For 146 years Greenwood Cemetery has been a constant in the Clarksville community with its 24.6 acres serving as the final resting place for more than 15,000 grave sites.
Tradition continues every year when the American flags are placed on the graves of veterans for Memorial Day by Rex Hipes. During the week preceding the holiday, people still come and wash headstones and place arrangements on the family plot.
The Greenwood Cemetery Board is no different. Members planned and organized another tasty breakfast that started the holiday weekend.
The sixth fund raising breakfast was held on May 24, at the American Legion in Clarksville. Biscuits and gravy, grilled sausage, scrambled eggs and pancakes with juice and coffee were served.
Since the spring of 2011, Greenwood breakfasts have tried to raise community awareness about the cemetery history and raise money for special projects. The cemetery board set its sights on projects that the City of Clarksville could not accomplish due to lack of funding.
The board was able to cross off its check list tree removal and stump grinding a few years ago. Nineteen dead and decaying trees were taken down for public safety purposes and before they could cause anymore stone damage.
Over the last year, the proceeds from the annual breakfast, memorial donations ear marked for stone repair and a generous donation from a fund once known as The Women’s Chamber of Commerce, made stage one of the stone restoration project a reality.
“Jacob’s Ladder,” Cemetery Restoration Specialist, David Snyder, spent four days working on monuments of all shapes and sizes, replacing broken bases, leveling sinking stones, reconstructing broken pieces and cleaning each restored monument.
While the stone repair project was in progress, many of the board members visited daily to watch Snyder as he discovered buried pieces of headstones and put them back together making their personal history whole again. The board was shown monuments that had intricate designs that were hidden by ‘sugaring’ on the aged and weathered stones.
After being cleaned, all were treated to the intricate craftsmanship on some of the obelisks with scenes of the Pearly Gates and the Hidden City. Several large tablet stones had been at precarious angles or on the ground. The weight and size of some tablets required a custom built machine with wide flotation tires that minimized damage to the grass as it maneuvered through the rows to lift the tablets safely back onto new concrete bases.
When a monument has fallen off its base the engraving faces two deteriorating dangers; lawn mowers and the elements. One monument that was flagged for repair had been lying face down in the dirt and fortunately, in this position the engravings were preserved.
For the first time in many years the headstone of a Civil War veteran, Payton Tinsley (1830-1919) and his wife, Harriet Prewitt, is proudly resting upright on a hillside located at the west end of the cemetery, facing the daily sunset.
Restoration was completed on 46 monuments and the work was concentrated in the “old cemetery” as it is designated by city records and maps. Some stones carried family names that can be traced in Pike County history books and some stones only give information of a brief childhood. This location in the cemetery represents an era when entire families remained in residence from birth to death.
Two headstones that were not repaired but were featured during the weekend belong to Samuel Forgey and Clarence Hemphill. They had the distinguished honor of being recognized for their 153rd birthdays on May 24.
Samuel A. Forgey (May 24, 1861-Jan 19, 1906) was the son of Nancy Kissinger and William Forgey. Nancy’s family lived in what is now the family residence of Frank andMarilyn Omohundro south of Clarksville. After their marriage in 1844, Nancy and William moved into their new home that was built for them as a wedding gift from her father but was not completed until 1845. That house is located on Kissinger Hill and is now owned by the Sterne family.
Samuel was one of 10 children and is buried near other Forgey and Kissinger relatives in Greenwood Cemetery.
Clarence Homer Hemphill (May 24, 1861-Mar 19, 1934) was the son of Dr. John W. Hemphill and Mary Boone. After graduating from McDowell Medical College in St. Louis, Dr. Hemphill practiced medicine in Frankford then moved to Paynesville in 1848 where he married Mary Samanthia Boone the same year. In the fall of 1860, Dr. Hemphill relocated his practice to Clarksville, and Clarence, the fifth of six children, was born the following spring.
Larry Wright provided the following information about the adult life of Clarence from his family research.
“For 16 years he was the St. Louis representative of the Hemphill Lumber Company, having an office in the Arcade Building. He was a fine, Christian gentleman, and while his kindly deeds were not spectacular, he lived a life that was steadfast and true. He was a scholar and had a diversified knowledge that made him a most interesting conversationalist, especially on the subject of astronomy.”
Clarence never married and spent the last three years of his life near his brother’s family in Kennett. His burial in Greenwood is in the family plot near his parents.
The American flag flew on the graves of veterans who served in the Civil War, the Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Viet Nam, Persian Gulf,Afghanistan, Iraq, and peacetime, throughout Memorial Day weekend.
The Greenwood Cemetery Board invited people to drive through Greenwood after the breakfast, to pay their respects, and get a firsthand look at the monument restoration. All repaired stones were identified with yellow ribbons.
The cemetery board also thanked the community for its past and continued interest and support. As always, contributions made out to the Greenwood Cemetery Memorial Fund are appreciated and can be mailed to board member, Melva Lovell, P.O. Box 315,Clarksville, Mo. 63336.