By Morgan Bryce
Local Eagle Scout candidate Ryan Ketring is working to restore a vandalized structure in Opelika’s County Line Cemetery.
In 2013, vandals set fire to a grave shelter for an unknown child, with only a few charred pieces remaining after the blaze.
While searching for a community project to earn his Eagle Scout Badge, Ketring said he learned of the incident from a conversation with Auburn University professor Dr. Robert Bubb, an active leader in the cemetery’s restoration.
“Dr. Bubb (told me) that a child’s grave shed was burned down by vandals. I thought that (re)building (it) would be a meaningful service to the community,” Ketring said.
The cemetery occupies land that once belonged to County Line Church, which no longer exists.
According to research conducted by local historian Billy Page, five acres of land that the church and cemetery occupied were given by deed June 26, 1843, from Reuben Aldridge to Clark Aldridge and Wiley Davis.
Located next to the church was the cemetery, which contains more than 30 confirmed graves.
According to a press release from Lee County Cemetery Preservation Commission member Edna Ward, the cemetery is a site of major historical importance for Lee County residents.
“The earliest engraved death date is May 30, 1833, for Saluda Aldridge. Reuben Aldridge’s stone has a death date of Oct. 23, 1847,” Ward said. “Other than the graves with markers there are many that remain unknown. Most were marked with rocks.”
Two graves marked by stacked rocks could denote the importance of the people buried there, which Ward and fellow LCCPC members believe to be former pastors of the church.
Moving to completion
Ketring said he expects to have the project finished later this month or by early September.
Because of the cemetery’s remote location and lack of water or electricity, Ketring will have to prepare and partially assemble the materials elsewhere before finishing the project on-site.
Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said he and his staff are proud of Ketring’s efforts, and are working diligently to protect local cemeteries from future acts of vandalism.
“Unfortunately, some people took it upon themselves to destroy (the shelter), and it’s just a real shame that people would do anything like that in the first place. Obviously, the loved ones of the interred are the ones that had that done in the memory of their family member, and with any type of vandalism like that, I fail to see any logic or reasoning,” Jones said. “Our efforts are concentrated on identifying and arresting individuals who engage in any activity that results in vandalism to any of our cemeteries around Lee County. I can’t go into details, but we are taking measures to prevent similar things like this from happening in the future.”
To date, more than $250 of the $600 needed to complete the project has been donated.
Tax-deductible donations can be mailed to:
Lee County Cemetery Preservation Commission, c/o Edna Ward
1319 Clearmont Circle Opelika, Alabama 36801.
For more information or photos, like and follow the LCCPC Facebook page.