Several years ago Judy Magnuson Lilly, Salina Historian, researched and designed a Gypsum Hill Cemetery Self-Guided Tour of thirty interesting citizens who were laid to rest at Gypsum Hill Cemetery. Among those thirty individuals were four gravesites of ex-slaves.
Included in last year’s Salina Juneteenth Celebration activities was a Black History Bus tour which stopped to visit the gravesites of these former slaves. Two of the gravesites were unmarked and consequently difficult to locate. The other two gravesites had upright monuments; however, after more than a century the weather had worn the lettering down to where it was barely legible.
A few weeks after the bus tour, a committee member was approached by one of the bus tour passengers. The anonymous Salina citizen was very impressed with the bus tour and the history of these ex-slaves and felt it important enough to identify and preserve these gravesites. He offered to obtain funds to refurbish the monuments. With this generous incentive, the committee was motivated to pursue this special historical project.
When Ivan Peterson of the Memorial Art Company was told about the proposal, he was excited and moved. He said his company would like to participate in this very worthy project. Restoration was completed on the two upright monuments and new granite headstones were placed at the other two gravesites.
Today, we thank God that after more than 100 years, we are gathered to memorialize and recognize these individuals who are very much a part of Salina’s history and to dedicate their restored grave markers during Black History Month.
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