Douglas Cemetery

East Saint Louis, St. Clair County, Illinois, USA
Memorials 40 added

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For families who had relatives buried in the Douglas Cemetery or Lawnridge Cemetery, whose graves were relocated due to the construction of Interstate I-64, may want to contact either the Sunset Garden of Memory Cemetery or the Booker T. Washington Cemetery both are located in Millstadt, IL.

*Newspaper article on the above cemeteries:
Belleville News Democrat - August 19, 1968 Pg. 1

For Highway Interchange
Moving Old Cemetery
Belleville News Democrat
August 10, 1968 Pg. 1

What do they do when an old cemtery lies in the path of a comtemplated major highway improvement?
Move the cemtery. At least this is the policy of the state of Illinois and what now is occuring on Kingshighway in Washington Park a short distance north of Assumption Catholic High School.
The old Douglas-Lawnridge Cemetery, viturally abandoned since World War II but for many years prior a popular burial ground of the East St. Louis Negro community, is the site of extensive exhumation project that started last spring.

3000 Graves
This 25 acre necropolis flanked by Kingshighway and Bunkum Road is destined to become the southeast quadrant of the new Interstate Highway 64 and Illinois Route 111 traffic interchange. Next year Kingshighway (Route 111) traffic will be detoured through the cemetery site during construction of highway overpasses spanning nearby railroad tracks and Kingshighway.
The task of exhuming some 3000 graves and reburial in registered cemeteries has been assigned by the state to Keeley Bros. Construction Co. of East St. Louis on a low bid of $1,695,616,96 for 3000 3-by-8-foot burial plots in two registered cemeteries about five miles south.

Public Barred
A fantastic price:
"Not at all," says District Highway Engineer Robert Knonst. This averages less than $540 per grace which in his opinion is "very reasonable." In fact, its a bargain compared to the median disclosed by a recent U.S. Bureau of Public Roads survey of the entire nation. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineer reportedly paid $1000 per grave to move several smaller cemeteries eventually inudated by Lake Carlyle.
Keeley Bros. is running the job circumspectly, barring the general public from the grounds. The contractor has erected a tall chain-link fence to keep out trespassers and hung a cloth screen on the fence to obscure the view of the operation from Route 111, which passes right by the cemetery. All would be visitors are promptly "run off."

Challenge Ahead
That enforcement is partly to shun desecration of this hallowed ground, but of almost equal importance is a public health safeguard. Every member of the 38-man work force daily engaged here has been vaccinated and innoculated with an exotic array of antitoxins as a precaution against contraction of some strange and unknown plague.
The fact that nearly 80 percent of the workers are colored men tends to refute the charge recently levelled that Negroes are universally discriminated against on highway jobs in this part of the state.
The relocation project is about half completed. As of July 31, a total of 1557 graves had been opened. However, that was the "easy" part, consisting of clearly marked graves with stone monuments. The greatest challenge will be to recover the mortal remains from unmarked and invisible graves which abound the portter's field section. This ground has been under agricultural cultivation for a couple of decades and small sis-by-six inch numbered concrete grave-markers have long been moved and misplaced.

Fragments Scarce
"Lost" graves are found by excavating a series of parallel trenches four feet apart with a small backhole. This machine affords the operator a measure of "feel" in his digging. The backhole is closely followed by a crew of laboreres with spades and shovels for close scrutiny. After 40 years interment, there isn't much left aside from a thin gray coffin outline and occasionally a rusty nail, tooth or bone fragment.
A few scoops of this material are deposited in a man-size wooden box painted gray, sealed and transported for reburial. Every few minutes hearses depart Douglas - Lawnridge bound for the Booker T. Washington Cemetery and Sunset Memorial Gardens, at the foot of the bluffs in Centreville Township. There dignified Christian funeral rites are conducted at frequent intervals throughout every day.

Survivors Sought
The problems attendant to relocating a cemetery entail a great deal more than finding the graves and moving mortal human remains. Even though a court order has been entered decreeing the removal, sanction of the next of kin also must be secured.
Last year the state attempted to locate survivors. Its diligent effort involving a public hearing, widespread newspaper, radio and TV advertisements and a mass meeting yielded barely two-dozen proxies.
The contractor work in close cooperation with CGMNO, Inc., a combine of five East Side colored funeral directors, whose comprehensive records of the vital statistics apparently are the only clue to family survivors.
Orginally CGMNO was formed with a view to getting the cemetery relocation contract. As a sub-contractor, CGMNO has concentrated on securing proxies, directing the reburials with impeccable good taste and handling the statutory paper-work respnsibility.

GPS Coordinates: 38.0621, -90.09298

  • Added: 18 Jan 2006
  • Find A Grave Cemetery: #2164089