SERGEANT BLUFF, Iowa (KCAU) — Cemeteries are often referred to as a final resting place. However, that might not be the case for one Siouxland graveyard.
It’s a hillside home for some 1,200 folks who have taken their last breath on Earth. What remains are names and numbers etched on ageing headstones and sits almost completely hidden.
“The more we talk to community members they had no idea a cemetery existed there,” said Joe Hanson of Brickworks.
Since 1854, this land has served as the final resting place for some of the area’s first settlers, Civil War
veterans and everyday people. But for those remembered here, it is not a a peaceful rest.
Today, Woodbury Township Cemetery in Sergeant Bluff is surrounded by the sprawling industrial operation of Brickwork. The Homan family started the now universally known brick maker more than a century ago.
“Homan is the first person to allow people to be buried there in the 1800’s. That one grave led to 10 and 20 and have expanded over the years. It’s not appropriate for the cemetery to exist where it is today and continue to have industrial operations all around it,” said Hanson.
Since the property has no remaining plots and is built on a hard to walk hillside and operates on gifts and volunteers, a cemetery expansion committee has partnered with Brickworks to explore moving the cemetery to a more acceptable area.
“That’s my grandfather, great grandfather. I knew him well, he had a little house on the south side of Sioux City,” says Bonnie Stevenson.
Stevenson serves on the expansion committee. Family members, including her great-grandfather, are buried here.
“The opportunity to have a more appropriate accessible location for these plots is a blessing,” said Bonnie.
“It’s appropriate for their final resting place.”
It’s an expensive undertaking. Brickworks, based in Australia, has pledged millions to the project.
Few understand the obstacles this piece of property is facing better than board member Jerry Logemann.
“It detreated through the years and now you have the problem who is going to repair this. How do you go about this when there is now money. It’s just simply going to get worse,” said Jerry. “You are just struggling and struggling.
“It’s one of those things everybody expects somebody else to take care of,” he added.
So how might Woodbury County’s oldest cemetery become the county’s newest?
“You have to have a permit issued by the state, supervised by a funeral director, hiring a project manager and then wehave a contractor with the advice of an archeologist,” said Hanson.
The cemetery board will be asked to give its blessing to the project in October, as will the next of kin.
“We have hired a private investigator who’s tracking down the next of kin for almost all the people that are currently buried there,” said Joe Hanson.
If approved, the new cemetery would be built a short distance from the current site mirroring the current plot alignment with a designated section to honor veterans and their wives, a columbarium and be
easily accessible with four times the number of plots.
“What we see here is an opportunity to open a bigger cemetery, grow with the community for many years,” Joe said.
“The opportunity now my family will have to give honor to relatives, it’s appropriate,” said Bonnie.