MASSACHUSETTS, MISSISSIPPI, IRAN, UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN
Feb 02, 2009 17:33 PST
MASSACHUSETTS, MISSISSIPPI, IRAN, UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN
FEBRUARY 2, 2009
CEMETERY GENEALOGY NEWS
A grave discovery: Wampanoag burial site in Lakeville obliterated
Jean Douillette photographed gravestones of Wampanoag descendants for her book, "Lakeville, Massachusetts Gravestone Inscriptions." The tribe is looking into the destruction and theft of some burial sites in town.
By Steve Urbon
Standard-Times senior correspondent
February 02, 2009 6:00 AM
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Mourn not for me, my friends so dear,
Although in death I slumber here
My days are past, my grave you see
Therefore prepare to follow me
— Grave inscription for Thomas N. Smith, Lakeville, 1872
LAKEVILLE — The only access road leading to the town forest where Jean Douillette, Darrel Wixon and Kenneth Leonard found the four Native American grave markers looks like a border checkpoint into a hostile land.
Betty's Neck Road, along the southern edge of Assawompset Pond, at one point takes a sharp left into the woods and up a hill, and turns narrow. It is festooned with angry warnings to stop, do not enter, no trespassing, be subject to arrest, and so forth. Disregard the signs and one enters a thick forest where a dead-end dirt track takes you past the homes of people who really, really don't want you around.
The place feels ancient, and markedly hostile.
Time will tell if any of the people who live there know the story behind the four gravestones. How many know that they once marked the burial sites of two men who were among the last of Wampanoag tribal member and historical consultant Darrel Wixon's ancestors, who lived in that area for hundreds and probably thousands of years.
The trail leads to a fork at Indian Shore Road, into what was once called the Mitchell property, the Anglicized name of a native woman Assowetoh, who lived in the settlement, which is now partly town-owned forest, partly private residences.
Mrs. Douillette originally had located the stones while doing research for her recent and massive book, "Lakeville, Massachusetts Gravestone Inscriptions," and last spring she led Mr. Wixon and Mr. Leonard, a local author and historian, on a hike to view them.
What they saw disturbed the two men. The stones that once marked the graves of Thomas (died 1872, age 62) and William (died 1875, age 61) Smith, one headstone and one footstone for each, "were in a swampy area, leaning against a tree," according to Kenneth W. Upham, one of Lakeville's three cemetery commissioners.
"It was totally unacceptable. The Indians would never have done it that way.. It was terrible. It was not where they once were."
It also was clear, he said, that the stones had not been against that tree all that long, maybe a few years. There was a distinct lack of undergrowth or moss on the stones.
The commissioners last June charged Mr. Leonard and Mr. Wixon with investigating the graves of the Smiths, who along with Mr. Wixon descended from Tuspaquin, a 17th-century sachem and brother of Massasoit, who was wise and wily enough to win a legal game against the English and keep the land in native hands after King Philip's War.
The investigation was completed last month.
Mr. Leonard, an expert in the genealogy of Lakeville whose own English-descended family dates back to the 1600s in town, certified that the Smiths were indeed descendants of the tribe, having married natives and been "of color" themselves.
"We have maps of both of them living there in 1878," he said. "On a map of Plymouth County both names agree with a later 1895 map."
He also determined that the Smiths' graves actually were likely in the vicinity of two traditional ancient burial mounds that were once located a few hundred yards to the south, on what is now private property in the sprawling Nachaomet Road housing development, built in the late 1990s.
Mr. Leonard determined that the burial mounds remained undisturbed for all the decades, even when a gravel pit operation was on the site, but that today only the smaller of the two remains. The other, to the horror of Mr. Wixon, essentially has been obliterated, the graves bulldozed.
Native Americans know something that most others might not: that a native cemetery, which need not be a mound, can be identified by the many fieldstones people would have used to mark the resting places of their ancestors. The mounds are an obvious feature. The carved headstones and the footstones that marked the graves of the Smiths, according to Mr. Upham, are the earliest example in town of the natives adopting this burial tradition from the English.
Disturbing such graves was once commonplace, Mr. Wixon said. "Native people, indigenous people, have never been respected," he said. "They were people given the right by the government to be exploited."
The exploitation hasn't ended. As a further insult to the Smiths, one of the footstones was taken at some point last summer from the site, which is off Indian Shore Road near Betty's Neck Road. So when it came time for the stones to be put in Mr. Wixon's custody for protection, there were just three..
The theft was reported to the police, he said, and the tribe is contemplating what to do next. "Some things cannot be retrieved," Mr. Wixon said. "But there has to be an investigation first. Based on the investigation, we will see where things lie. All the people who live in the area will be informed, and I think they are respectable but they have no clue what is going on."
Standard-Times correspondent Kim Ledoux contributed to this report.
Contact Steve Urbon at email@example.com
Vicksburg cemetry's future clouded
The Clairon Ledger
February 2, 2009
Vicksburg cemetery's future clouded
Lynn Campbell and her late husband, John, thought they were doing the responsible thing when they purchased pre-need burial services in 1990 at Green Acres Memorial Park.
They had carried the weight of arranging the funerals and burials of their parents, and they didn't want to leave their two sons with the same burden.
"We considered the city cemetery (Cedar Hill), but we wanted everything to be taken care of in advance and we didn't want our sons to have to worry about taking care of the upkeep," Campbell said.
"So we went ahead and bought and paid for everything - the lots, vaults, markers and opening and closing of the graves" at the 15-acre Green Acres, which promises perpetual care, she said.
After hearing about the lawsuit filed by Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann against Green Acres' owners to recover more than $373,000 missing from the company's trust account, Campbell fears the roughly $3,500 she and her husband paid to Green Acres might not keep her sons from the strain of paying for her funeral and maintaining their parents' graves.
"I'm concerned about what's going to happen when I die. Is the vault going to be there? Is the grave going to be opened and closed?" she asked. "Are my sons going to have to pay for it even though I already have? I want to have the assurance that my sons will not have to go through any hassles. That's what I've paid for."
She's not the only one.
Even though he has no business affiliation with Green Acres, Charles Riles, owner of Riles Funeral Home and chairman of the Mississippi State Board of Funeral Service, said he has been talking with people concerned about their contracts with Green Acres, a burial ground off U.S. 80 East.
"Our phones started ringing ... and they rang all day long, and I'm sure that's been the case at every funeral home in town. People want to know what's going to happen to their family members' graves, what's going to happen with the money they've paid and what happens if a family member dies.
"The sadness is I don't have the answers to most of those questions, and I don't know if anybody does right now. But there's nobody really for these people to complain to, so I understand their frustrations," Riles said.
Since 2001, Green Acres has been owned and operated by Houston, Texas-based Mike Graham and Associates LLC. The late Joe Varner had owned and operated it from 1959 until his death in 1989, when son-in-law Jim Hobson took over..
Today there are about 3,200 gravesites.
Hosemann said he spoke with Linda Graham, the wife of the late Mike Graham, and she said two employees would remain in Vicksburg for the time being. However, he said, Graham could not assure him that vaults and other prepaid services would be provided as needed.
For those who have deeds to their burial sites, Hosemann said they will not lose them, but he could not guarantee anyone would receive the burial services they've paid for.
Riles said, for now, he is advising people to wait and see what happens with the lawsuit.
"I'm telling them to not be afraid that something is going to happen to the graves out there. The state of Mississippi is very protective of cemeteries, and there is no doubt the graves at Green Acres will be protected by the state and our local government.
"When it comes to the pre-need services, however, I can tell you that when this happens to a funeral home, the majority of the time the money is lost," Riles said.
On Jan. 23, Chancellor Vicki Roach Barnes ordered a temporary restraining order against Green Acres and froze all of the company's known bank accounts..
A hearing is set for today to begin digging into the company's contracts, accountings and operating records since 2001.
While $220,000 has been frozen in a trust account to pay for the "assured perpetual care" promised on the entrance sign of Green Acres, it cannot be used to offset burial costs. The balance of the trust fund for those costs is $221.60 - $373,813.80 less than should be there, Hosemann said.
"What they've done with the money they've made through the years, I don't know. I think it's been squandered and they have tried to cover it up with lies as long as they could," said Campbell.
Hosemann has pledged to recover lost payments. The state might have to take over the cemetery, and Hosemann said if that's the case, a temporary manager will be sought locally until it can be sold.
Riles said the larger issue at hand is the regulation and oversight of cemeteries in the future to ensure others in the state don't go through what so many people in Vicksburg are going through.
"Mississippi is one of the few states that does not have a regulatory board over cemeteries, and now we're seeing that cemeteries can have problems that need some oversight," Riles said. "There will be a law that comes out of this, you can count on it. To go through all this and have no good result come from it would be a sin."
Bills have been introduced in the Legislature would form a loss-recovery program and other measures to protect people who have paid for pre-need burial services, said Hosemann.
"I think this is the largest cemetery failure in the state of Mississippi that I have ever known of," said Riles, who has been in the business 49 years.
A timeline of Green Acres Memorial Park in Vicksburg, which, when opened, was billed as more than a cemetery - a perpetual care park:
1955 - Green Acres opens; owner's name not available.
Nov. 20, 1955 - Lois Johnson becomes the first recorded interment.
1959 - The cemetery is purchased by Vicksburg resident Joe Varner and named Green Acres Memorial Park Inc.
Nov. 16, 2001 - The property is sold to Mike Graham and renamed Green Acres of Vicksburg LLC.
Dec. 10, 2003 - The last annual perpetual-care trust fund report is filed by Graham with incomplete documentation and never accepted by the Warren County Chancery Court.
Oct. 19, 2005 - Acting as president of Green Acres of Vicksburg LLC, Stephanie Graham signs a consent agreement with the State of Mississippi to file annual reports.
Nov. 15, 2005 - There is a request from the chancery court clerk for annual perpetual-care fund reports.
March 31, 2006 - Secretary of state's office says the required annual pre-need report was not received.
Nov. 7, 2006 - Final cease and desist order is issued to Green Acres of Vicksburg LLC for not complying with annual reporting requirements of the Pre-Need Act; Green Acres is ordered to stop selling pre-need contracts and its registration is revoked.
Dec. 31, 2007 - Mike Graham dies.
July 8, 2008 - Chancery court clerk requests annual perpetual-care fund reports.
October 2008 - Files are removed from Green Acres' office; days later, the office is dismantled and removed from the property.
Oct. 6, 2008 - A state audit begins of Green Acres' contracts, documents and bank statements.
Jan. 22, 2009 - Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann announces that $373,000 is missing from Green Acres' pre-need trust fund and sues for a temporary restraining order to freeze all bank accounts of Green Acres of Vicksburg LLC. A hearing is set for today in Warren County Chancery Court.
A timeline of Green Acres Memorial Park in Vicksburg, which, when opened, was billed as more than a cemetery — a perpetual care park:
1955 — Green Acres opens; owner’s name not available.
Nov. 20, 1955 — Lois Johnson becomes the first recorded interment.
1959 — The cemetery is purchased by Vicksburg resident Joe Varner and named Green Acres Memorial Park Inc.
Nov. 16, 2001 — The property is sold to Mike Graham and renamed Green Acres of Vicksburg LLC.
Dec. 10, 2003 — The last annual perpetual-care trust fund report is filed by Graham with incomplete documentation and never accepted by the Warren County Chancery Court.
Oct. 19, 2005 — Acting as president of Green Acres of Vicksburg LLC, Stephanie Graham signs a consent agreement with the State of Mississippi to file annual reports.
Nov. 15, 2005 — There is a request from the Chancery Court clerk for annual perpetual-care fund reports.
March 31, 2006 — Secretary of state’s office says the required annual pre-need report was not received.
Nov. 7, 2006 — A final cease and desist order is issued to Green Acres of Vicksburg LLC for not complying with annual reporting requirements of the Pre-Need Act; Green Acres is ordered to stop selling pre-need contracts and its registration is revoked.
Dec. 31, 2007 — Mike Graham dies.
July 8, 2008 — Chancery Court clerk requests annual perpetual-care fund reports.
October 2008 — Files are removed from Green Acres’ office; days later, the office is dismantled and removed from the property.
Oct. 6, 2008 — A state audit begins of Green Acres’ contracts, documents and bank statements.
Jan. 22, 2009 — Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann announces that $373,000 is missing from Green Acres’ pre-need trust fund and sues for a temporary restraining order to freeze all bank accounts of Green Acres of Vicksburg LLC. A hearing is set for today in Warren County Chancery Court.
Iran’s secret purges
Caroline Samandari Posted: Feb 03, 2009 at 0119 hrs IST
Two weeks have passed since I heard the alarming news: Aziz Samandari, my cousin in Tehran, was arrested in a pre-dawn raid by Iranian intelligence officials. To date, no formal charges have been framed, and he has been denied both access to a lawyer and visits by relatives.
As I read the email sent by his wife, I burst into tears. I cannot help thinking about my grandfather, Professor Manuchehr Hakim, a renowned medical doctor, shot dead in January 1981 in his practice in Tehran. I was two, at the time living in Switzerland, and still too young to grasp the scale of the tragedy unfolding.
I also think of my uncle, Bahman Samandari, the father of Aziz, executed by Iranian authorities in March 1992, a day after being summoned for questioning. I was thirteen, and was told the terrible news by my father in Paris.
Why are my family members targeted? What crime have they all committed?
The answer is simple: they are members of the Bahai community, Iran’s largest religious minority, yet the most persecuted. The followers of this religion have been targets of systematic persecution in Iran since the inception of the Bahai Faith in the middle of the 19th century.
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In 1979, with the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the persecutions took a new direction, becoming official Government policy. Since then, more than 200 Bahais have been executed, hundreds imprisoned, and tens of thousands deprived of jobs, pensions and access to higher education. Holy places and cemeteries were confiscated, vandalised, or destroyed.
Bahais, who have great love for their country, are deeply committed to its development, and don’t get involved in partisan politics, are persecuted solely because of religious hatred and their faith’s progressive position on women’s rights, education and independent investigation of truth.
There are 300,000 Bahais in Iran. Yet they have been deliberately omitted from the list of the three religious minorities recognised in the Constitution, and are classified as “unprotected infidels”.
Time has passed, circumstances have changed. I am no longer a teenager. I now live in India. However, the brutal reality is still the same: my cousin is at great risk in the hands of the authorities of the Islamic Republic solely because of his belief in a religion — a religion whose main purpose is to promote world peace and harmony, and emphasises the underlying unity of the world’s spiritual traditions!
Cemetery project in Yatton on hold
Monday, February 02, 2009, 14:41
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Plans to create a new cemetery in Yatton are on hold – because parish leaders were worried people from outside the village would end up being buried there.
Yatton Parish Council decided to defer making a decision on whether to open a new burial ground next to the allotments in Mendip Road in partnership with North Somerset Council.
Council chiefs were concerned people from outside Yatton could be buried there is North Somerset was partly responsible for it – leaving limited space for villagers.
The parish council will investigate the costs of going it alone and providing a burial site just for the local community. If it agrees to run the cemetery it would be able to set criteria about who is buried there.
But it would first have to buy the land in Mendip Road, which is owned by North Somerset Council.
The parish council would also have to meet the costs for the burial site if the deal is agreed. It has already set aside £50,000 for the project.
Yatton Parish Council clerk, Richard Baker, said: "Some councillors felt that sharing the burial ground with North Somerset Council would mean that other communities would benefit from Yatton's expenditure.
"They were not happy with this, particularly as the total costs are not yet known.
"Instead councillors have decided to find out how much a burial ground on the site that was funded by Yatton Parish Council for the local community would cost."
The parish council will compare the costs of going it alone with running the cemetery with North Somerset. Councillors will look at the proposals again in six months.
Yatton Parish Council has spent thousands of pounds carrying out surveys of the site to see if the land is suitable for a cemetery.
"The majority of councillors felt that they did not have enough information about the financial commitment to the proposal," said Mr Baker.
"The parish council may have to pay several thousand pounds to get to the stage where work can begin, having already funded two surveys of the site.
"Once work begins there is uncertainty over the capital costs that the parish council will incur and how these costs might be recovered in the long term."
There are two cemeteries in Yatton, one a closed churchyard at St Mary's Church and another next to it operated by the parish council.
But the parish council burial site will be full in two years.
If no new site is identified, villagers may have to bury their loved ones in cemeteries in neighbouring villages or use the North Somerset Council-owned cemetery 10 miles away in Worle.
Other towns and villages across the district have also been struggling with the issue of lack of burial space.
Most of Nailsea's churchyards are full and there is only room for cremated remains in the town's garden of rest.
Clevedon Town Council is also under pressure to provide a new burial ground and has investigated sites, to no avail, across the town.