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The Jones County Cemetery Commission is making great progress restoring the county's abandoned and neglected small cemeteries. In 1996, the Iowa legislature passed a law allowing for the creation of Cemetery Commissions within each county. The commissions, charged with the control and maintenance of pioneer cemeteries would be supported by a tax levy of not more than 6.75 cents per thousand.
In December 1996, the Jones County Board of Supervisors, responding to a request by some citizens of the county, established a Cemetery Commission and named Rosalie Ahrendsen, Howard Andrews, Cindy Gunther, Diana Hanson, Connie Humpal, Ken Marlin, Herb Rehmke, Pat Shaw and Cathy Soppe as members. The commission met and identified six cemeteries to target for clean-up during the summer of 1997: Johnson Town in Scotch Grove, Nichols and North Mineral Creek in Clay, Ristine-Wehling in Jackson, unnamed in Rome and Cherry Grove-Mann in Greenfield.
An Advisory Panel consisting of LaVerta Langenburg, Dorothy Allan, Nicholas Balichek, Keith Street, Dean Gipple, Margaret Tallman, Kay English, Steve Story and Donna Story was created to assist Commission members. Future Farmers of America chapters in Jones county elected to participate in the project by adopting various cemeteries: Cascade Chapter adopted Johnson Town, Olin Chapter adopted Cherry Grove/Mann, Monticello Chapter adopted Langworthy, Midland Chapter adopted North Mineral, and Anamosa Chapter adopted the unnamed cemetery in Rome township. The Anamosa United Methodist Church adopted the Ristine-Wehling Cemetery.
On August 2, a group of intrepid volunteers, headed by Pat and photographed by Rosalie Ahrendsen, explored some of the lost grave sites of Jones county, searching for headstones, recording inscriptions and evaluating necessary restoration work. Participants attended a mini-workshop on probing, witching and research methods held at Johnson Town Cemetery and led by Bill Corbin of Monticello and Steve and Donna Story of Olin.
During the spring and summer of 1997 the Olin FFA members and their sponsor, Ron Ruess, adopted and restored the Cherry Grove/Mann Cemetery. At the same time Cascade FFA members were busy restoring the Johnson Town Cemetery in Scotch Grove Township and Midland FFA members were working at North Mineral Creek Cemetery in Clay Township.
Through the efforts, contributions and cooperation of many people The Cemetery Restoration Project has begun to restore the neglected cemeteries of Jones county and attracted excellent notices. A two-page story has been published in the Iowa Farm Bureau magazine called "Family Living in Farm Country" about the Olin FFA Chapter members who restored the Cherry Grove/Mann Cemetery in Greenfield Township. The Jones County Cemetery Commission presented the chairman of the project, Nick Balichek, with a certificate of appreciation at their annual Hay & Grain Show. Four descendants of the pioneer Mann family were present.
Signs have been placed, fences and retaining walls erected, stones located and repaired, and participants invited to talk about their work at various confrences and meetings, statewide. As you visit the various cemetery pages at the Jones county site you can read stories and see photos documenting the work of the Commission and its volunteers.
The formation of the Jones County Cemetery Commission in an important step toward the preservation of our heritage in Jones county and a great act of respect toward our ancestors who are buried there. The work now being accomplished to restore and maintain these cemeteries is an important boon for genealogists now and in the future. The cemeteries the Commission works with were totally abandoned and not maintained in any way.
The Commission was seeded with a $1500 grant from the county general fund. Additional monetary donations have been received from VFW ($50) and Am-Vets ($50) and local suppliers have donated grass seed. The Cascade and Olin chapters of FFA have spent their own funds to make their adopted cemeteries beautiful. Labor has been donated by local farmers and others. So far the Commission has spent over $800 for epoxy for gravestone repair (at $53 a quart!) and concrete for resetting bases. One major anticipated expense in installing fences at two of the cemeteries to keep livestock from trampling the stones.
If you live in or near Jones county, your help is needed as a volunteer for this worthy project. If you live far away, you can help with a donation of money. Checks can be payable to the "Jones County Cemetery Commission" and mailed to Connie Humpal, treasurer, 19084 Shooting Star Road, Anamosa, IA 52205.
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