MADISONVILLE, Tex. (KBTX) - Madisonville Cemetery Association President Dawn Knight says when she took over the job two years ago, all the cemetery needed was some love.
"It had been neglected for a long time," says Knight. She says the property was covered in trash, grave markers were knocked over, and the grass was waist high. "It just needed a mother, it needed someone to care."
Today, the cemetery gets multiple lawn cuts a month, has a new fence, most of the markers are cleaned, and has plans to expand. However, one of the biggest challenges still facing Knight and the rest of the association is finding lost graves buried after years of neglect.
"There are vast expanses of areas with no tombstones but you know people are buried there," says Clark Osbourne, one of the board members of Madisonville's Cemetery Association.
Osbourne says there are about 3,200 graves in the cemetery, and nearly 200 are unmarked. He believes 200 more graves are hidden underground after years of neglect. The group has recently been prodding and looking for graves underground. Six markers have been found this week alone.
"We just lightly probe around the earth," says Osbourne. "We try to be very careful we don't want to damage a monument."
The association plans to use a ground penetrating radar unit next week to find more grave markers underground.
Another problem they have run into is the old ledger keeping track of where people are buried. Osbourne says the large book doesn't have an index which makes it very difficult to find anything. They hope the ledger will be a thing of the past when they make an interactive map.
"Move your mouse, hover over a grave it will tell you who was buried there," says Osbourne. "Type in a name, and their location will pop up."
Knight says the work they are doing has already gone a long way in Madisonville.
"People are bringing flowers out to their loved ones graves. before there were no flowers on the graves."
The association says they have come a long way but there is still a lot more work to be done. If you wish to help out or donate they ask you visit the Madisonville cemetery's Facebook page.