Historical society descends on abandon and neglected cemeteries

Jacob Ellis and Jacob Smith in Mynatt Cemetery
Jacob Smith at left is a Rhea County High School Senior who is interested in learning about Rhea County's History. Jacob Ellis at right is Rhea County's official Archivist (Photo by Dean Wilson)

Rhea Historical Society forms “Cemetery Research and Restoration” Committee

Across our county there are numerous cemeteries, some of which are abandon family cemeteries that have not seen any TLC treatment in years. All that is about to change if the Rhea County Historical Societies newly formed committee has their way about it.

Back in November 2018, the Rhea County Historical & Genealogical Society formed a committee called the Committee for Cemetery Research and Restoration. Their mission is to identify, preserve, protect, and compile the history of cemeteries and their interments in Rhea County.

The committee plans to work with various organizations and private property owners to preserve and maintain abandoned family cemeteries. They have set forth a goal of being able to serve as a conduit for county residents wanting to provide information regarding the location of family burial grounds and unidentified interments.

Many of the cemeteries were mapped in 1998, but today, the Historical Society has more advanced technology that will allow them to map the graves in the cemetery more precisely, and hopefully, if there were any cemeteries that were missed during the first mapping, they will now be accounted for in this mapping. There are also a little over 20 years of graves to be added to the cemetery books.

In addition, once the info has been updated, an online, searchable database of all known individuals buried in Rhea County will be made available.

The Committee for Cemetery Research and Restoration consists of B.B. Blevins (Chairman), Pat Guffey, Gary Drinkard, Jacob Ellis, and Cecil Smith (committee member emeritus).

The committee and their group of volunteers descended on the Old Washington’s Mynatt Cemetery as their first one. This cemetery is extremely over grown and appears to have been neglected for years. According to Ellis, the first step before we can map and identify graves is to clear the cemetery of the over growth. This cemetery holds a historical significance since most of the early settlers from Old Washington are buried there.

Jacob Ellis
Jacob Ellis inspects an old tomb stone in the Old Washington’s Mynatt Cemetery. (Photo by Dean Wilson)

The Mynatt or Washington Cemetery is located approximately six miles northeast of Dayton and about one mile south of the town of Washington. The cemetery is opposite the old Mynatt home place. Based on headstone dates, the earliest burial in the cemetery was William Stanton Leuty, who died in 1829 and was buried on the northern end of the cemetery. The last interment, Samuel C. Mynatt was made in 1935.

The Committee for Cemetery Research and Restoration would love for anyone who wants to volunteer in this project to please call B.B. Blevins at 916-710-1747. We need all the help we can get in this endeavor.

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  1. Dr Richard Cornelius from Bryan did a lot of the mapping and I went along as a college student in 98’ . I take care of a church cemetery now . It’s good to see locals keeping up with the history—thank you!


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