Non-profit works to restore historic Cape Girardeau County cemetery

Honoring the rich history of their ancestors. That's the goal of a group dedicated to preserving a more than 160-year-old cemetery in Cape Girardeau County
Published: Jul. 20, 2023 at 5:28 PM CDT
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - Honoring the rich history of their ancestors. That’s the goal of a group dedicated to preserving a more than 160-year-old cemetery in Cape Girardeau County.

Shady Grove Cemetery dates back to before the Civil War and is the final resting place for hundreds of people from the area’s Black community.

Now, the descendants of those buried at Shady Grove want to restore it back to its former glory.

Judy Humphrey can trace her family ties back to this small cemetery just outside Cape Girardeau.

“Washington Giboney, who fought in the Civil War, is my third great grandfather and is buried there at Shady Grove. He and two of his brothers fought in the Civil War and actually returned there to Cape Girardeau and lived there,” said Humphrey.

But time has taken its toll.

“Several of the headstones were missing, several of them had been footstones and their markers had been stacked up at the front cemetery and several of them were broken,” said Humphrey.

That’s why Humphrey helped form the Shady Grove Heritage and preservation organization to help restore Shady Grove. The group’s getting some local help from a man who knows these grounds well.

Kenny Berry still does landscaping work at the cemetery.

“I had a lawn service for over 40 years and this is one account that I kept when I was done just because I enjoy it and the history of it,” said Berry.

He said it’s important to preserve the history out here.

“Somebody went through the trouble to bury somebody here and put markers on their stone so there’s nobody else to carry on that so just to respect their thoughts and wishes,” said Berry.

“We’d love to restore the headstones we have, we’d love to have someone come out and do a survey to find out where the graves are missing the headstones, and maybe even have some type of group monument there in their honor,” said Humphrey.

Humphrey said she hopes their efforts bring honor to her ancestors and all those buried here.

“It is a part of American history and that’s how we want people to remember it,” said Humphrey.

The group plans to apply for state grants and hopes to be able to accept donations through their website soon.