Historic cemetery program at Sundance library


February 14, 2019

Courtesy photo

Vernon Davis

Crook County Library in Sundance will host a program by Beulah resident Vernon Davis on Friday, February 15 at 7 p.m. in the library meeting room. The program is free and open to the public. The topic of Mr. Davis' program will be "Saving the Past: Preserving Historic Black Hills Cemeteries."

Davis has longtime ties to this area that date back to his ancestor, Buckskin Johnny Spaulding, who led a wagon train into the Black Hills in 1876 and helped build the Spearfish stockade to protect settlers in the area from Indian raids. After stones marking resting places of his relatives and Civil War veterans from both sides were decimated, Davis brought the Society of Black Hills Pioneers into the fight against vandalism.

Their cemetery protection program has been effective from Custer to Johnson Siding to Belle Fourche...and on to our Beulah Cemetery as well. Rewards were raised for information leading to the conviction of cemetery vandals.

Steel signs announcing the rewards were put at cemetery entrances around the Black Hills area. They were successful in retrieving stolen stones and prosecuting vandals. They have restored neglected cemeteries and built fences around them.

As Davis says, "All of our history is in those cemeteries. All of those people are our history. If we're not going to take care of the cemeteries, then we aren't going to take care of anything else."

"Cemetery guru" Vernon Davis is a lifetime member of the Lawrence County Historical Society and has been recognized for his work in cemetery preservation and restoration. He grew up in Belle Fourche, South Dakota and served in the South Dakota National Guard, the Navy Seabees and the Air Force Reserves.

He operated a plumbing and construction business in California for nearly 20 years before deciding to "come home." Now retired, his life's work has become the protection and restoration of our 100-plus-year-old Black Hills cemeteries.

Anyone interested in the cemetery restoration project can write to Davis at PO Box 291, Beulah, WY 82712, or call 307-643-7178 for more information.


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