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Rusk County- 3/31/03

Historical Cemetery Damaged By Vandals

More than 30 gravestones are damaged at a historical cemetery in Rusk county.

It happened at the Harmony Hill cemetery located just outside the entrance to Martin Creek State Park near Tatum.

"My grandmother. She died the year I was born," says Melton Turnington as he looks at a gravestone marking is grandmother's grave.

Most of Melton's family is buried here at the Harmony Hill cemetery.

"This cemetery was started a few years after Texas won it's independence from Mexico," says Melton.

He spends a lot of time here and has learned an entire history about the now non-existent town of Harmony Hill and the people who lived there.

"This right here is Mrs. Emma Pierce and she was our first lady pharmacist," says Melton as he points to another stone.

Melton is on a committee that oversees the up keep of the cemetery.

Last Monday he found that vandals had also paid the cemetery a visit.

"When I walked in looked around and saw some of the monuments that were turned over. I didn't look too far cause I got so upset about it."

More than thirty gravestones were knocked down.

Melton believes the vandals used a rope and hook he found near the grounds to knock the markers over.

"This has happened before but it wouldn't be but two or three or four were done. It's been about three years ago somebody came in and turned a few over but we fixed them but this has been the worst damage we've had."

Melton says a $500 reward is being offered for the arrest and conviction of the vandals.

If you have any information you can call the Rusk county sheriff's department.

Amy Tatum, reporting.

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