The cemetery where some of Johnson County's earliest settlers were buried has been relocated and recreated.
About 80 people had been buried in the 19th century Mount Auburn Cemetery in the Center Grove area, but the cemetery, now on the Dye's Walk Country Club, stood in the way of the expansion of State Road 135. The graves have now been moved to The Gardens at Olive Branch, where the pioneer cemetery was recreated with the original markers and wrought-iron fence.
"It's the newest oldest cemetery in Johnson County, " Jeff Herrmann said. "The Mount Auburn Cemetery was older than Crown Hill, and we have some indication that it might be the first cemetery in Greenwood."
More than a dozen funeral directors worked to dig up the remains, some of which were buried nine feet deep. They dug by hand, snapping several shovels and using hand gardening shovels when they came upon mostly maple coffins that disintegrated long ago.
The relocation might have been the first in the state to be done entirely by hand, without any heavy excavating equipment, Herrmann said. He wanted to be careful not to damage any of the remains, sensitive to the dignity of those who were buried there, and observant of the way they had been buried in the 19th century.
All but a few of the remains are unidentified because the church's records were lost in a tornado. The cemetery dates back to the 1830s and most of the graves were unmarked.
About 20 headstones were in a fenced-off area of about five square feet at the Dye's Walk Country Club. Only three of the people were found buried directly under their headstones.
John and Eve Surface were buried under the most elaborate monument, and John Surface was found in a wrought-iron casket similar to what Abraham Lincoln was laid to rest in, Herrmann said. "We don't know much about them but we do know they had to have been extremely affluent," he said. "Most people of that time period could not have afforded a casket like that."