City looking into selling cemetery plots to raise money for parks department

It’s been more than 90 years since the old City Cemetery in Seymour has been used regularly for burials.

But that soon could change.

Fred Lewis, a Seymour native and former longtime city official, has requested to be buried there when he dies. Lewis served as the city’s clerk-treasurer for 28 years before retiring at the end of 2019.

The city has hired Omega Mapping Services out of Fortson, Georgia, to map the entire cemetery, around eight acres, with ground penetrating radar.

Last Thursday, the Seymour Board of Public Works and Safety signed a contract to pay a total of $20,407 to Omega to learn where all of the graves are located.

“After doing lots of research, we discovered that the board of works is the board in charge of the cemetery,” said Mayor Matt Nicholson. “We have a longtime city employee that would like to be buried in the city cemetery. For me to be comfortable doing that, I believe we need to bring somebody in to do ground penetrating radar so that we make sure we don’t disturb anybody.”

The cemetery has enough land for an estimated 4,000 burial plots, but records indicate only between 400 and 500 actual graves there, he added.

By having the cemetery mapped, the city could sell burial plots for around $400 with the income benefiting the Seymour Parks and Recreation Department, which has mowed and maintained the property since the 1980s, Nicholson said.

“If the numbers are correct that we’ve been able to find via records, there should be about $1.4 million worth of plots left in the cemetery,” he said.

Founded in 1816, the cemetery, which is located along State Road 11 (North Ewing Street) was used for 111 years. It was originally land owned by Seymour’s founding family, the Shieldses.

The St. Ambrose Catholic Cemetery, which is on the north side of the property, is still in use today and is maintained by the church.

By 1927, most burials in Seymour were taking place at Riverview Cemetery, less than a mile north of the City Cemetery.

The City Cemetery contains the headstones of Seymour’s most notorious sons, Frank, Simeon and William Reno, the brothers who led the Reno gang to commit the world’s first train robbery in Seymour in 1866.