Cotton Hill Cemetery

The graves of William Freeman and his family sparked an interest by an Aragon man to help preserve Cotton Hill Cemetery on Prospect Road. Volunteers raised a flagpole on the site to honor Freeman’s service late in the Civil War for the U.S. Cavalry.

The graves of hundreds of people were at the beginning of the year hidden away in the woods just outside of the Aragon city limits on Prospect Road, where a century ago a church stood.

Now a group of volunteers continue to bring back the final resting place of people whose names in many cases were never recorded on their gravestones, and provide a reminder of what came before in Polk County.

The work began earlier in the year thanks to the efforts of J.R. Forsyth, who is now heading up a new effort on the Restore Cotton Hill Cemetery Facebook page and with an GoFundMe campaign to match to bring a gazebo to the property that used to be home to Shady Grove Methodist Episcopal Church.

The campaign sought to raise $3,500 toward the goal of placing the structure in the same spot where at one point a pavilion once stood. They raised $450 online by Friday morning.

During the week, Forsyth updated the organization’s Facebook page to announce they found a gazebo for a low price, and were picking it up and bringing it into place on Friday after press time.

“We are trying to preserve this historic site for future generations heritage,” organizers said on the campaign website.

The site also reports the plan to use a local company to complete the work.

Volunteer work continues and estimates of the number of graves top more than 270 after a summertime figure of 180 was initially provided by volunteers on the site. They continue to find headstones that were buried under the soil many years before.

When Forsyth started the work previously in February, it was mainly a project to begin clearing the area of debris near the roadway. Then with the help of additional volunteers, they began finding graves and clearing more of the space around Cotton Hill Cemetery.

Forsyth said when he began work, the area was previously flooded.

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