Effort begins to restore Garrard cemetery

February 16, 2004|JIM LOGAN

On a hill a half-mile walk through spongy farmland and bovine land mines near Paint Lick, the Patterson Cemetery is a mess.

Its fence largely disappeared long ago, and cattle have wandered around inside unfettered, knocking over most of the headstones. The trees and undergrowth haven't been touched in generations.

"The cows in the summer love this place," said Margaret Burkett, a descendant of the original Pattersons who dug the first graves here.

Along with John Todd, another descendant, they'd hiked up to the cemetery on a recent afternoon to talk about its history and the community's plans to restore it.


The cemetery is named for William and John Patterson, brothers from North Carolina who established a farm here after fighting in the Revolutionary War. A pair of bronze plaques placed on their graves by the Daughters of the American Revolution attest to their service.

For nearly 200 years, family members - and, apparently, some of their slaves - were buried here. The last to find a resting place were W.P. and Agness Griffith, who died in 1908 and 1901, respectively.

For a time, Burkett said, people interested in history helped keep up the one-acre site, but they "died out" and the cemetery fell into ruin.

The idea to restore cemeteries such as

Patterson originally came from the late Dean Cornett. Known as "the matriarch of Paint Lick," she had spearheaded the drive to bring a doctor to town and persuaded Rita Fox, a journalism graduate of Eastern Kentucky University, to start a magazine about the area. Fox's quarterly historical journal, Paint Lick Reflections, is in its second year of publication.

One day Cornett, who drove an old pickup with PRESS ON REGARDLESS painted on the driver's door, said to Burkett, "Let's start restoring the cemeteries."

Cornett died before the long process began, but the seed was planted.

Fox suggested starting with Patterson Cemetery. Word of the plan spread quickly with the help of the Internet. A woman in Alabama sent a $2,000 check.

Money, naturally, is the key to setting the cemetery to rights, and the state could come to the rescue.

Burkett, through an item in the Advocate, discovered the Kentucky Cemetery Preservation Fund, a project started in 2003 that provides matching funds to local cemetery boards. Garrard County, it turned out, didn't have such a board, so Burkett found out what was needed and got the Fiscal Court to create one a week ago.

The preservation fund's application deadline is March 31. In the meantime, the Garrard cemetery board will be raising money for the Patterson restoration. The fund is a 1:1 matching grant, meaning it would provide the equal of whatever the board can raise. The maximum the board can apply for this year is $25,000.

At Patterson Cemetery, Burkett and Todd would like to rebuild the fence, trim trees and vegetation and put back headstones.

Preserving it and others in the area, they said, is an investment in the future.

"We hope it'll get young people inspired to take an interest in restoring these cemeteries, 'cause we're not gonna be around forever," Burkett said.

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