SPANISH FORK -- High on a bluff overlooking Spanish Fork, more than 350 people applauded as the newly renovated Pioneer Heritage Cemetery was rededicated.
Alex and Erasmo Fuentes pulled away the veil on their latest masterpiece, a better-than-life-sized sculpture of a pioneer family. Just before, Spanish Fork Parks and Recreation Director Dale Robinson had read the names of 170 men, women and children buried in the cemetery.
"I feel that I should take off my shoes when I walk here, for this is sacred ground," said Janene Baadsgaard, local author and historian, in a speech given at the dedication. "To the dead who are laid to rest here, we say, 'We remember you.' "
The ceremony was the culmination of a four-year project undertaken by the local Daughters of Utah Pioneer camps to restore the first cemetery built in Spanish Fork.
"It's an absolutely gorgeous, peaceful, contemplative place," said Baadsgaard, the project's historian. "The city has been absolutely wonderful to work with and has bent over backwards,treating it with so much reverence."
The cemetery, located at 1530 E. 1884 South, hasn't been used as a burial ground for more than 140 years and had fallen into disrepair. Some families even disinterred relatives buried in the cemetery to move them to a new site inSpringville.
Though the small group of headstones has at times been fenced, over time the fences failed and the ground was overrun by grazing cattle and endless weeds. Gravestones crumbled and were lost, and the cemetery's boundaries blurred into those of abutting properties.
Local developer Gardner Company and Mitchell Real Estate donated a lot in the Pioneer Ridge area and gave money to the city for the cemetery's renovation.
The Daughters of the Utah Pioneers raised funds for a memorial statue through a quilt drawing, cookbook sales and a homemade craft bazaar. Two local Boy Scouts completed Eagle Scout projects by placing headstones and researching names of those interred at the site.
Former DUP President Beverly Lewis said that during the research portion of the project, the committee discovered that a monument erected in 1943 rested over a couple graves.
During the renovation, that memorial was removed, its plaque placed on the gate at the entrance to the cemetery.
"I didn't think I'd ever live to see [the cemetery] so beautiful," Lewis said. "I can't hardly go up and down the canyon without making a detour to see it."