During New Student Orientation, first-year students participate in Service Plunge, an annual event that gives first-years the opportunity to make a difference in the local region through service at a variety of sites across town. The Shelby City African-American Cemetery has been a place students have served at for three years. This year, a group of 25 first-year students volunteered at the Meadow Lane African-American Cemetery.
Located just west of Danville, the Meadow Lane African-American Cemetery was originally a slave cemetery for the Lawson Moore plantation. Burials at this site may go back as far as the 1830s or 1840s, and the cemetery was in use until the 1950s.
Over time, the property became overgrown and restoration projects were attempted every few years, but nothing was sustained.
In early 2018, a group of volunteers from the Central Kentucky African-American Cemetery Association (CKAACA), assisted by student volunteers from Centre College, spent a day there and cleaned a majority of the cemetery. Since then, Bill Stocker, a CKAACA volunteer, has spent several hours on the property to keep it well-kept.
The ownership of the cemetery is questionable, and the City of Danville will not maintain the historic cemetery without knowing its ownership. As of now, the CKAACA is moving forward with gaining ownership and ultimately hopes to turn it over to the city for continued maintenance.
CKAACA member and cemetery volunteer Michael Denis said that Centre students are so positive about their experiences at the cemetery.
“They are inquisitive and are looking for answers to just about everything,” he said. “I tried to keep up with the information flow and attempted to give them a history of the cemetery. The students not only wanted to know about the cemetery itself and its history but about burial customs, grave stones and other markers, glass and pottery pieces found at the graves and the current controversy over ownership and maintenance.”
Denis said there are several reasons why it’s meaningful for them to have Centre students join them in this effort.
“First, they are genuinely interested in the project and want to be a part of it,” he said. “When asked, many said they would definitely return.”
He continued to say that the regular volunteers at the cemetery are 63 and older, and two of the longest serving volunteers are simply worn out. The help they receive from Centre students is immeasurable.
“Having them join us during their first week of college helps foster a sense of community right from the beginning,” he said. “They should become a part of the Danville–Boyle County community, and getting involved in a project like this can help that happen.”
Over the years, they have had a number of Centre students dedicate a great deal of time and effort into these sites.
“I hope some of the upperclassmen, as well as first-years, will become a permanent part of our cemetery work while they are at Centre,” he concluded.
by Kerry Steinhofer
September 20, 2018