Pioneer cemetery boards try to meet requests for new burials

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MAQUOKETA, Iowa (AP) — Commissions that oversee some of Iowa’s oldest pioneer cemeteries are struggling to accommodate requests for new burials.

To qualify as a pioneer cemetery under rules established by the State Association for the Preservation of Iowa Cemeteries, there must be fewer than 12 burials in the past 50 years. That limit and other factors can make it hard to approve requests for new burials, according to the Telegraph Herald .After inquiries from residents, the Jackson County Pioneer Cemetery Commission started working to establish rules allowing residents to be buried in the old cemeteries.

“It’s something that we have never settled on,” said JoAnn Caven, a member of the commission. “There are a lot of things that we need to figure out first.”

Caven said requests for future burials are pending at seven pioneer cemeteries in the county, but all must wait until new rules are established.

Besides the limit on burials allowed, the fact that many pioneer cemeteries are on private land creates another challenge for boards. How much to charge for burials is another question.

Jackson County commission member Donald Wentworth said his panel is considering whether new burials should be open only to those who have ancestors buried at the pioneer cemeteries.

“We have to have an agreement on what is right and what is fair,” Wentworth said. “There really isn’t any commission in the state that has rules for something like this.”

Lee Embretson, chairman of the Delaware County Pioneer Cemetery Commission, said his group remains focused on restoring pioneer cemeteries, but he noted there has been more interest recently in new burials.

Allen and Marjorie Fowler have been waiting for three years for Jackson County to establish rules that would let them be buried in the Union Center Cemetery, which is near their family farm east of Maquoketa. The cemetery was established in 1861.

Allen Fowler said his grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather are buried at Union Center Cemetery.

“It’s our family,” Allen said. “It’s where we were raised.”

Caven said the Jackson County panel hopes to establish rules in 2019.

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