Group Works to Give Proper Gravestones to Infants Buried in Des Moines

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DES MOINES, Iowa - In Woodland Cemetery, there's a hill with over 500 graves of infants who passed away during the pioneer era. One group in Iowa calls it a "tragedy" that these graves have never had proper gravestones, and they're asking for your help.

The Abigail Adams Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution - a women's service organization whose mission is historic preservation, patriotism, and education - recently launched their "Adopt a Baby for Mother's Day" project with a $2,000 gift to Woodland Cemetery. This gift serves as the starting point for a much larger fundraising effort to ensure each child's grave in this section of Woodland Cemetery gets a proper gravestone.

Organizers say in 1899, this section of the cemetery was set aside as "Baby Hill." The vast majority of these 506 graves were first unmarked, then were marked only by small white crosses, which soon deteriorated and left the graves unmarked again. In 2006, Gerald A. LaBlanc - a local man committed to the upkeep of Des Moines' public cemeteries - initiated a campaign that secured the funds for 196 headstones. Due to the high volume of orders LaBlanc was able to make at once, he got the price down on each grave marker to $125. Now, organizers with the Abigail Adams Chapter are asking the public to donate $125, and in turn, "adopting" a baby at Woodland Cemetery. The goal is to raise the necessary funds for all gravestones by Mother's Day 2016.

"This is a part of Des Moines' history," said Kristine Bartley with the group. "We're paying respect to these early families of Des Moines when we preserve the history of their lost ones."

For information on how you can donate to the cause, email Kristine Bartley as kristinebartley@gmail.com.

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