AVON — Jim Lee got a surprise a couple years ago from his co-worker, Stan Merritt.
"He came into work one day and said, 'I can't believe it, they moved the cemetery,'" said Jim, now retired.
Turns out Merritt had just learned that headstones had been removed from an old family plot to a makeshift memorial in 2001 at Avon Town Hall. He was incredulous that his ancestors' remains were still in the old cemetery, now in private hands just behind the Woodland Heights subdivision.
Jim had trouble understanding it too. With his daughter Lisa, they've set out to safeguard the historic cemetery with the help of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources' Division of Historic Preservation & Archaeology.
With Merritt's help, the Lees learned the location of the original cemetery. Upon further study, Lisa, currently the Face of MyINDY-TV 23, discovered that a former Avon High School classmate of hers had created the Merritt Memorial at town hall.
Andrew Prescott had intended on preserving the cemetery, which had been abandoned in 1881, for his Eagle Scout Project (he was a member of Troop 307 in Avon). The Merritts were some of the earliest settlers of what became Avon and Washington Township.
"That's when things started getting weird with the developer," said Lisa, who contacted Prescott about the project. "Stones ended up missing."
There was speculation that CP Morgan, the developer of Woodland Heights (now defunct) hid headstones in a barn. Other reports were that some of the remaining tombstones were found in a gully below a ridge by the cemetery. CP Morgan representatives reportedly said at the time, when they were in the process of buying the land, that they found the headstones that way. There weren't many laws then that guarded against the disruption of historic areas like this.