SERGEANT BLUFF, Iowa (KCAU) – Woodbury County’s oldest cemetery will remain untouched, with a proposed relocation of the near 1,200 gravesites coming to an end today.
The Sergeant Bluff Mayor held a press conference on November 9 announcing Brickworks, the company adjacent to the Woodbury Township Cemetery, will leave it as is and add a new graveyard to the northwest of the old site.
“There was a lot of anxiousness, a lot of restless nights trying to figure out how we were going to save this place because it deserves to be left alone. We’ve been striving to, you know, save the historic cemetery because you know, we all have a lot of family there and it is known to be the oldest cemetery in Woodbury county,” Michelle Kilpatrick Willer said, who is said to have approximately 20 family members buried at the Woodbury Township Cemetery.
“I’m very happy with the decision. I’m a little leery about where they’re putting it at, but if it happens, it happens,” said Ronald Willer, who also has family buried at the old cemetery.
Since 1854, the Woodbury Township Cemetery has been the final home for some of the earliest settlers of Siouxland. During Brickworks’ evaluation of the cemetery’s initial relocation proposal, a decision was made to withdraw relocation plans.
“We were in the process of evaluating a relocation proposal that Brickworks had provided to the township, and in that process we learned about an additional expense that came up with the involvement of the office of the state archaeologist. Their involvement with any relocation of the cemetery would’ve cost an additional 2.5 million dollars. And so after the brick company learned of that, we actually withdrew our relocation proposal,” Brickworks America General Council Member Joe Hanson said.
Which means the addition of a new cemetery, connected across South Ridge Road, is beneficial to all involved.
“In the process of telling my boss about this in Sydney, Australia he’s the one that made the suggestion that we donate the land to the city. It’s surplus land for us that they’ve had for years, and so we figured it’s a win-win because the plans that we already had in place to build that new cemetery will continue on now. The city of Sergeant Bluff needs a cemetery without a doubt. And so the exchange that we’re going to make is the new cemetery property for the existing cemetery road, and that will allow us to have a more safe environment for the public to enter that old historic cemetery from South Ridge Road.” Hanson said.
Hanson said Brickworks will be donating the land for the new cemetery worth $150,000. And, the Sergeant Bluff Mayor explained how quickly the plan came together.
“All this transpired in a week, to get this all pulled together and everybody on board. And day and night negotiations, a lot of conversations, it was a pretty continuous, fast moving process,” Sergeant Bluff Mayor Jon Winkel said.
“Well it made me cry a little bit because Jon Winkel, I’ve known him since I was a child. He and my father were very good friends. And I was glad he came up with something. It surprised me,” Kilpatrick Willer said.
Mayor Winkel said he expects the new cemetery to be completed in 2 to 3 years, and there are no exact estimate as to how much the new cemetery expansion will cost.