. If a cemetery is showing up on a map, I wouldn't even think about stones "disappearing".
  7. cc-rider

    cc-rider Baroness of TisaWee Farm Supporter

    Jul 29, 2003
    flatlands of Ohio - sigh
    I just spoke more with the realtor. (Finally got him by PHONE instead of email!). He said it is a small cemetary with maybe 5 stones. Can't read the carvings on most of them, but found one that said 1902. Sounds like no one has been there in years to care for it. In the middle of a woods on a hill, no access by road.

    I guess I'm not worried about it. Would be kinda cool to just fence it off and leave it alone. And be buried them when I'm gone. :)

    Actually, though, he just explained the topo map to me. What I thought was the hill is the valley, and visa-versa. So it turns out that the road is on the ridge, and the land slopes DOWN from the ridge. I was hoping it was the other direction as that would give me a southern exposure on a hill, instead of a northern exposure. Ugh. Don't think I'm interested anymore.

    Of course, the property across the road is for sale, too..... and it is the OTHER side of the hill, so faces south....
  8. sidepasser

    sidepasser Well-Known Member

    May 10, 2002
    GA & Ala
    I have a private cemetary on my farm that I purchased with the farm as the seller was going to move the graves if I didn't want it. So after several years of owning this large cemetary (it has around 30 graves within the barbed wire fence) and I don't know how many outside the fence (slave graves I was told), a lady drives up. Says she is the last remaining descendant of the folks planted in the cemetary. She wanted to make rubbings of the graves and I told her to go ahead. She stayed here two days and then went back to TX. Haven't heard from her since and she was in her 60's then.

    I keep the cemetary up somewhat - I am going to replace the barbed wire fence with wood rail fencing. I keep the limbs that fall off the graves and rake the leaves yearly. I do not replace headstones that fall over, I do try to upright them if possible but since I don't have large machinery, I can't always stand them back up.

    My cemetary was started with the first grave back in 1790. They buried people in there until 1940 something...I don't mind it, it's kinda neat and I couldn't bear the though of the seller moving all those babies and so just paid the extra and got it with the rest of the farm.

    I don't know of any rules that say I must maintain it, no one has ever asked me about it and it is registered with the county and state. If I had to maintain it like a regular cemetary, I'd have to think long and hard as I don't have that kind of money to plant grass, etc. But the lady told me it looked very nice and well kept and she was happy with the care I give it, so that is what matters to me. It's in a grove of oak trees and has a type of ivy that blooms beautiful purple flowers all over the cemetary (tiny ones so that it looks like a purple velvet carpet).

  9. jillianjiggs

    jillianjiggs Well-Known Member

    May 13, 2003
    Most historic cemetaries don't have grass, at least not a lawn. The city cemetary here that dates back to the 1800's doesn't haven't grass in the historic half. It's carefully weed-whacked when needed and watered down to calm the dust. Some plots are adopted out and cared for by groups or individuals.

    Clearing the weeds out once a year would probably be more than enough. Just a word of caution though - most headstones are very fragile even though they are stone. Rubbings can cause erosion of the stones that makes it nearly impossible to read them. If you want to fix the stones up, monument companies can just glue pieces of the old stone onto a new backing, and it'll stand up again. Or...you can set the pieces into a slab of concrete.

    But, like I said, on private property I'd just keep the place weed-whacked and maintain a fence if it's there.
  10. MissQueenie

    MissQueenie Well-Known Member

    Feb 14, 2006
    Northern Sierra Foothills, California
    Does anyone know if a landowner who has purchased property with a graveyard on it may continue to use it (for family members), even if the graveyard has been unused for a very long time? I am certain the laws vary from place to place, but I'm curious to see if it is allowed at all.


  11. pcdreams

    pcdreams Well-Known Member

    Sep 13, 2003
    Missouri, Springfield
    I'd be curious to know if you are still allowed to be burried on your own property. I know a fellow who burried his father on his parcel in (arkansas or NM, don't remember now) about 2 yrs ago.
  12. Farmer Willy

    Farmer Willy Well-Known Member Supporter

    Aug 7, 2005
    A short way past Oddville
    I aim to bury my folks on my place, be be buried on it myself when the time comes and don't really care if the state or anyone else cares. Plan to be cremated, as does the wife and mostly sprinkled over the farm, but will have a stone set behind the chapel and a handful dropped there. I figured as much of outselves as we're putting into the place might as well give it the rest of us also.
  13. donsgal

    donsgal Nohoa Homestead

    May 2, 2005
    SW Missouri near Branson (Cape Fair)
    Most probably if nobody is maintaining it there is no one left who cares. Sad but true, sooner or later it happens. Missouri is rife with forgotten cemetaries.

    I would say that if no new flowers have shown up for a long time, and maybe you could put a notice in the paper that the cemetary is going to be "decommissioned" and that anyone who has a loved one there is welcome to "relocate" them elsewhere before this happens, or come an collect their headstone, if they cannot afford to relocate the grave.

    Then I would say, if nobody responds that the cemetary is yours to do with what you wish. And if removing headstones is what you want to do, I would think you have the reasonable right to do so.

  14. comfortablynumb

    comfortablynumb Well-Known Member

    Nov 18, 2003
    Dysfunction Junction, SW PA
    dont plow the graveyard under... I saw a movie where the people did that and it wasnt pretty.


    flying furnature...
    thunder and lightning...
    weird noises...
    creepy stuff.
  15. lilmommajnn

    lilmommajnn Well-Known Member

    Aug 7, 2002
    Am I the only one who found this reference to be a bit ummm humorous?
    Having said that.....I owned a house that had a small cemetery (2 headstones) behind it. The descendants came and mowed around it, never bothered much. After a while, I think they moved and a neighbor boy started keeping it up. Never bothered us.....

    (excuse any misspelled words....couldn't find spell check)
  16. Wannabee

    Wannabee Foggy Dew Farms

    Dec 8, 2004
    Indypartidge may know more about it than I do, but I have always been told that cemeterys in Indiana are never "private". Once someone has been buried, that ground is now possession of the county/state. Yes, there are cemeteries surrounded by private land, but the area where the grave sites are located are actually public property. Could be wrong, though...
  17. Boleyz

    Boleyz Prognosticator, Artist

    Sep 7, 2004
    I think you're right in that if it's ever a cemetary, it's always a cemetary, unless it's dug up and re-located. At least that's what I was told here in KY. A neighbor and his wife were "planted" on their real-estate in the center of a small community, and I heard several people bemoan the fact that that valuable piece of real-estate was now "worthless". But hey, to each his own. :shrug:
  18. ThriftyMa

    ThriftyMa Active Member

    Dec 4, 2005
    Kentucky the grave yards are there for good I was told and the family can come and visit them.
  19. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

    May 22, 2003
    Zone 7
    I own timber parcels with 3 graveyards. The smallest has only 4 or 5 graves and the largest has maybe 50. I was told by a legal beagle that I was required to permit the relatives access. I am not required to do any maintenance on any of the cemetaries. I can use the cemetaries for family members but I cannot sell grave plots. Sold grave plots have to have monies set aside for perpetual maintenance. Other than a few people contacting me asking permission to do research on the occupants, owning the cemetaries has not been a problem. The middle size one is rather neat. It has a stone fence with periwinkle ground cover and only a few headstones which date back to the revolutionary war. One occupant was a revolutionary war solder. All 3 of the cemetaries are Christian cemetaries IMO since they have the head stones facing East.
  20. MoonShine

    MoonShine Fire On The Mountain

    Mar 16, 2003
    I'll agree about KY graveyards...I've been told that if the local govt. finds out about an old cemetary on your land,you must make a right of way. Around here,the local govt. will take care of the cemetary,well,our jail inmates take care of them and even restore what they can(if the place is in bad shape-cut weeds,clean up tombstones,fill in sunk in places,re-do fencing,etc).
    I like that idea...I'm glad they want to take care of these burial sites. But,then again,if the cemtary is old and no one even realizes it's on your land...I can't blame anyone for not wanting to make a right of way. Cutting a road up in these rural hills is essentially making a deserted,secluded hollow that some will use as a place to get drunk and have sex. It's proven time and again. Which is all fine and dandy...except,who wants that on their property?! lol