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Restoration for Remembrance (Western Chapel Cemetery)

News Story:

Men work to clean up local cemetery for families of the deceased

Louis C. Brown Sr. and Kevin Dorm spend time amid the toppling headstones, fallen leaves and tree stumps that litter a piece of property along Western Chapel Road for many reasons, including to make the final resting place of their ancestors a little bit nicer.

The two men started with chainsaws and hedge clippers to slowly transform the overgrown cemetery into its former glory.

“Some day I want to be able to mow it instead of digging,” said Brown, whose family used to take care of the cemetery. “I can remember going out there when I was 16, helping my Dad dig graves, by hand, with a pick and shovel.”

Brown and Dorm have worked too may hours to count to begin the restoration of Western Chapel Cemetery.

They’ve worked until dark, clearing the trees and rose bushes to reveal the headstones dating back to the 1800s, but there is still more to be done.

A church was established on the site in the late 1860s or early 1870s by Amos Johns, George W. Cain, David Black, Cato Sides and Joshua Brown. The men purchased the land for $270 for Abraham and Mary Cassell.

The all-black church was known as Western Chapel Methodist Episcopal, and in the mid-1950s the church burned to the ground and was never rebuilt, leaving behind a stone foundation and surrounding graveyard.

Upkeep of the grounds had always fallen to the trustees of the church.

Brown was handed the deed to the land by his aunt, who was the last surviving trustee of the Western Chapel Cemetery before her death more than a year ago.

He is now committed to making the grass grow and raising money to keep the more than 100-year-old cemetery in the hands of the families whose loved ones are buried there.

“I’ve got parents up there, and I want to get it established before I close my eyes for good,” Brown said.

Spurred on by the thoughts of losing the ground, Brown and his 12-member committee are now working to get the deed to the land in their name, and would like to start a trust fund to help raise money to help take care of the land.

Until now, the two men have worked on their own time and money to restore the cemetery.

“I sent out letters asking for money to help with the cost of getting machinery up there – I’ve run my own truck into the ground, ” Brown said. “Just today I got a flat tire from running over a stump.”

But Brown said it isn’t money he’s after, it’s help in general.

“If all someone can give is their time, I’ll take it,” said the 68-year-old Brown, who had triple-bypass surgery seven months ago and has a pacemaker in his chest.