Iona Cemetery loses headstones to storm

Sunday, June 8, 2003

Several tombstones were either knocked over, scattered or are completely missing from a small cemetery near Oriole as a result of the May 6 tornado that ripped through Jackson.

Members of the Iona Cemetery Association are trying to piece the cemetery back together, but they are finding it difficult, having no plot map available.

The cemetery atop a hill on the north side of Route V, several miles northwest of Jackson, seems to have suffered an isolated touchdown. The area surrounding the cemetery is relatively untouched.

Yet at least seven huge cedar and oak trees were knocked over at the spot and a fence was destroyed. The trees have already been cut up and pushed over to the side of the cemetery. The heavy equipment used to remove the trees has damaged the lawn.

"It was a beautiful place until all the trees came down," said Georgia Esicar, the secretary treasurer of the cemetery association.

The tornado and debris knocked over some tombstones and scattered others.

There is a large area in the middle of the cemetery where there are no tombstones at all.

"I'm sure there were monuments here," Esicar said as she walked around the cemetery Friday afternoon. "When I would come up here, why, I didn't pay any attention to where the stones were."

A few headstones have been placed back at their rightful spots, but Esicar and others can't put some of the stones back until they know their correct location.

Esicar has a list of names of people buried at Iona. The list is 120 names long and was compiled in 1984. Esicar said only a few people have been buried at the cemetery since that year.

Some of the tombstones date back to the mid-1800s. One tombstone recognized John McClard for serving in the War of 1812.

The association is hoping for information, and photographs, that may help put the memorials back in order.

"We need help from anybody who knows anything about the cemetery."

Jacque Brotherton, Esicar's niece, is also helping to gather information.

"It's an old cemetery that's never been plotted so we're at the mercy of the people who visit there to tell us where to put the monuments," she said.

Esicar said an attempt to get financial aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency was unsuccessful.


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