“They did a really good job,” said Virginia McMurtrey, surveying about 500 freshly-cleaned headstones at Sweeton Pond Cemetery.
McMurtrey is treasurer of the Sweeton Pond Cemetery Board, which cares for the Sweeton Pond Cemetery not quite a mile north of Roy’s Store on Highway 181 in Dora. The caretakers recently enlisted the professional cleaning services of Chaney Monument in Gainesville for the job.
Before the cleaning, said McMurtrey, a lot of the older headstones couldn’t be read, at least, not easily. Now, the cemetery board is looking for volunteers to help with the cemetery’s upkeep and keep the headstones looking good.
“We really need younger people to be more involved,” she emphasized. With the board members getting older, said McMurtrey, it is getting harder to do everything that needs to be done.
One new member has been added recently: Leslie Grisham Rogers is the board’s new secretary.
The cemetery gets its name from a nearby sinkhole lake, settled by members of the Sweeton family, some of whom are buried in the cemetery.
According to former longtime caretaker Dale Grisham, a Civil War skirmish happened nearby and several Civil War soldiers are buried in graves marked only by large rocks.
According to a survey of Ozark County cemeteries, the oldest readable headstone is that John Wesley Gunter who died in 1876. With the recent cleaning by Chaney Monument, that headstone has been given new life.
There are other interesting headstones: One has a marble collection embedded into it and another is made of cast iron and has a door that when opened reveals a picture of the woman who is buried beneath.
“There’s a lot of history around here,” said board President Hershel Hollingshad.
Hollingshad said the area has a history of importance for the locals. The Sweeton Pond Community Church across the road used to be the Dora Community Center and a school house.
Also, the nearby lake was important local water source during the severe droughts of the Great Depression, according to Hollingshed.
In addition to board members the cemetery board is asking for donations and volunteers to help maintain the cemetery and pay for cleaning.
For more information call 417-261-2552 or send donations to Virginia McMurtrey, treasurer, RR 1, Box 2889, Dora, MO 65637.