3 ON YOUR SIDE: Who owns run-down Ooltewah cemetery?
HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -
A cemetery in Ooltewah is now a dumping ground and one man who has family buried there has had enough. The Floral Hills Memory Gardens on Pattentown Road near Bonny Oaks has dozens of people buried there, some as far back as the late 1800's.
"We've spent hours up here trying to locate their graves and we can't seem to find them," says William Paris.
William Paris' mother, father, and sister-in-law are buried at Floral Hills Memory Gardens.
"This was all cut. These trees weren't here."
The land is rich in history.
"In this area up here, blacks and whites could not be buried together during that time period," says Paris. "Some of these graves I found date back to 1717."
It is now so overgrown, Paris can not find his family's headstones.
"We've got actual trees growing out of people's graves," says Paris.
It has turned into a dump site with trash and old tires.
"Nobody's grave should be desecrated like this here," he says.
Paris is now on a mission.
"We've been trying to find out exactly who owns this property and who's accountable for keeping it looking like a cemetery."
Channel 3 did some investigating and so did Paris.
The Hamilton County Register of Deeds Office found a document from 1967 when a couple turned over the land to Floral Hills, listed as an incorporation, with no owner.
"A Mr. J.T. Vick signed this document and he was the president of the Floral Hills Memory Gardens at that time," says Paris.
The next clue came with a transmission line easement document from 1970. J.T. Vick was paid $150 to put power lines on the property.
"I'm in the process of now researching and trying to see if I can't locate some of his family members," says Paris.
Channel 3 is too.
We have since learned Vick has passed away and we are looking for his next of kin.
In the meantime, Paris is determined to honor the lives of those buried in the cemetery.
"I owe it to mankind. I owe it to every person buried up here. Not just my family. I mean, this is total disrespect for everybody. Not just family."
He just wants them to truly rest in peace.
"I can use all the help I can get."
The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance regulates for-profit cemeteries.
We checked. It says it does not have any records on Floral Hills. It also says the Secretary of State's Office does not have Floral Hills listed as a corporation.
Channel 3 will keep looking for who may have ties to the land.