It was two summers ago when Doug and Lynn Andrews happened upon the salvation of a little-known cemetery in rural Scott County that had not been used in more than a century.
The couple stopped by the Burch Cemetery outside Eldridge, where they found a crew of Scott County Jail inmates working under the supervision of Don Rupe, the community restoration officer for the sheriff's department.
“They wanted to know since we were doing that kind of work if we would be interested in restoring the Linn Grove Cemetery,” Rupe said. “I had no idea it existed.”
Linn Grove Cemetery is located on Allen’s Grove Road between Donahue and Maysville. For the past two years, inmate crews have been working to restore the burial ground that was last used in the 1870s. They mowed and cleared debris, and even gathered pieces of old headstones so they could put them back together.
Some of those headstones were returned to their proper places last spring, while still more were reinstalled over the summer.
“We live around the corner from that cemetery,” Lynn Andrews said. “We knew it was down there, and my husband and I began doing some research on it. There used to be a church there that, for a while, was used as a barn."
The couple provided what research they had, Scott County Sheriff Dennis Conard said.
“I spent 30 years on patrol and never knew there was a cemetery there,” he said.
Rupe took headstone pieces to the Scott County Sheriff’s Department annex on Tremont Street in Davenport. There, he and the inmates working on his crew began identifying the pieces and putting them back together with epoxy.
“We have a list of the lot owners that helps us ensure the headstones we restore are put in the proper place,” Rupe said.
For instance, he said, a man named B. Gray purchased a half-lot at tier 2 and another at tier 4. At the time, half-lots cost $2.50. Full lots were $5.
On one headstone that had been put back together, Rupe took a piece of tinfoil and made a rubbing by using his fingers to push the foil into place so he could read the words faded by water, dirt and time.
The headstone reads: "Infant daughter of B. and A.C. Gray, aged 2 months." The hard-to-read date was either Jan. 9, 1862, or Jan. 9, 1867.
Conard said he was able to get a grant last year from the Riverboat Development Authority for the cemetery restoration expenses.
Also, the Crapnell Land Surveying Co. of Davenport researched the property deeds and cemetery plots, Conard said, and obtained a copy of the original deed.
Earlier this year, the Scott County Sheriff Accident Response Team plotted the cemetery based on the Crapnell survey and a map that was done by historian Scharlott Blevins of Davenport.
Blevins said she and Lorraine Duncan spent 12 years cataloging as many cemeteries as they could find in Scott County.
"We went in and transcribed whatever stones were available, and if I remember, most were laying down, most were broken," she said.
Looking over her book, she found an entry about Linn Grove from April 26, 1975. "The place was covered in weeds, and many of the headstones were either knocked over or were in pieces." She and Duncan had to put some of the headstones together to get the names off of them.
Conard said the work on the cemetery will continue until it is completed.
Inmates who work in the Community Restoration Program earn time that goes toward reducing their sentences, Rupe said. The program does work for nonprofit organizations in Scott County as well as projects in the county that benefit the community as a whole such as cemetery restorations.