Historians want authority after historic cemetery disturbance

MADISON COUNTY, Ala.-- Police are investigating if a historic cemetery in south Huntsville was unlawfully disturbed. And a group is standing up saying more needs to be done to protect cemeteries.

There is one headstone on the lot at the moment, but Huntsville police say there may have been another five headstones there at some point. The markers around the burial indicate where they should be located. The Richards Cemetery dates back to the 1800’s and is one of the oldest documented cemeteries in Huntsville.

"I think now is a critical time that we in the county we need to take on the task of preservation or we are going to lose it forever," says local historian Berns Miller.

Local historian Berns Miller says the Madison County Commission should establish a Cemetery Rehabilitation Authority to document and rehabilitate the 600 plus historic burial grounds in Madison County.

"People came through Madison County and spread out all over the southwest and south Alabama," says Miller.

Miller says a cemetery authority is needed to preserve the counties history through growth and urbanization.

"You know a lot of these cemeteries are neglected and they just look like wooded areas. It`s tempting and sometimes, by mistake... they are destroyed," says Miller.

Miller says if an authority is established, they would need volunteers to create the database of cemeteries and rehabilitate forgotten gravesites.

"Contact the county commissioners by email or phone and let them know that you would like to serve," says Miller.

The cemetery authority is set to be on the Madison County Commission agenda on September 18th.

Huntsville police say archaeologists have completed their fieldwork, but it may take several weeks for the full investigation to be complete. If the property owner knowingly disrupted the graves, he could face criminal charges.

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