A vital piece of Council Bluffs history is literally sinking into the ground. Luckily, a local organization and a group of volunteers have a plan. They just need some help from the public to pull it off.
The Kinsman Monument at Fairview Cemetery is the grave marker of Colonel William Kinsman, a Bluffs-born Civil War hero who served under General Grenville Dodge and commanded the 23rd Iowa Volunteer Infantry during the war to preserve the union.
Soldiers who fought and died alongside Kinsman are also buried at Fairview, but their grave markers have sunk into the ground over time. In order to preserve the graves and keep the earth from swallowing the old stones, the Bluffs chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution has decided to reset them.
Hillary Varnes-Rex, along with her wife, Lisa Varnes-Rex, owns Keepers of the Stones, a business specializing in cleaning gravestones. She’s also the historian and librarian for the DAR. She said about 50 of the 53 markers need attention.
“I think it’s important to preserve our military history,” Hillary Varnes-Rex said of the project. “Some of them are sunk in really bad. We want to reset the stones to their proper height.”
Varnes-Rex is hoping there is community interest in the plan to fix the soldiers’ graves. They’ve reached out to local organizations for help, but still need more. Strong volunteers able to help move the stones which can weigh between 200-250 pounds each, food and drinks for those pitching in, and about three cubic feet of crushed limestone is being sought by Varnes-Rex in order to ensure that the project goes smoothly.
“The more people that help, the sooner we can get it all done,” Varnes-Rex said.
The excavations are slated to begin at 8 a.m. Sept. 14 at Fairview Cemetery. With enough help, Varnes-Rex hopes the project will be completed that day. Should rain storms roll in, a rain date of Sept. 28 has been set.