A grave concern

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 10, 2022

Headstone leads to search for where baby was buried

It is not the sort of thing anyone wants to find on their property — a gravestone.

But that is just what Lacy Stevens found.

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“I was shocked,” she said.

Stevens, the marketing director for the Holiday Inn Express and Suites and TownePlace Suites by Marriott in Ironton, had recently purchased a house in town to be closer to work.

The property on 12th and Vine streets “had a lot of work that had to be done,” Stevens said. “There was a lot of garbage, a lot of overgrown brush, a lot of weeds. The yard was horrible.”

One day as they were cleaning up the back part of the yard, they came across a grave marker.

“It was a headstone, right in the yard,” she said. “I thought ‘Oh my goodness, surely there is not a grave in the backyard.’”

The marker was for an infant, Grayson Bellville and the dates from birth to death were about a year apart.

“I wasn’t thinking there would be a grave in the yard, but, if it was a baby, maybe there is a grave,” Stevens said.

She started looking into it and contacted the officials at Woodland Cemetery to see if they had any information.

“We find out that the baby had been buried there, but was removed,” Stevens said. “Their records stated the body had been removed. It was really weird, because the lady looked in one book and then said she had to look in another book to see where the body was moved to. She said people don’t usually do that, it is a very uncommon thing, but sometimes they move bodies.”

A search of the second book of records turned up… “Nothing. There is no record,” Stevens said. “The lady said she doesn’t have a record of the headstone, a record of the baby being there in the cemetery or being moved or anything.”

Seemingly at a dead end, Stevens started searching to find out “what is going on. Is there a baby in my backyard?”

After an online search, she found out that the baby’s sister had moved to Florida. The woman had passed away and there were no relatives there to ask about the headstone. She thought maybe the baby had been moved to Florida but he wasn’t buried there either.

Stevens tried to find out if there were any relatives in the area by looking up the records of the house, but those only went back to 1928, the year the baby was born. And it seems like all the baby’s relatives have passed away.

“So.. we have no records of the baby at the cemetery, we have no house records to follow,” Stevens said.

She decided to reach out to the home’s previous owner to see if he had any idea of what the situation is.

“He tells me that his brother volunteered at the cemetery and he told them that they removed the baby’s headstone and replaced it and that he told them he wanted the headstone, so they gave it to him,” Stevens said. “And when I asked the cemetery folks about it, they thought that was kind of strange and they hadn’t heard of anything like that happening. But everything is a possibility.”

Stevens and her friend, like many people, walk through the cemetery in the evenings for exercise sometimes.

“Sounds crazy, but a lot of people walk the cemetery,” she said. “And one evening, we were walking through the cemetery and we came across the baby’s grave! He is still buried in Woodland Cemetery. They removed the headstone, not the baby. That’s what the records should have shown. The headstone was replaced and he’s been there the whole time. His whole family is buried there.”

And what would Stevens have done if there was an infant buried in her backyard?

“I’m not sure,” she said. “I may have set it up as a nice little grave spot and put flowers in or try again to find family or someone who could have the baby moved to the cemetery if that was a possibility. But then, I don’t want to disturb the dead either.”

Currently, the headstone is still in her backyard while she tries to figure out where it should go.

“I’m not sure if I am going to donate it to the museum or if I am going to donate it back to the cemetery. I need to see where it should go,” Stevens said. “It is definitely not staying in my backyard.”