Paying respects from a distance: Property rights, family access drive abandoned cemetery debate
Freeman couple denied access to ancestors' burial grounds
When Glenda Mensch’s ancestors settled in what’s now northern Yankton County in the late 1800s, they buried their dead below a hill near the family homestead.
But as the decades passed and South Dakota developed its sectional land and road network, the burial site known as Weber Cemetery became engulfed by farmland that no longer belongs to anyone in the Mensch or Weber lineage.
And the current owner’s refusal to allow Mensch and other descendants of the dead buried there to maintain the cemetery where 14 of their ancestors are laid to rest has sparked a debate about balancing property rights with the ability to grant families access to abandoned cemeteries.
“We just want to be able to take care of it,” Mensch told The Dakota Scout this summer while standing along a road near the cemetery.
The visit to the cemetery stopped there, as the current property owner – Karen Farus – has threatened legal action should Mensch cross the fence line and make the 50-yard walk through the cornfield to get to the graves beneath a rock pile flanked by a pair of elm trees.