Y'all know that one of the great loves of my life is baseball. Another of my loves is the little town I live in (Lexington, Missouri) and its history. So when I found out that Phil Dixon, a Negro Leagues Baseball author, was coming to Lexington and needed volunteers for a project, I was in.
Mr. Dixon was hoping to find the grave of Negro Leagues player Bill Lindsay, who was born in Lexington and pitched for the Leland Giants and a couple of other teams until his untimely death in 1914 at the young age of 23. It's known that Bill Lindsay's body was brought back to Lexington and it's very likely he was buried at Forest Grove Cemetery.
Forest Grove Cemetery was founded in 1890 as a black cemetery. Over the years it's suffered from neglect and occasional vandalism, and lately two local men have been trying to take care of it mostly by themselves. It's a fairly large cemetery and, honestly, too much for just two men to maintain. They'd been doing a good job of mowing the center of the cemetery, but weeds, brush, and small trees were taking over the boundaries of the cemetery. Mr. Dixon and the Lexington United Methodist Church asked for volunteers to help clean it up.
About 30 people showed up that morning and we divided into smaller groups all around the cemetery and got to work.
A couple friends and I waded into the brush to mark graves before other people came in with mowers and brush hogs.
Some graves are marked only with the metal markers from the funeral home, so it was slow going.
Damaged trees were cut down and the whole area cleared out.
A local asphalt and tree-trimming company donated their services for the day. They kept working long after the rest of us had stopped for lunch.
Mike Slaughter (on the left) is one of the caretakers for the cemetery. He was overwhelmed by all the help and how much better the cemetery looked. That's Phil Dixon on the right, who came out to look for Bill Lindsay's grave.
He found a Lindsay family gravestone. It has several generations of Shelby, Lindsay, and Mady names engraved on all four sides of it. One of the names is Bill Lindsay's mother's.
Bill Lindsay had eight siblings, and there's a large open space around this gravestone, so it's Mr. Dixon's belief that Bill is buried here without a marker.
The difference in the cemetery's appearance by the end of the day is amazing.
It hardly looks like the same place.
The contractors who volunteered even graded the road and filled in low spots in the cemetery.
Phil Dixon wrote later, "The best part of my Lexington visit was seeing how members of Lexington’s local United Methodist Church and others in the community came together to clean up Forest Grove Cemetery. The diversity of the group which worked on the cemetery was inspiring. It’s amazing what can be achieved when people work together for a common good will."