NEWTONIA — Vandals have hit and destroyed a dozen headstones in the old Civil War Cemetery in Newtonia.
"An anonymous person called, said her daughter had been up there at the cemetery and she called me, said she seen these headstones all busted up," Newtonia Mayor George Philliber told the Neosho Daily News.
"These (destroyed headstones dated back) in the 1880s, most of them. It looks like they took a sledgehammer to them. (Some of the) stones were scattered all over for 20 feet away from them."
According to Philliber, the stones were located in the southwest corner of the cemetery and he suspects it happened sometime Friday. Philliber was called on Saturday and he also contacted the Newton County Sheriff's Department, who then came out.
The cemetery – which sits north of Newtonia – precedes the Civil War. The earliest stone dates back to 1858 and has one known Civil War Union solider buried there. There might be other soldiers both on the Confederate side and the Union side. The cemetery was overgrown for a number of years and in the 1970s, Boy Scouts came in and cleaned it up. Over the years, other groups including Boy Scouts, volunteers and members of the Newtonia Battlefields Protection Association (NBPA) have cleaned the cemetery, which has 400 graves and 200 unaccounted for.
The cemetery is still used today to an extent.
"The last time that I remember someone being buried up there was 2006 or 2007," the mayor said.
After seeing what the culprit or culprits did to the headstones, Philliber said, "they are destroyed, there is no way to put them back together. It is sickening what they did to them."
According to Newton County Sheriff Ken Copeland, "we have no suspects at this time. We will do extra patrol. We urge the residents and the locals to keep a watch for anything.
"They (headstones) are irreplaceable, regardless," he said. "They estimated around $24,000 damage, that is just monetary damage, that is not counting the historical."
For now, Philliber said, "We will just have to keep our eyes and ears open. Hope somebody gets to talking to somebody and turns them in."
If anyone has any information, contact the Newton County Sheriff's Department investigation division at 451-8300.