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At almost 150, Carroll Cemetery could hit national historic register

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cemetery entrance 21-02-11s

The Carroll Cemetery is approaching its 150th year, and local historians are working to have it placed on the national historic register.

Almost all cemeteries are historic by nature.

But the Carroll Cemetery, started in 1872 — the final resting place of original settlers and Civil War veterans, and more recent community leaders, not to mention family and friends of thousands of current and former Carroll residents — has more historical ties than most burial grounds, local historians say after exhaustive research.

Which is why the City of Carroll’s Historic Preservation Commission has filed the paperwork seeking status for the cemetery on the National Register of Historic Places.

“I think it will definitely be a point of pride for the community,” said Vicki Gach, vice president of the Historic Preservation Commission. “We have something that has that much tradition. Plus, it is kind of a living monument to the dead.”

Gach worked with Carolyn Siemann, the City Council liaison to the commission, on the application materials for the national registry. They hope to have an answer from the National Park Service by the end of the year so the designation can be incorporated in celebrations of the cemetery’s 150th anniversary in 2022.

No major costs have been associated with the historic registry work so far. If the designation is approved, the city likely will place a plaque and otherwise spotlight the honor. Most of the expense will be covered by volunteer time.

“We have some ideas for activities,” Gach said.

A designation could be not only a local honor but also a promotional vehicle for people interested in visiting the cemetery for research and historical tourism.

The German-American history and landscaping at Carroll’s cemetery are distinctive, Gach said.

What’s more, the connection to the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration program, which improved and expanded the cemetery in the 1930s, is essential in the history, Gach said.

There also are war memorials, including plaques containing the names of 68 people from Carroll who fought in the Civil War.

In total, there are 17,788 burial spaces in the Carroll Cemetery, As of Thursday, 8,895 are occupied, 3,288 are available for sale; and 5,602 are reserved.

Gach and Siemann went well back into the 19th century for their research, relying on old City Council minutes and newspaper articles, among other materials.

In fact, Gach said, they reviewed hand-written minutes of some of the first Carroll City Council meetings from 1869 to 1878.

“I scanned that whole book,” Gach said. “It’s fascinating.”

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