Left: Paul and Debra Bray at Dewey Finley's grave in Hoskins Cemetery on Memorial Day 2022 - Right: CCBOE building with inset photo of Dewey Finley's "stored" headstone
Opinion Editorial by Brent Willoughby
Recently the Manchester Enterprise published an article on July 8th, 2022 entitled "Hoskins Cemetery now relocated" about the completion of moving the Hoskins Cemetery. In this article the unnamed author claimed that "all deceased persons had been moved to Memorial Gardens or 3 private cemeteries." The headstones had been collected and the one's that could be re-used at the family cemeteries would be. Markers had been ordered for the deceased being relocated to Memorial Gardens and the rest, "not being utilized are being stored by the board of education until research could be done to see who had a legal right to claim them." Lastly the article states "They will remain stored until a determination is made."
There were further claims that this was in accordance with the descendants wishes and also that everything had been done with diligence and in compliance with state law. I would like to know who supervised this and which state laws are they referring to? Other than the Rice family ( reference July 7th online article in the Enterprise), which other descendants wishes were being adhered to? Certainly not the descendants I have had the opportunity to speak with. The majority of descendants didn't want their loved ones disturbed to begin with. Several have assured me that the Manchester Enterprise and the CCBOE do not speak on their behalf. Just because you put it into a failing newspaper does not make it true and it violates ethical journalism to make such false claims.
When an article is published that states headstones are being stored it would lead most people to believe that they are being preserved and most likely being housed in a warehouse or garage somewhere all nice and neat and accounted for. The headstones would be properly marked and waiting for the next of kin to claim them once this alleged research was completed. Research that should have been done before the Clay County Board of Education (CCBOE) ever considered moving the cemetery to begin with. Perhaps they didn't want to truly know who the next of kin were so that they would face less opposition in their efforts? Remember this article was published on July 8th, 2022 well over a year after their efforts began. Apparently the physical responsibility of relocating the cemetery far outweighed any moral responsibility that accompanied it.
At the end of this past week, and clearly after the article was published, a confidential source came forward with the attached pictures and information that they had found the headstones from the Hoskins Cemetery discarded in the woods, some of which are broken. I didn't believe it until I saw the pictures for myself. Regardless of where you stood on the relocation of the cemetery, no decent person can look at these photographs and not be disturbed. Personally I had to fight the vomit creeping up the back of my throat to keep from being physically ill. How could this have happened? A complete and total lack of oversight is the only possible explanation for these graphic and disturbing images and the atrocities they depict. These pictures are a direct result of allowing the CCBOE to act with impunity to this point. Families should never be denied the right to have a say in what happens to their ancestors and these pictures are proof of that. Everyone involved should be ashamed!
Headstones removed by CCBOE from Hoskins Cemetery in Manchester, Kentucky! Stored or DISCARDED?
These photographs are the latest revelation in an ongoing series of insults and injuries that the CCBOE has perpetrated against those formerly interred at the Hoskins Cemetery and their family, friends, and loved ones. Because the CCBOE was allowed to usurp authority as caretakers of the deceased and their headstones by skipping the imminent domain proceedings they have rushed through this whole process. Serious questions need to be asked and answered. The following are just a few of the questions I have...
- If the CCBOE was in such a hurry to relocate the Hoskins Cemetery how could they have ever been entrusted with such an incredible responsibility and why was there not a neutral 3rd party involved with oversight?
- Have the decedents' human remains been treated with the same disdain as their headstones and markers and are all of the remains accounted for?
- Why were family members not allowed to witness this moving process and left in the dark about how and when their ancestors were to be moved and to where?
- Regardless of "ownership" do these headstones not deserve more respect than these pictures suggest?
- What part of dumping headstones in the woods is diligent, in accordance with state law, or in any way reflective of the descendants wishes?
- When will transparency be practiced and not just passively mentioned in a nonchalant attempt to appease the community and the families effected?
- Who was the source at the CCBOE being referenced in this article and who wrote it or could they be one and the same?
- If this is what being stored looks like then what would qualify as negligent abandonment or criminal destruction?
- Do Veteran's headstones not belong to the federal government and what would they have to say about Veteran's headstones being dumped in the woods?
- Lastly, when will someone in a position of authority say enough already and intervene in this most disrespectful and disgusting display of desecration?
I would encourage all interested parties to:
- Contact the CCBOE and ask them why this has occurred utilizing taxpayer money that they are responsible for.
- Call the Clay County Fiscal Court (CCFC) and ask them if this is what they had in mind when they approved of the board's plans.
- Call Judge House's office and ask if he still thinks it was a good idea to try to silence the voices of the family members.
- Call the Veterans Organizations and ask for a thorough investigation.
- Call your elected officials and representatives before these headstones can be moved and these actions covered up.
They work for us and should be fully aware of what has transpired. This should never be allowed to happen again and those responsible should be held accountable.
There will be more to follow concerning this and other issues related to the Hoskins Cemetery. Thank you and have a blessed day.!
About Brent Willoughby:
Proud Kentucky native, husband, father, and grandfather. Former Sergeant U.S.M.C. Member of Mount Carmel Christian Church. Lifelong student of history and humanity.