There are several things that have a habit
of cropping up and slowing progress on the work we do. This is a
list of most of the ones we know about. With each problem or potential
problem there is discussion and hopefully some possible solutions.
Each of these "Stumbling Blocks" is assigned a reference number.
This is just for internal use and does not represent any type or priority.
||A few Stumbling Block
||Wording of Indiana
Code 23-14-67 (CARE OF CEMETERIES BY COUNTIES), specifically paragraph
"The board of commissioners of a county may appoint
a county cemetery commission of five (5) county residents. The commission
may request the levy of an annual tax not exceeding fifty cents ($.50)
on each one hundred dollars ($100) of assessed valuation of property in
the county for the purpose of restoring and maintaining the cemeteries
described in section 1 of this chapter that were established in the county
The unfortunate use of the word "may", as shown in bold above, provides
no mandate to the county commissioners. The amendment of this section
to change the word "may" to "shall" should be a priority goal of this project.
Further, even in the County Commissioners opt to create a County Cemetery
Commission, the County Councils are under no duty or obligation to fund
the Cemetery Commission.
Code 23-14-68 (CARE OF CEMETERIES BY TOWNSHIPS):
"The trustee of each township shall locate and maintain
all the cemeteries described in section 1(a) of this chapter that are within
the township. . . . For the purposes of this chapter, the maintenance of
a cemetery includes the following:
(1) Resetting and straightening
(2) Leveling and seeding
(3) Constructing fences
where there are none and repairing existing fences.
(4) Destroying and cleaning
up detrimental plants, noxious weeds, and
HOWEVER, this statute "does not apply to a cemetery located on
land on which property taxes are assessed and paid". That
exception excludes the vast majority of Indiana's pioneer family cemeteries
as most of them are located on private property. Consequently, the
Trustees have no responsibility or duty with respect to most of the pioneer
cemeteries in the State.
14-21-1 (DNR -- HISTORIC PRESERVATION AND ARCHEOLOGY), specifically
This statute ostensibly offers some measure of "protection" to Indiana's
pioneer family cemeteries; however, the single greatest threat to these
sites is specifically EXCLUDED from the provisions of the statute; to-wit:
"Sections 25, 26, 28, and 29 of this chapter do not apply
to the following:
(1) Surface coal mining
regulated under IC 14-34.
(2) Cemeteries and human
remains subject to IC 23-14.
(3) Disturbing the earth
for an agricultural purpose.
"Agricultural purposes" are defined in this statute to include
"farming, dairying, pasturage, agriculture, horticulture, floriculture,
viticulture, ornamental horticulture, olericulture, pomiculture, animal
husbandry, and poultry husbandry."
Subsection 28 states, "A person who, with the intent to disturb ground
for the purpose of discovering or removing artifacts, burial objects, grave
markers, or human remains, disturbs buried human remains or grave
markers . . . commits a Class D felony."
That is, unless the person is engaged in surface coal mining or any
of the above agricultural purposes. If one is engaged in such
activities, there are no holds barred -- coal miners and farms have carte
blanche to remove grave markers and mine or plow or use for animal
husbandry these burial places. Once this has happened, the property
can be used in the future for whatever purpose the owner chooses.
If you do any amount of work with old cemeteries, at one time or another
you have run across a landowner that refuses to allow access to a land-locked
cemetery. Being refused access, run off at gun point, and chained
and locked cemetery gates are all things we or someone we know have had
to contend with.
The problem here is ignorance. In some cases the landowner feels
that he owns the cemetery because it is surrounded by his land. In
reality, the cemetery may be the property of the township. Often,
county law enforcement is ignorant of the law or is unwilling to press
the issue. Since Indiana Cemetery Laws are some of the least enforced
laws in the state, township trustees are usually very lax about tending
to these isolated old family plots.The
best tool we have in these cases is public awareness. When
the general public knows what can and must be done to protect these sites,
local law enforcement will be forced to support our efforts.