Work to preserve and protect the abandoned “Poor Farm Cemetery” was completed on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. Previously located in an obscure, overgrown section of the River Ridge Commerce Center (RRCC), representatives from James Construction Company and Corn Island Archeology, who performed the relocation work, joined members of the River Ridge Board of Directors and staff at Caldwell Cemetery for a rededication ceremony. The new site – near Charlestown State Park – is now clearly marked with a plaque that honors the final resting place for those originally interred at the Poor Farm Cemetery from 1923 to 1939.
“Corn Island Archaeology spent nearly 11 weeks disinterring the 33 individuals at the Poor Farm Cemetery. That in itself demonstrates the level of care that was taken to ensure that every piece of human remains and all associated items from the graves were recovered and preserved,” said Anne Tobbe, Principal at Bader of Corn Island Archaeology. “Throughout the entire process, the remains were treated with a level of respect that is due to any person, regardless of their station in life. We take pride in our role during this project that afforded the deceased a peaceful, dignified, and lasting resting place.”
The Poor Farm Cemetery was created near the 4-H Fairground in Clark County and became part of the Indiana Army Ammunition Plant during the 1940s. As the area expanded, several industrial and manufacturing facilities were built near the cemetery, and it fell into disrepair with no readable headstones or markers.
River Ridge Development Authority (RRDA), which is responsible for redevelopment of the former Indiana Army Ammunition Plant, purchased the land and the cemetery from the U.S. Army in 2012. As demolition of the World War II-era structures around the cemetery continued, local officials and RRDA agreed that the cemetery should be moved to a more appropriately maintained location that honors the life and legacy of the deceased.
“River Ridge is committed to preserving and building upon southern Indiana’s rich history and the hardworking people who helped our communities thrive,” said RRDA Board President J. Mark Robinson. “That is why it is so important to always remember our friends, families and neighbors who have departed – and the new, beautiful home of Poor Farm Cemetery does just that for the Hoosiers we may otherwise have forgotten.”
“I’m deeply impressed with the reverence and respect shown in the completion of this relocation by project leaders at Corn Island and James Construction,” said Charlestown Mayor Treva Hodges. “Placement at the Caldwell Cemetery offers a peaceful and beautiful final rest for the residents of the Poor Farm and it’s comforting to know the location is protected from any future development.”
RRDA worked closely with state officials and archaeological experts from Corn Island Archeology as well as James Construction Company to ensure the relocation was conducted respectfully and with the necessary permits. In fact, at the Sept. 22 ceremony, Dan James of James Construction Company applauded the meticulous care with which archeologists handled the graves. In total, 38 names were identified and inscribed on the new permanent marker in Caldwell Cemetery.
Press release provided from River Ridge Development Authority.