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When For-Profit Cemeteries Sell the Land



when-for-profit-cemeteries-sell-the-land-find-more-genealogy-blogs-at-familytree-comGenealogists often visit cemeteries in search of information about their ancestors. Taking a photo of the headstone is a good way to make a note of details like dates and surnames. Many people find it comforting to visit the grave of a relative who has passed away. The expectation is that those graves will always be there. This might not be true of the grave is in a for-profit cemetery.

Hillside Cemetery is located in Reno, Nevada. It is a historical cemetery that was established in 1875. The cemetery sits on a hill that overlooks downtown Reno.

Today, Hillside Cemetery is bordered by fraternities and other student housing. The cemetery is in need of restoration. Sadly, the cemetery has been used for decades as a location for “college keggers”. The cemetery has become infested with weeds, and trash, and some of the headstones have been ransacked.

The University of Nevada sold Hillside Cemetery to the Lawton family in 1996. The sale price was $10. Originally, the University wanted to use the land for student housing, but felt that removing the bodies from the cemetery was too big a hurdle. John Lawton attempted to remove the bodies in 2003, but that didn’t end up happening. In 2015, a developer named Vinton Hawkins entered into an option to buy the land from Sierra Memorial Gardens. That option expires in 2018.

A local group of volunteers, led by a music teacher named Fran Tyron, have been clearing weeds from the headstones for the past five years. They formed a non-profit organization in an attempt to preserve the cemetery.

The first person buried in Hillside Cemetery was Menerva Morton, who died in 1868. Wiltshire Sanders purchased the cemetery in 1875 and formerly opened it as a private cemetery in 1879. The last grave was dug in 1959. There are a total of 190 specific plots, but there could be as many as 18 bodies in each plot. More than 1,400 people were laid to rest in Hillside Cemetery. They include some of Reno’s first settlers.

Signs posted on Hillside Cemetery state that the cemetery owner and the Cemetery Authority deem the property “not in accordance” with the health, welfare, and safety of the public. It also states that there is no ongoing funding for upkeep and maintenance. There is concern that the fate of Hillside Cemetery could also be the fate of other for-profit cemeteries in Reno.

Fortunately, it appears that Hillside Cemetery will be spared. A spokesman for the Hillside Cemetery stated that the plan to exhume the bodies “has been suspended” in response to unfavorable responses from a few families.

Image by Nick Ares on Flickr

Related Articles on FamilyTree.com:

* Marshfield Hills, MA Cemetery is Being Restored

* Restoration of St. Patrick’s Cemetery Has Begun

* Some Chicago Cemeteries Have Been Repurposed

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