CLARKSVILLE, Ind. (WHAS11) --The names carved on the gravestones at Stewart-Emery Cemetery are centuries old, but alongside the headstones and the flowers laid at their bases is orange fencing and overturned dirt, a disturbing sight for Stuart Emery, a descendant of many of those buried under the grassy ground.
"It's the worst-case scenario," Emery, 74, said. "This is what I had been waiting to see - some encroachment that starts turning into the graveyard."
The excavation is on the side of the cemetery bordering Blackiston Mill Road - part of a federally funded road widening project for that portion of the road that is set to take place in 2020. According to Clarksville Town Manager Kevin Baity, because federal dollars are involved, the town must follow federal guidelines that require the town to determine whether there are any unmarked graves that need to be relocated for the project.
"Everything's closing in on it," Emery said. "All the construction and all that, none of that was here as recently as 40 years ago."
Emery said he has been to the cemetery before to learn about his ancestors that call it their resting place.
"I guess it still is a family cemetery," he said. "Everybody here is related one way or the other, by marriage or by blood."
"In the old days, people used to have a place out back where Uncle Tom and Aunt Betty went," Clarksville Cemetery Commission President David Abbott said. "They just did that."
Abbott's job is to make sure people follow proper procedures when it comes to working with cemetery property, and while he said he understands the family's concern, he is satisfied that the town of Clarksville is doing the right thing, following the federal guidelines and promising to reinter any remains the crews may find in the dig site.
"One of the family members said they wouldn't have any problem if they're placed here if there's a place here on this ground to place them," Abbott said.
"All the work that's being done here is out of total respect for anything that is found and any burials and any family," Baity said.
"I have some idea of what they're doing," Emergy said. "Can't say I'm crazy about it, but I don't know what other options are available."
Baity said the crews should wrap up the excavation Thursday. The road is expected to be repaved and that section of Blackiston Mill Road is scheduled to be back open for the 4th of July.
The crew will be filing a report on their findings. At this time, Baity said he could not disclose whether or not anything was found on the site.