Volunteers clean up abandoned, overgrown Louisville cemetery in time for Memorial Day

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Known for its corruption and burying multiple people in one grave, Eastern Cemetery shut down in the late 80s. Since then it has become overgrown with high grass and weeds, but volunteers have made it their mission to give the deceased a proper resting place.

“Eastern Cemetery has 30 acres roughly,” said Amy Wright, a member of Friends of Eastern Cemetery.

Most of it is swallowed up by tall grass, weeds and fallen tree limbs.

“The grass is hip high in some places, shoulder high in others,” she said.

Thousands of tombstones go unnoticed.

“Eastern Cemetery has been here since the mid-1800s,” Wright said.

“There was some corruption that went on during that time period and in the late 80s. It basically shut down and it's been abandoned since them,” Andy Harpole told WDRB News.

For the past few years Harpole, with the non-profit Friends of Eastern Cemetery, has held mass clean-ups on Memorial Day Weekend. On Saturday the organization and about 300 volunteers from Northeast Christian Church cut grass, pulled weeds and picked up branches.

“When they first showed up this morning they were like wow this place really needs some work!” said volunteer Randy Gordon with Northeast Christian Church.

“It goes from being really despairing and sad looking because there's so much to be done to just in a matter of hours they've cleaned it up so beautifully,” Wright said.

While Eastern Cemetery looks beautiful after hours of hard work, its history is anything but that.

“There's records to support the number that there's around 138,000 people buried in 16,000 graves,” Harpole said.

It’s a staggering amount of over burial that puts about nine people to one grave.

“Once that was found out that's when everyone just kind of disappeared and left it to its own devices and it became extremely overgrown,” Harpole said.

It's now cleaned up out of respect for the dead and the living.

“You know the people who are buried here built this city for us and made it what it is for us so we feel like it's our duty to give back,” Harpole said. “And so that they [family members] could come and grieve the way they're supposed to be able to at a cemetery.”

Once the tombstones are visible, flowers and flags are placed at grave sites for about a thousand known veterans -- giving them a proper place for eternal rest.

Friends of Eastern Cemetery holds smaller scale clean-ups on Sunday mornings. If you'd like to get involved, organizers say they post updates on their Facebook page.

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