Cemetery Vandalism Angers Butler County Residents

By: Jared Cerullo Email
By: Jared Cerullo Email

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Friday, July 17, 2010

Vandals have struck one of the oldest and most historic cemeteries in Kansas, toppling more than 80 headstones. The vandalism at the cemetery in Chelsea in Butler County is prompting local residents to come together to fix the damage and make things right again.

The small cemetery in Butler County is an historic landmark not only to Butler County, but to the entire state. Some of Kansas' earliest settlers are buried at the grounds.

"I saw stone after stone after stone that had been pushed over," said Dick Morris, who co-owns Kirby-Morris Funeral Home in El Dorado.

More than 80 headstones at the Chelsea cemetery in Butler County were vandalized sometime after Memorial Day. Authorities tell us the area is a frequent hangout for underage drinking parties due to its location alongside El Dorado Lake.

"We respect those that have died and to have seven generations of people that are within this cemetery be violated like this really angered me," Morris said.

Morris discovered the most recent vandalism last week. Now he wants to have an event where people come together to clean up the stones and turn them upright as best as possible. He's planning on holding the event in late August.

"Some of the granite markers will be able to be uprighted pretty easily if we have the right equipment," Morris explains. "But some of the markers where little children's markers were made of marble, they were kicked in two."

Some of Butler County's earliest burials were in the Chelsea Cemetery. John Vaught, for instance, was born in 1792 during the infancy of the United States and the presidency of George Washington. The oldest burial on record was that of Mary Harrison, who died in 1862. Three Civil War veterans are buried at Chelsea.

To Rex Milbourn, the vandalism hurts him to his core. Several generations of his family lay here.

"It means a lot. I've got people buried here," Milbourn said. "I was even planning on being buried here myself, but I've kinda changed my mind about that because of this. I don't see an end to it."

The Chelsea Cemetary was also vandalized about 15 years ago. With the help of published news articles, authorities tracked down the vandals and took them to trial. They were convicted and ordered to pay restitution, according to Morris.

If you know who may have done the damage, you can contact the Butler County Sheriff's Department at 316-322-4254. You may also check out the Kirby-Morris Funeral Home website for information on how you can help donate time or money to the cause by clicking on "related Links" below this article.

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