Past digging at Herrin city cemetery raises concerns - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Past digging at Herrin city cemetery raises concerns

HERRIN, IL (KFVS) - An ongoing project to find the victims in the 1922 Herrin Massacre at the city's cemetery is raising some concerns for residents in the area. 

Family members are upset because the condition in which they left the cemetery, and say something needs to be done about it.

“To come out here and see what's been left after they exhumed these bodies, it's just unreal the disrespect to let something like this go," a former resident, John Tolbert said.

“There's a small area where we have been doing some digging in terms of searching for the 1920 massacre victims,” Herrin Mayor Steve Frattini said.

The area is called Potter's Field. For Tolbert, he says it's an area that needs work.

“It was very well taken care of, and if you look around, for the most part, it is," Tolbert said. "But this has been forgotten. This one area has been forgotten.”

City leaders say the digging to find these victims has been an ongoing project for the past two years. 

Due to the weather conditions it can be a difficult task to fix the area.

“We had to do excavation in  that the dirt and over a period of time quite often we'll go back as many as three times and when the rain comes, the dirt settles more and we have more dirt," Mayor Frattini said. "The recent heavy rain that we've had, it's made it a little less desirable than how we would like for it to be.”

For Tolbert, the area is right next to the graves of his son and grandson and says he's surprised that this has happened.

“I knew people were digging, I know that people have to do what they need to do, but there's a right way and a wrong way," Tolbert said.

“We're going to go ahead and take it on ourselves to do it just because you know it is really sagging out," Mayor Frattini said. "But when you have an excessive 10,000 burial sites there, and if you take a little isolated area, including 10 or 15 in the surrounding area, I think it takes it out of proportion to the overall picture.

"Overall I think our cemetery is in excellent shape," Mayor Frattini said. "We got a good crew out there and they work hard at making sure it looks that way.”

And while it will take some time, Tolbert says he is hopeful that changes will be made.

“You don't expect it overnight, but I do expect something to be done and see some progress of it.”

Researchers of the project say the digging has brought findings of old monuments and have identified 89 people, many of which were children.

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