Locals form cemetery committee to support long term maintenance of Turtleskin

Published 7:00 am Thursday, July 25, 2019

Locals invested in the long-term maintenance of the Turtleskin Cemetery decided to ask the Hancock County Board of Supervisors to turn the cemetery into a public cemetery at a meeting Tuesday, said Hancock County Chancery Clerk Tim Kellar.

Kellar will meet with the Hancock Board of Supervisors to make the request sometime within the next month, he said.

The cemetery is located in the Stennis Space Center buffer zone, and is at roughly 75 percent capacity with over 1,500 grave sites. Some of the graves are over 100 years old, and people continue to be buried in the cemetery, Kellar said.

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After NASA leased the land where the old Corinth Baptist Church stood in 1962, the Hancock County chancery clerk became the cemetery’s trustee, Kellar said. Finding funds to maintain the cemetery has been a challenge. The cemetery had $10,000 from NASA for maintenance, and there have been multiple fundraising efforts from the community to maintain the cemetery, he said. The last large fundraising effort was in 2015. Kellar added that there is currently $1,000 in the account for cemetery maintenance and the four cleanings a year the cemetery receives costs $2,400 to $2,800.

Tuesday, community members formed a cemetery committee consisting of Lucian Roberson, Marty Kellar, Rosie Dorr, Joe Dawsey and Harry Frierson Jr., Kellar said.

Many of the people who attended Tuesday’s meeting have generations of family members buried in the cemetery, Kellar said.

“The communities down there before Stennis came in, those were some tightly knit communities,” Kellar said.

Currently, the cemetery has grass cut four times a year, Kellar said. If Hancock County made the cemetery public, the county would cut the grass twice a year. The cemetery committee would try to find funding to continue to do maintenance work the county would not do, like additional grass cutting, trimming large trees and repairing open graves, Kellar said.

The Hancock County Board of Supervisors has made three other cemeteries public, and Kellar believes the Board will accept Turtleskin based on its minutes from the 1940s, which refer to the Turtleskin Cemetery as being public.