WINTERSET, Iowa – The Madison County Emergency Management Agency closed the Winterset Cemetery after a storm left several historical gravestones damaged over the weekend.

“The storm that came through was supposed to produce some hail, some wind, but the amount of damage here looks like what we kind of experienced on March 5th,” said Madison County Emergency Management Director Diogenes Ayala.

The cemetery’s sexton was shocked to find the gravestones so severely damaged.

“I’ve never seen anything like this, we’ve had a few trees down now and then, the winds and things, but this is really bad, especially the stones that really bother me,” said Sexton for Winterset Cemetery Tony Hall.

“A lot of these people up here probably don’t have any families around, and a lot of these stones are from the 1800s.”

The Madison County Genealogical Society, Linda Smith’s secretary, said that those buried cemetery shaped the community.

“In this section [Rock City] of the cemetery that’s our oldest portion, we have the early pioneers of Winterset here in Madison County. Some of those were also involved in the underground railroad helping freedom seekers to reach freedom,” said Smith.

While Smith said the damage is heartbreaking, she feels fortunate.
“I’m thankful that it isn’t any worse,” said Smith.

“[The trees] did take many old stones with them, but all of them can be repaired.”

However, Ayala said clearing the tree damage would take some time.

If [they] cut with a chainsaw, [then they] may hit the gravestone, so it [must be done] very carefully. You can’t use big equipment out here because of that, so whoever comes out here to do that has to take very special precaution.”

Anyone who would like to donate funds to restore the cemetery’s headstones can write a check out to the City of Winterset, denote Winterset Cemetery in the memo line, and send it to the City of Winterset, 124 W Court Ave, Winterset, IA 50273.