Who is buried where in the Herrin City Cemetery? - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Who is buried where in the Herrin City Cemetery?

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A search for a World War I soldier in the Herrin City Cemetery has turned up more than anyone searching for the soldier could imagine.

And now researchers say it's very possible that the city has sold burial lots to people that were already occupied.

Scott Doody of Anna began looking for World War I Veteran Antonio Molkovich back in 2009.  And that's where the story begins to get interesting.

"In the Spring of 2009 I wanted to take a picture of decorated combat veteran Antonio Molkovich's grave," said Doody. " I drove up the Herrin City Cemetery to do that and there as no marker. So I asked a few questions. I knew that Antonio Molkovich had been killed back in 1922 along with 21 other coal miners in the famous Herrin Massacre. And that he was one of the 16 men from that massacre. So I knew he shared 16 other grave spaces, no one seemed to know where they were."

So Doody called upon a few other people to help him with his search for the missing miners at the Herrin City Cemetery.

"We feel strongly from all the corroborating evidence of an intensive four year study that the men killed in that event on June 22, 1922 do in fact lies in the Potter's Field, which is in fact Block 15," said Professor Steven Di Naso Co-Director of Eastern Illinois University's Geology-Geography Center. "The situation is of course complicated by the fact that the city has sold numerous lots within the old Potter's Field."

That area of the cemetery was set up in 1905 when the cemetery was laid out on it's original 25 acre plot. And it was set aside for the poor, unknown and unclaimed bodies that died in Herrin.

"They ran it perfectly from 1905 to 1988, poor people were buried in this block, the city left it alone," said Doody. "To the naked eye it appeared to be open because the poor people have no markers. But the grave spaces are full."

"However when the current Cemetery Sexton took over in 1988, that is there today, at some point in the early 90's made the conscious decision to start selling those grave spaces for modern internments. There in lies the problem he's reusing a section of the cemetery that's already got internments in it," Doody said.

And now through their research the team has learned of more than 135 grave sites that were in the Potter's Field that no one knows where they are at this time.

"My wife and my mother went and bought the plots at the Herrin City Cemetery," said Chris Nielsen of Herrin. " It was my mother's desire that all the family be buried together. And at the time they poked a rod in the ground, said these are clear there's nothing there. We weren't informed it was a Potter's Field. And that there might be previous internments."

During a city council meeting at the Herrin City Hall on Monday night the issue came before the council and a packed chamber of citizens wanting to know who is buried where in the city cemetery.

The council decided to send the matter to the Public Works Committee for a recommendation on what to do next about locating the lost graves at the city cemetery.

"One thing led to another, and we have found out it's not easy to replace Antonio Molkovich's grave marker. Because his grave space has been sold to a local unsuspecting family. That's how it all started simply trying to replace a decorated Veterans marker," said Doody.

He was now written a book documenting the Herrin Massacre of 1922 in the coal mines. And how his team of researchers believe they've uncovered the City of Herrin allegedly burying people on top of one another in the city cemetery.

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