“We’re very excited to be a presence of the community,” said Whitmire. “We hope that we can be a visible addition to the community here.”
The cemetery, located behind the church, contains headstones that date back to the late 1600s. It has not been used as an active burial ground since the 1800s.
Since St. Matthews Episcopal Church became vacant in 2011, the cemetery has become overgrown with weeds, making it inaccessible.
“I would like to clean it up and create a community garden and community space,” said Whitmire about the cemetery. “It would probably be gated, but I would like to have it open during the day. I’m also hoping that as a community space, we could get some community support to help make that happen.”
Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Residents' Block Association, views the garden as a history lesson.
“We hoped to look for a more permanent solution,” said Wendell. “It’s a beautiful spot.”
A survey of the cemetery was done in October of 1919 showing the exact location of all 136 headstones. Wendell believes it would be important to preserve the history of the cemetery by returning as many headstones to their original spots.
Many of the headstones are currently being stored in the church basement to keep them from being destroyed by the elements.
“Reverend Whitmire seems like a very nice man with nice ideas,” said Wendell. “He sees that the cemetery has a lot of potential, whereas the last administration saw it as burden.”