Church cemeteries hold special spot in the heart

The Rev. Clettis Stinnett of Nickel Ridge Pentecostal Church mows the grass along the front edge of the Nickel Ridge Cemetery on Thursday. The cemetery, where many of his family members are buried, is located across the street from the church on Highway 554 South in Daviess County.

There is something special about a church cemetery, not the least of which is the eternal connection between family and community.

The Rev. Clettis Sinnett of Nickel Ridge Pentecostal Church, located on Highway 554 South in Daviess County, understands this connection well.

“My parents are buried over there, a sister, uncles, many family members,” Sinnett said of the three-acre cemetery, located across the road from the church. “It just feels like family.

“Brother Edd Sosh, the founder of the church, purchased that land for $600 in 1965.”

Sinnett says the church has utilized about half the acreage for burial plots.

“We could add on,” he said, “but land would have to be cleared to do it. It’s not completely full yet, but it’s getting there.”

Clarence Sosh, a distant cousin of Edd Sosh, has had a heavy hand in maintaining the Nickel Ridge church cemetery for 46 years.

“I mow about once a week,” Sosh said. “I’ve been taking care of the cemetery since I was 13 years old. I got interested in doing it after my grandmother passed away — I wanted to take care of her grave. I have a lot of family buried there.

“I live three or four miles from the cemetery, and taking care of it has become a lifelong passion for me. Working with the families involved has been very enjoyable and rewarding to me.”

Sosh estimated that the Nickel Ridge cemetery has 200 to 300 graves.

“I still have a little bit of area left,” he said, “but I need to start clearing some space out.”

Cates Cemetery in Whitesville is a community burial ground maintained by Whitesville Baptist Church and Whitesville Christian Church.

“It’s maybe a mile away from our church,” said Andrea Whitsell, a member of Whitesville Baptist Church, who sells lots. “There are hundreds of graves and we have about 725 lots left.

“It’s truly a community cemetery and it means a great deal to the families around here. It’s been around for a long time. A lot of the markers are sandstone and you can’t read the dates on them. The oldest grave in there I can read is from 1860.”

Whitsell said the cemetery employs a mowing service and that lots are sold to maintain it. In addition, families provide donations and an endowment fund has been established.

“It’s a peaceful, beautiful place with a lot of flowers,” Whitsell said. “I believe everyone associated with it understands and appreciates this.”

Whitsell recently heard from a man in Utah, who called to say he wants to be buried with his loved ones.

“The family aspect of a church cemetery is very important,” Whitsell said. “I even get calls from people doing genealogy research trying to find where there family members are located — families are at the core of all of this.”

Pleasant Grove Baptist near Sorgho also has its own cemetery, located directly behind the church.

“Our church is very thankful that we can offer this to families in times of their greatest need,” said worship pastor David Rodgers.

“The cemetery is absolutely gorgeous. We have an Easter sunrise service there every year; the dogwood trees are in bloom and we are reminded of the empty tomb — it’s just a wonderful setting.”

And hallowed ground.

“Oh yes, indeed,” Rodgers said. “Our entire church family and the community consider this a very special place.”

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