Historic Wayne Co. cemetery at center of dispute

Historic Wayne Co. cemetery at center of dispute

WAYNE COUNTY, MO (KFVS) - Tucked away on a county road, under the mud and brush, rests about 150 years worth of history.

The Antioch Cemetery, which now sits on private property, is as historic as it is sacred.

So old in fact, some of the headstones are just stones; no names, no dates. But nonetheless, a resting place for those who have come before.

Gary Kenser has family buried here dating from his great-grandmother to his step brother just 20 years ago. It's a place he's been visiting since he was a boy.

As years went on, the cemetery went into disarray, succumbing to overgrown brush and erosion. That's why the property owners, John and Kadee Dare, say they started landscaping to spruce it up.

"Just to bring it back to a nice cemetery that they could enjoy in knowing their loved ones were buried there," land owner Kadee Dare said.

They say they cleared trees, brought in dirt and built a new entrance; but say that's all.

"We did not move an tombstones or anything like that," Dare said.

Gary Kenser tells a different story, saying someone recently moved his brother's headstone.

"He didn't put it back like it was, he just moved it over," Kenser said.

He also said there was another problem.

"We were being denied access into the cemetery," he recalled.

Kenser said he turned to the Wayne County sheriff when the land owner threatened to cut off entry to the cemetery all together unless visitors had his permission first.

"It's an ongoing investigation," Deputy Mark Yount said. "Can't disclose any information at this time; however, we are speaking with both families trying to resolve the issue."

A trip to the county courthouse, and the public records there, help answer some questions.

Plot maps confirm the cemetery grounds, including the road leading up to it, are part of the purchase Dare made in 2012. The land his his to keep, but who can use it and how they get there is still in question.

Missouri law says private land owners must give reasonable access to cemeteries, but doesn't define how.

Kenser feels access to a cemetery with dozens of plots shouldn't be limited, and he's willing to manage the land himself if it means more freedom.

"We want it open total," he said. "The families will take it over from this point and we'll be responsible for it."

It's a situation neither family wants to be in, both hoping for a quick resolution.

“We just want it resolved and I can understand they're concerned about their family buried there,” Dare said.

The Wayne County sheriff is investigating if any headstones were tampered with. Under Missouri law, that could lead to felony charges.

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