Troop No. 57 Boy Scouts Brandon Oligschlaeger and Lucas Handlin, both 16 of Mexico, spent several hours of their every Monday Scout meeting and a few weekends last year, cleaning and restoring two historic cemeteries as a service project to earn the rank of Eagle Scout. Both boys have been in scouting since age 10, and honor the Scout' Oath of "helping other people at all times."
Charles Boydstun, a member of the Audrain County Area Genealogical Society said he was approached last year by Oligschlaeger's father, Paul, who said he had two scouts interested in cleaning up old cemeteries as their service project. Paul Oligschlaeger is the Troop No. 57 Scout Master.
The two cemeteries Boydstun recommended were in very poor condition. One was the Bomar Family Cemetery, and the second was New Hope Christian Cemetery, also known as Seed Tick Cemetery. According to Boydstun, the boys took on "very difficult jobs" restoring both graveyards that date back to the 1800s.
"I think it was a great service to the Audrain County community for taking on and completing this very difficult job. It would have taken all their spare time, probably all summer. It also shows me how their parents must have sacrificed their time to encourage and help their sons, and they should be honored also," Boydstun said.
When Brandon Oligschlaeger started the Bomar Family Cemetery project, most of the fence was down, all the stones were knocked over, some were broken, most had been moved, and brush, weeds, trees and limbs were scattered all over the quarter-acre cemetery plot of land – now owned by the Saiid Fayad family.
Local genealogy data shows the property – located in the Salt River Township, south and west of the interchange of Highway 54 and the West Bridge over Scattering Fork of Salt River – was specified in George Bomar's last Will and Testament, dated 6 Feb. 1867.
In his Will, Bomar directed that the "Family Grave Yard" was to be at least 1/4 acre, to be fenced in, and in case the home property is sold, the cemetery is to be preserved." Mr. Bomar's Will further stated that the Executor "is to erect a neat tombstone for me (George Bomar) and for every other grave of my family in the graveyard."
However, the family graveyard had been used several years before George Bomar's Will. The first record the Audrain Genealogy Society has is Sarah Byrn, the mother of Nancy Byrn Bomar, George's wife. She died on 28 April 1844. Next was Nancy T. Bomar, daughter of George and Nancy Bomar. She died 17 Oct. 1845, age 17 days. The society also has the records of two slaves buried there, M.F.R.M. Footstone and N.T.B. Footstone, who was called "Aunt Nancy."
When young Oligschlaeger completed the project he had installed new fencing, cut down trees and limbs as needed, and cleaned up the entire cemetery. Because he didn't know where to reinstall the fallen tombstones, Oligschlaeger poured a concrete slab approximately 2x8 foot in the center of the cemetery and installed the loose stones on the poured concrete.
Page 2 of 3 - "Doing this project makes me feel like I've done something in this world that I can leave behind forever. It makes me proud to say I did it, and hopefully, makes my family and the families of those buried there, proud. I'm just a small part of the project; eventually someone will have to go back and redo it again," Oligschlaeger said. While the Mexico HIgh School sophomore is undecided about his career path after high school, he's thinking about becoming a nuclear engineer or an attorney. His parents are Paul and Lisa Oligschlaeger of Mexico.
Handlin chose The New Hope Christian Cemetery as his community project, and shortly after starting, learned that he had relatives buried there.
The New Hope Cemetery, located on Route JJ, about 100 yards from the Union Baptist Church and Cemetery, is on the right or west side of the road, surrounded by a fence and an archway that reads "New Hope Cemetery" on the top.
When Handlin started the cleanup, the brush, weeds and trees had grown and fallen on most of the tombstones, knocking over many and causing some to be buried. Not only did Handlin clean up the weeds and brush, he cut down trees and limbs and hauled off the excess. He then poured concrete to reset the stones, as needed. Handlin's ancestors buried in the cemetery were members of the Watts family.
Handlin said for years, he and his family have passed the cemetery nearly every day, looking at the disarray of tombstones and its lack of proper repair and care.
"It was pretty bad," Handlin said. "But, finding out that I had family buried there gave me the second-wind or urge to want to complete the project even more," Handlin said. "Though there are no living relatives (other than his mother) that we could find, just knowing that I did something for the church that once stood there, makes me feel that I've successfully completed something that the descendants of those buried there can appreciate."
Handlin is the son of local heart specialist Dr. Larry Handlin and Dr. Leslie Miller Handlin of Mexico. "Doing the project gives respect to all those buried there and to their living family," Handlin said.
"Just the fact that it was so very overgrown with weeds, and I was able to make it not an eyesore anymore and something people can look at and tell it's a cemetery, makes me feel good," Handlin said. According to Handlin, the cemetery is a family graveyard and the church that once stood there disappeared sometime in the 1900s.
Both boys helped each other with their projects, and both admit it was tedious at times. The two joined Scouts in the third grade and have been friends a long time. Handlin said the experience has taught him "the importance of giving back to your community."
Page 3 of 3 - In addition to Oligschlaeger and Handlin, Troop No. 57 also had six other Scouts that earned their Eagle status in 2012. They were:
1. Sean Kelly, who placed medallions on basin drains for the Missouri American Water Company, that cautions people not to discard trash and debris inside drains. Kelly also mapped out a third of the drain locations.
2. Brent Hildebrand, collected coats for charity.
3. Paul Moody, painted the walls of the First Christian Church.
4. Gus Moody, painted the walls of the First Christian Church.
5. Caleb Phipps, constructed a flower bed at the Kentucky Road Christian Church.
6. Matt McManus, made a bench for St. Brendan Catholic Church;
"Projects like these say a lot about the Scouts and their commitment to follow through with their goals. Being a part of the community, they know the importance of doing their best within their community, and always being there to help people. I'm very proud of them," Scout Master Oligschlaeger said the ceremony recognizing these eight Scouts is still being planned. He said the program will likely be held in April, hosted by Troop at the St. John's Lutheran Church in Mexico – which sponsors Troop No. 57.
The Audrain County Area Genealogical Society office is located in the basement of the Mexico-Audrain County Library. The group meets every third Sunday of each month, except for the months of June, July, August and December. Volunteers are generally available every Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons, or by special appointment. Members help guests with research about their families or local events. Guests from not only the local area, but from all across the country. The society has even done research for guests overseas. Assistance is offered in person or by telephone, e-mail or U.S. Postal Service. The group has from 125 to 150 active members. Income needed is generated from yearly membership dues and query fees, which pays for additional books, supplies, copy paper, and service fees for copy machines, computers, and microfilm reader/copiers.
The Audrain Co. Area Genealogical Society address is 305 W. Jackson, Mexico MO. 65265, and the telephone number is (573) 581-4939.
The e-mail address, website and Facebook page are firstname.lastname@example.org, www.acags.org. and www.facebook.com/audraigenealogy respectively.