Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

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April 19, 2013

Group works to preserve lost Avon cemetery

(Continued)

AVON —

"If you owned the property, you could pretty much do whatever you wanted," said Jim, adding, "I didn't sense there was a concerted effort to try to do anything inappropriate. I think they did the best they could with what they had."

Indeed, the maps the Lees used in their own investigation last year dated back to the 1970s. Jeannie Regan-Dinius, a special projects coordinator for the DNR's historic preservation & archaeology division, whom the Lees contacted, says the Merritt cemetery wasn't organized to begin with. Research conducted so far indicates there are between 13 and 30 people buried there. Some were interred without headstones. What officials are going by today are sunken areas by big, old trees that are facing East or West - typical of Christian burial. But Regan-Dinius says that can be deceiving too. When a tree dies, its roots sink into the ground also.

Regan-Dinius used topographic maps from the U.S. Geological Survey to determine the exact location of the Merritt burial plot.

"There's no doubt the cemetery is here," she said. "Now it's just a matter of what we're going to do with this area to show it some respect. We need to make sure it's marked so nothing like dumping happens here."

It's right behind some houses in Woodland Heights. Some fence posts are still standing, though much of the fence is down. A woodchip-covered walking trail made by the neighborhood runs through it. Otherwise, the area is untouched.

"It's a really pretty area," said Lisa. "I can see why you'd want to build a house by there."

It's not uncommon to find cemeteries under these circumstances. Regan-Dinius says of the more than 11,000 cemeteries in Indiana, at least half have this issue. Her department learns of ones like the Merritt cemetery at least once a month. Some have dated back thousands of years.

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