Posted April 8, 2016
Benevolent Society No. 2 Cemetery – It’s First One Hundred Forty Years
The cemetery sat in a rural environment for nearly twenty years before the officers and members were faced with a challenge to the integrity of the site. A map of 1887 showed a proposed interurban rail line running into the northeast of the county and cutting directly across the cemetery. The charter of 1870 specifically stated that ‘’no road, passway or street shall be opened through the grounds unless by consent of the society.’’ The end result was that the rail line was run parallel to the northern boundary of the cemetery.
African Cemetery went through several periods of rebirth and decline over the next four decades. A newspaper article in June 1949 stated that there were three trustees, Charles Cunningham, Jennie Thompson and Maggie Jones, who were responsible for the site. They said that the upkeep and care of the grounds had to be done by volunteers because of lack of income to pay for maintenance services. A note in another issue told that the remains of the Hunter, Hardin, Ballard, Wilson and Dunn families had been removed to Greenwood Cemetery but descendants of other families continued to assist with maintaining the site. Lizzie Fouse, from 1949 to 1952, made annual appeals for help and organized events to raise funds for the upkeep of the cemetery. Her father, mother, brother and husband were buried on site. Mary E. Buckner and Jennie Neal assisted Mrs. Fouse in her efforts. Alice Boswell, Maggie Jones, Charles Cunningham and Shirley Arnold, as officer and trustees in 1953, stated that Benevolent Society No. 2 had ceased to function about twelve years before. In order to maintain the site, they had to rely on donations and volunteer labor.
An aerial photo in 1966, showed a large number of trees and dense vegetation covering the landscape especially in the back portion of the cemetery. In 1967 there was a cleanup when the remains of jockey Isaac Murphy were removed to the Man o’War Memorial Park on Russell Cave Road.
Because of lack of funds to maintain the landscape, the cemetery had become an eyesore and source of complaint filed by the resident and businesses in the area. Students reenact history, dressed as people who are buried in the cemetery.
Giles, Yvonne. “Benevolent Society No. 2 Cemetery.” Stilled Voices Yet Speak. Excerpt of Pages 3-4. Print.
Editor’s Note: A one-hour documentary on Lexington’s African Cemetery No. 2 is available online at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2-7s95OJiM