Saving a forgotten piece of history

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HAGERMAN, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) Stan Bartlett was diagnosed with spinal cancer and told that he was not going to beat the disease. In turn, he told his doctor "yes" he was.

“Well you can sit around the house, lay around, waste away or go away. I’m not going to do that," Bartlett said. "I’m going to stay out and fight, and go after it. So I do different things in the neighborhood.”

One of those things includes giving the Hagerman Pioneer Cemetery a well needed face-lift.

“I just thought it was the thing to do," he said. "It would help the community. Some appreciate it, some could care less. They didn’t want the levy to pass because they didn’t want their taxes to go up. So this will make it so Tom can get some help, I can get some help and I’ll still help out. I’m not caring and need something to do."

Luckily a levy passed in Gooding County, which will increase the government funding toward the upkeep of the cemeteries across the county.

“Stan stepped up and thought that it’s worth the effort to fix this cemetery up a little bit,” said Tom Smith. "Then he just took off. He’s responsible for this place looking like a decent cemetery now."

Sexton of the cemeteries in Gooding County, Smith is in charge of the maintenance and other grounds up-keep. With low funding and lack of motivation from those previously in the position, there was a lot of work to be done with limited resources to do so.

The Hagerman Pioneer Cemetery was in rough shape, overgrown and hardly any indication of where graves were.

"I went and talked with Tom and the board, and the guys," Bartlett said. "I had already been doing some things here and I thought maybe I was in trouble. But I went out and they were happy with what I was doing and told me to go ahead so I kept on doing."

“Stan’s the only guy that saw the need to take a little bit of care of this old place and got in his car and came down here and did it,” Smith said.

His first order of business was using his weed eater to knock down the over grown weeds and grass. He also received help from those in the community who brought their tractors and lawn mowers to help speed up the process. But there’s no down time as the landscape grows back.

“Now a little rain and the crusted wheat grass shoots up. I’m real familiar with that from running cattle most of my life, and being on the farms and stuff. So it’s time to get the mower out again before it gets out of hand and run over it if we can get a few of these sunny days,” Bartlett said.

Bartlett has taken it upon himself to do the necessary research in order to attempt to identify the unmarked graves and preserve those that are still standing.

“Things are kind of unmarked, but I’ve been doing a lot of records and I’ve got folders in the car about two inches deep. I just keep doing research on it. There’s a few rocks in here that has names on them and dates. And there’s a few graves that you know are graves. They may have a rock, but I’ve marked a couple, and filled in a couple of the holes,” Bartlett said.

During his research and cleaning he found the grave of a 3-year-old child. The fencing of the original cemetery had been moved for farming purposes so the grave is on the outside of the perimeter. Stan went and created a head stone for the grave so that way it wouldn’t go unnoticed any longer.

“There was a baby's grave down there that was unmarked," he said. "Nobody seems to know, but I did a lot of research on it about who it was. Their name is listed on the paperwork, but there’s no map of the cemetery and the plots or one that we can find, but there is one someplace.”

Stan is constantly searching for more information on those buried, as well as a map of exactly who is plotted where. He doesn’t plan on stopping his volunteer efforts anytime soon or letting cancer win.

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