BUTLER COUNTY, MO (KFVS) - They call it sacred ground, and vow to continuing fighting to protect it.
Descendants of those buried at an old Butler County cemetery now look at legal action, hoping to preserve the land.
The Shadle Cemetery sits right where Poplar Bluff Regional Medical Center wants to build a new hospital. According to a hospital spokesman, the hospital hopes to work toward a solution suitable to everyone.
Something happened recently at the cemetery, regarding the landowners, and now nerves are rattled again.
Charlie Smith thought things were looking up. The last word he got was everyone seemed on board with protecting Shadle Cemetery.
"We let our guard down, and we just got up here and this is what we found," said Charlie Smith.
Smith says the cemetery was recently surveyed. "Pretty much a blind man can see flags marking the area," said Smith.
Recently crews came through, ripping out trees.
"They're probably 70-75 foot on the cemetery," said Smith. He says they damaged or destroyed some graves.
"Most of the graves are just piles of rocks with no headstones," said Smith.
The Shadle Cemetery dates back to the late 1800's. It has fallen in dis-repair, no one disputes that. Regardless, people like Georgia Webb say it's still sacred ground.
"I have a brother and a sister buried here, a grandmother, grandfather, great-grandmother, and great-grandfather."
Her great-grandfather was a Civil War veteran.
"To see someone come in here and do this to a cemetery is eerie," said Georgia Webb.
Heartland News spoke with the man who represents the people who own the property where the cemetery sits. He says what happened recently in the cemetery was a mistake. He says crews were only supposed to remove dead trees to make way for the possible hospital development. That spokesman apologized to the concerned family members.
With so many graves unmarked, those researching the cemetery still are unsure exactly how many are buried out there. Georgia Webb says Shadle Cemetery is part of her family's history, and the county's history and won't go down without a fight.
"How can it be acceptable to anyone?," said Georgia Webb. "Take City Cemetery, Memorial Gardens and take a skidder through there and see what happens, everyone in Poplar Bluff would be screaming to high heaven."
The concerned family members have an attorney, and plan to seek legal action.
Tiffany Jenkins, Director of Marketing and Community Relations for Poplar Bluff Regional Medical Center released the following statement from the hospital:
"Poplar Bluff Regional Medical Center continues to have the utmost respect for this situation, and work toward a solution that is acceptable to all parties involved. We trust that all work completed on the site by any party will be approached with that same awareness and respect. Certainly, we know those are the intentions of all parties involved. While PBRMC was awarded a certificate of need to build a hospital on that site, we have yet to complete the actual purchase of the land. The landowners of that tract continue to work through the annexation process. Meanwhile, our hospital remains committed to providing the best healthcare possible to our patients and we are excited about what the future holds for healthcare in Poplar Bluff."