Family, friends pleading for school board to stop cemetery excavation in Clay County

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit aimed at blocking the relocation of the graves, but cemetery supporters haven't given up their fight

MANCHESTER, Ky. (WTVQ) – Memorial Day ceremonies were held across Kentucky, but perhaps only one was mired in controversy at a small cemetery on a steep hill in Clay County.

The land is owned by the Clay County Board of Education. It wants to move the graves, saying it’s a potential safety issue. The board’s attorney calls the land a potential “sniper’s nest” since it overlooks an elementary school and athletic fields and is near the high school.

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit aimed at blocking the relocation of the graves, but cemetery supporters haven’t given up their fight.

“My great-aunt Jenny, she’s right here. My great grandparents are over here,” said Deborah Bray.

Bray has several family members buried in the Hoskins Cemetery in Manchester. She was one of several to attend a memorial service there Monday night.

The cemetery dates back more than a century. In this third of an acre, there are about 80 grave sites, including men who fought in the Civil War and descendants of Native Americans, according to cemetery supporters.

Stella house is an attorney in Manchester..

“Recently there was a situation where some of the people that we have become known as the “Friends of the Hoskins Cemetery” were being allowed to visit the graves here,” said House. “The board of education had denied that as far as Easter.”

House says the school board decided to allow visitors for Memorial Day weekend. She’s doing what she can to preserve the graveyard..

“We did file a federal action, which was dismissed, but there were state claims that were left undecided. And after that, I filed a state court action. That state court action is pending before the Clay County Circuit Court as this time,” said House.

On Monday, those family and friends took what could be the final walk through of the cemetery..

“Our family members are worth more that the baseball field,” said Margaret Sizemore. “And I think they (the Board of Education) should be ashamed of themself.”

“You can’t buy back history. This is history. This is something that you can’t put back. They (clay county board of education) could go the other direction and build their ball field. They could coexist with us and show the history what history is,” said Bray.

We reached out to Clay County school board for an interview. Superintendent William Sexton says they cannot comment on pending litigation.

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