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Versailles cemetery works with Kentucky National Guard Historian to ID unmarked graves

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Posted at 5:51 PM, May 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-18 17:55:48-04

WOODFORD COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — Donated to First Baptist Church in 1950, Steele Cemetery is one of the few Black cemeteries in Versailles. Now, its leaders are working to identify hundreds of unmarked graves.

Steele Cemetery President, Donald H. Morton, says, "A lot of them out here, you see those open spots, they are spots where there are graves, but no headstones, and a lot of them are veterans."

The goal is to connect families to their loved ones and honor veterans. 94-year-old Anna Caise has more than two dozen relatives buried here. She believes reconnecting families is important.

"It helps a lot," said Caise. "Some go away and don't come back, so, they don't know where they're buried."

There are more than 500 unmarked graves in the cemetery and say so far, Steele Cemetery has been able to connect two families to their loved ones, and they hope to connect a lot more.

"We just hope that more reach out and get this opportunity. Or they might not be veterans -- just identify where they are," Morgan shared.

John Trowbridge is a historian for the Kentucky National Guard. His research identified the first black soldiers enlisted in the Kentucky Guard in 1955. One soldier was buried in Steele Cemetery. He connected with Donald Morton.

"I asked him, I said, ‘Do we know where Benny Parrish is buried out there? And he said 'Yea, I think so'. He looked through the documents and we met earlier this week and they know exactly where he's buried, and he does not have a headstone,” recalled Trowbridge.

Trowbridge has helped get veterans headstones dating back to the Revolutionary war. Many people don't know that the military will provide these. Now, he and Morton will work to get as many veterans' headstones as they can at Steele Cemetery.

"They've earned this honor to be recognized and this is a very simple way to recognize that service and not only for our generation but for those future generations that know, here lies a hero."

Morton’s father is buried in Steele Cemetery -- he's one of many veterans. Morton says this project is something he was called to do.

"The family knows the importance of the history of Steele Cemetery. This point today, it'll put us on the map that we love our cemetery, we love our loved ones."

Both men are meeting back out at Steele Cemetery this Saturday to get started on identifying graves.

The cemetery's board works hard to keep the space nice to honor those who've died.

If anyone believes their loved ones are buried at steel cemetery or they would like to donate, the cemetery’s mailing address is:

Steele cemetery

P.o. box 1342

Versailles, Ky 40383