DENHAM SPRINGS – Weed trimmers hummed while rakes made their familiar scraping noise pulling loose vines and trimmed tree limbs into piles on a hot morning.
The Rotary Club of Livingston Parish created the activity as its members pitched in to clear undergrowth, weeds and brush on Saturday, June 2, at the First Baptist Church Cemetery on Centerville Street.
“Everyone wanted to get out really, really early, at 7:30 a.m., to beat the heat,” said Jeanette Clark, community recovery coordinator with Denham Strong, who joined in the effort.
“I’ve been chopping,” Clark said, wearing the common battle gear to push back Mother Nature – a long-sleeved shirt and blue jeans, to fight vines and stickers, and boots.
Poison ivy was another common foe at the cemetery that began interments in 1868 and continued until 1982. It is now owned by the city.
“All that area had poison ivy and I’m terribly allergic,” said Casie McMurray, a Rotary Club member, gesturing toward a stand of bamboo more than 10 feet high.
“We did a lot with little tools,” she added.
McMurray’s mother has had an interest in genealogy for 40 years, she said, so the Rotarian went on “many” weekend field trips to cemeteries.
“There are many odd, old cemeteries around Louisiana,” McMurray said.
By 9:30 a.m., large garbage bags, saplings and limbs took up about 30 feet of the sidewalk on Centerville Street.
Clark was also helpful in getting the city maintenance department to bring a chain saw to cut lower limbs of one large oak tree.
Another live oak, with a diameter of 30 inches, rested on the ground, downed by Hurricane Gustav. City workers would move that one, Clark said.
Clearing the undergrowth on the western boundary of the cemetery uncovered a surprise.
A row of headstones, including three small ones for youth children, were revealed.
“I’m curious about which families have descendants in Denham Springs. It would be cool to find out,” McMurray said.