Hamilton Co. cemetery trashed & overgrown, owner unknown
Trash and weeds cover a Hamilton County cemetery. Families with loved ones buried there have been trying to keep it up themselves, but say it's getting out of hand.
Friday, August 17th 2012, 5:53 PM EDT
Friday, August 17th 2012, 6:21 PM EDT
HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -- Trash and weeds cover a Hamilton County cemetery. Families with loved ones buried there have been trying to keep it up themselves, but say it's getting out of hand.
The problem is, though, no one can find the owner.
Floral Hill Memorial Park Cemetery covers 60 acres off Pattentown Road near Ooltewah. Channel 3 talked to the state, county, and people in the funeral business, even headstone makers.
It seems to be common knowledge that it's in bad shape, but there's nobody on record to be held accountable.
Jimmie Whatley, Jr. and Jimmie Whatley, Sr. are doing their best to keep grass and trash from swallowing their loved ones' resting place.
"Even in death you can't even lay in peace and it's deplorable and something needs to be done, period. Something needs to be done," Jimmie Whatley, Jr. said.
Walking around, it's hard to even spot many tombstones because they're sunken in, knocked over or covered in weeds, but they say that's not even the worst of it.
"The thing that really gets us, that hurts my heart and makes me upset and mad is the dumping on the graves that people do," Whatley, Jr said.
Old couches, TV's, lumber and a growing heap of old tires-- it's obvious it's considered a dumping ground by some, and a party zone to others.
There are beer bottles are everywhere and even a disfigured Jesus statue that Jimmie Senior recently cleaned graffiti off of.
"Took gas and cleaned that off and it looks real good," Jimmie Whatley, Sr. said.
"One day my dad's going to be buried here so it's very very important to me," Jimmie Jr. said.
Taylor Funeral Home says it's had several occasions where they couldn't do burials here because they couldn't get to the plots. The only time it's happened in the last several years is if the plots have been close to the road.
It isn't registered with the state and the Office of Deeds doesn't have any contact info for the owner -- just that it was purchased in 1967 by Floral Hill Memory Garden Company Inc. No new plots have been purchased in decades.
"We're just hitting a wall here trying to find out who is responsible, who's accountable and who can help us bring this cemetery back to the reverence and solitude that it needs to be in," Jimmie Jr. said.
The Whatleys say they continue to report illegal dumping to Hamilton County deputies, and road crews have been picking up any debris they haul to the road. They're pushing for the county to put up a fence and "no dumping" signs.
State cemetery regulators says they have no way of knowing how many abandoned cemeteries exist across the region.