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St. Louis woman's fight to save historic Black cemetery in western Missouri

Many of those buried at Forest Grove were born into slavery but some fought in the Civil War and others were community leaders

LEXINGTON, Mo. — Winter is never rushed in Lexington, Missouri.

It leaves a lasting impression, not unlike the town's history.

"When I was very small, my dad and I would drive by it," said Judy Lindquist. "He said to me one day as we were driving past, do you know what that is?  And I said to him well, it's a cemetery."

On the north edge of Lexington is Forest Grove Cemetery where buried beneath the snow is America's past.

"The property was purchased from a farmer by the city of Lexington in 1854 for the burial of the local slaves," Lindquist said.

Lindquist is a St. Louisan now but she grew up in Lexington.  

A few years ago she started the Forest Grove Cemetery Project to make sure the dead here stayed alive.

"It was getting really out of shape," said Lindquist. "Overgrown and headstones are being knocked over and vandalism."

"I have two sets of three great grandparents buried in there, my three great grandparents were all slaves," said Allan Lee.

Lee, who lives in Kansas City,  also grew up in Lexington and was one of the first people to join the project.

"The population of African Americans in a town got smaller," he said, "and then they no longer we're capable of taking care of the cemetery and it was basically abandoned."

But believing our yesterdays can help illuminate our todays, so Judy started doing exhaustive research. She found more than 350 people buried here who at one point were slaves. Plus, seven black Civil War veterans.  And that was just the beginning.

"The Boldridge name here in Lexington is synonymous with actually the happiest place in town," Don Coen said while visiting the cemetery. Coen is a Lexington resident.

It turns out that Floyd Boldridge ran the barbershop that his grandfather started in 1918. They stayed in business so long because, as one article put it, you could get a good haircut and good conversation for a low price.

Through death certificates and other papers, Judy compiled hundreds of accounts and put them all in a new book called "Forest Grove Cemetery: History, Faces and Stories".

"I've been doing genealogy for probably 25 or 30 years," she said. "And I find through that that we are all connected, it is amazing."

Repairs have already begun but the Forest Grove Cemetery project is hoping to raise more money, so the past can be more present to anybody who visits.

"I think we always need to be reminded of our history," Coen said.

"I want them to honor the people who were there because of all that they accomplished, and all that they went through," said Lindquist. 

Judy Lindquist and the Forest Grove Cemetery Project.

A mission of preservation and restoration for generations to come.

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