Closings: Schools, churches, day-cares and businesses

Volunteers spend day clearing brush at historic St. Louis cemetery

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HILLSDALE, MO (KTVI) – An historic St. Louis cemetery has been hidden in a jungle of weeds. There’s a renewed effort to uncover a part of our St. Louis that long ago faded from view at Greenwood Cemetery in Hillsdale.

When a group of about three dozen volunteers began working Thursday morning, the weeds were taller than they are. You couldn’t even tell there were graves. A chorus of weed trimmers slowly uncovered the hidden history, which includes a Civil War soldier named Washington Reed.

“He was literate, so within two weeks of joining he was made a sergeant,” said Etta Daniels, the cemetery historian and archivist. “He served in the United States Colored Heavy Artillery.”

The volunteers from AT&T spent their day off at Greenwood, clearing part of the nearly 32-acre jungle that swallowed more than 50,000 graves, like that of Sallie Ross, Etta Daniels’ great-grandmother.

“Couldn’t find her, the weeds were so tall … and she raised me,” Daniels said.

Daniels now leads a group that’s taken title of Greenwood Cemetery to clean it up and hopefully establish an endowment for a place that’s already on the National Register of Historic Places.

There’s a marker for Dred Scott’s wife, Harriett. Her actual grave is still deep in the weeds.

Headstones with chains engraved on them mark the graves of those born into slavery.

“You can see the (chain) links. Usually one of those will be broken to show that the link to slavery has been broken,” Daniels said. “We have so many stories to tell. They’re not just African-American stories. We’re talking United States history. We’re talking St. Louis history.”

Volunteers found out the history at Greenwood was not all that far off.

“I think that’s what’s important,” said a leader of the AT&T volunteer effort. “We spoke with a lady who came out today and said she’d found four of her relatives. In fact, her parents are buried in the back here somewhere and she hasn’t seen their stones for 20-30 years.”

At last there’s hope it may not be that way much longer.

“It’s like one man told me earlier today, it’s just the idea that we as people need to be good to each other,” Daniels said, beaming about the volunteers. There's another cleanup effort Saturday morning. There’s also a GoFundMe account to help with the cost of long-term upkeep.