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July 16, 2024

Scouts Clean Local Cemetery

Was organized as part of an Eagle Scout project

By Jack Criss, The Bolivar Bullet

The Thomas Cemetery west of Merigold recently received a much-needed and massive clean-up by the Boy Scouts of America Troop 23 based in Cleveland.

As his Eagle Scout project, Havens Fioranelli – who lives in Merigold and whose family owns Fioranelli Fabricators – organized his troop on June 1 to cut limbs, do weed-eating, mow grass and, to literally top it off, install a new sign for the cemetery that Fioranelli himself made. 

Thomas Cemetery is the resting place of many of Merigold’s first settlers, according to Cleveland resident Lisa Miller, who wrote a Facebook post thanking the scouts for their hard work. Miller’s own great-great grandmother, Amanda Jane Crowley, is buried in the cemetery, which has been designated as a historic site by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

“Unfortunately, while this official designation allows Bolivar County to go onto the property and clean and maintain the cemetery, it does not mandate the county to do so,” said Miller. “That’s why it was so special that Havens and his troop of fellow scouts took upon themselves to work all day cleaning it up.”

Miller said the cemetery had not been kept up lately, partly as a result of not knowing where responsibility for such maintenance lies. 

“It’s never really been determined exactly who or what owns Thomas Cemetery, and many have tried to find out, including my father and his cousin,” said Miller. “It’s private property that came about – or was purchased – back when we had all of these little communities with churches and their cemeteries in the county. Of course, as people left, the churches would be torn down but the cemeteries remained. That’s the case with Thomas Cemetery.”

Miller said that, in years past, the late Sheriff, Mack Grimmett would get inmates to come and clean the cemetery and had done so a couple of times. As of late, however, even with the historic designation given by the state allowing the county and city to enter the property to clean it up, it has not been done due to lack of funds. 

“It’s frustrating but it’s hard to pin the blame anywhere,” said Miller. “Unfortunately, at Thomas Cemetery and others like it in the county, headstones have even been damaged or lost completely. Add to that the fact that many of our old cemeteries are used as garbage dumps or have been vandalized – it’s very disheartening. That’s why I wanted to recognize Havens and his troop for their outstanding job and showing initiative to help. It was a huge undertaking that required a lot of planning and a great many supplies – but they did a wonderful job. Thomas Cemetery looks better now than I’ve ever seen it, in fact.”

Miller said she has heard that the town of Merigold may be taking over the upkeep of Thomas Cemetery soon, but this has not been verified. “I hope that will be the case,” she said.

Scouting in Bolivar County will be celebrating 100 years of service in October, Miller added, “and all of the projects these young men are engaged in – and there are many – only goes to show how strong scouting still is today and the character it builds in the participants.”