Renewed Fundraising Effort for Historic Landmark at City of Washington Cemetery | Local News

City leaders hope to erect a historic monument detailing the history of the Washington City Cemetery, but first ask the public for help to pay for it.

Preliminary projections put the cost of the monument at $ 2,200, including installation. To date, the city has $ 150 that can be used to purchase the monument.

“We would like it to be finished and installed in March,” said Marlin Heidmann, administrative assistant for the city of Washington. The subject of the cemetery sign and monument was brought up at last week’s historic preservation commission meeting as commissioners discussed the next phase of the two-stage project to have the cemetery recognized.

The first step in the process was taken in April when more than 60 people witnessed the unveiling of a new sign at the entrance to the cemetery.

More than 400 people are buried in the Washington City Cemetery, a hilltop grave site adjacent to the Wildey Odd Fellows Cemetery and overlooking the sprawling city that bears its name. Many of the people buried there, and even the cemetery itself, had been largely forgotten over the century and a half since the first reported burial there.

The majority of those buried in the city cemetery are black or were too poor to afford plots in other cemeteries, according to city officials. The first burials date back to a time when cemeteries, including cemeteries belonging to churches, were separated. The last burial at the cemetery was in 2020. The cemetery is still open for future burials but on a limited basis, officials say.

The late Marc Houseman, longtime director of the Washington Historical Society and Museum, has championed the cause for years, arguing that the city’s cemetery either needed a sign or was in danger of being forgotten altogether. Houseman wrote the history of the cemetery and his writings will be used as the source text for the historical marker.

“Marc knew so much about our history as a community, so we’re happy to have his words there to help us with this part of the project,” Heidmann said. She said she was also grateful to those in the community who helped raise funds for the town sign, which is now paid for, as well as those who will help raise funds for the historic marker.

The new cemetery sign was paid for with public and private funds. The Historic Preservation Commission donated its entire annual budget of $ 2,500 to the sign project. Other donors include the East Central College Civic and Community Engagement Committee, the Washington Historical Society, and individuals.

“It’s a very heartwarming feeling to know that we are tackling something that has lasted for over 100 years,” said Heidmann. “For over 100 years this cemetery and the people buried in it were without any real recognition, but together we are changing that.”

Those interested in making a donation to the monument at the cemetery are encouraged to send their checks to Washington City Hall, 405 Jefferson St., Washington, MO 63090. Donors may mark the envelope for the attention of Heidmann and should write on the memo lines on their checks that the money is to be used for the cemetery monument.

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