Restoration efforts renewed to preserve Johnson County cemetery

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PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. -- It's a piece of Sunflower State history hidden in a Johnson County neighborhood.

Think of it as a resting place surrounded by suburbia. There's a renewed effort to preserve an old cemetery, where many of the metro's founding fathers are buried.

It's a historical site in Johnson County with history dating back to the 1860's. The Highlands Cemetery has been on a small tract of land off 65th Street for roughly 150 years and despite the significance of many of the people buried here, it had fallen into ill repair for some time.

That's where Marianne Noll comes in.

“It was probably a child that was buried in 1860. That was probably the one buried in 1860, but we don't know the name,” Noll said.

Noll has spent the past year helping to restore the old graveyard, where members of the Nall and Porter families are buried. Those founding fathers once owned huge farms that are present-day Johnson County neighborhoods.

“This place is worth preserving,” Noll said.

Noll is the president of the cemetery's board of directors. She says a previous manager was trying to run the cemetery without help from others, and during that time, some of the history may have been lost.

“There was some vandalism in the late 80's, and the cemetery was cited for having tall weeds and not being mowed. There were limbs down and I think some headstones were lost at that time,” Noll said.

The graveyard may also be home to some unmarked graves. One section is said to be filled with Native Americans who were buried without markers.

Noll and her partners have arranged for landscapers to care for the property, and to construct this website, since this slice of history can't be allowed to slip away.

“It’s so it's easy to see that's a historic item. We need to do what we can to protect it,” Noll said.

Noll says there are local Boy Scout groups using the cemetery as part of their Eagle Scout projects, building park benches and surveying the land in an effort to preserve local history.

The Highland Cemetery is open to the public every day. You can follow this link to see the cemetery’s website, which thoroughly details its history.