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Tombstone removal begins at Camp Floyd

Published: Saturday, July 30 2011 10:40 p.m. MDT

FAIRFIELD, Utah — With sledgehammers and shovels, a group of Boy Scouts has begun removing more than 80 tombstones from the cemetery at historic Camp Floyd.

The effort began Friday after research showed about half the markers memorialize soldiers who died many miles away and are not buried there, the Daily Herald of Provo reported.

Camp Floyd-Stagecoach Inn State Park Director Mark Trotter said ground-penetrating radar showed only 35 bodies in the cemetery, and the 80 tombstones will be replaced by 35 Civil War-era headstones that say "Unknown" on them.

Accuracy in the cemetery is important, he said.

"It's been very confusing for family descendants to see headstones for a family member who is really not here," Trotter said. "Hopefully, this will solve the problem."

In a 2003 report, researcher Curtis Allen concluded that 39 people who have markers in the cemetery were not buried there. Eighteen died before the camp was established, and another 10 were never part of the Utah expedition.

The existing headstones must be destroyed under rules of the Veterans Administration, which is providing the new markers.

The original wooden tombstones, then called "headboards," are thought to have burned when a wildfire swept through the cemetery in the early 20th century.

In 1960, the existing grave markers were placed. Their placement was merely decorative because no one knew for sure where the bodies had been buried.

In 2009, the state park used a $7,000 grant to hire experts with ground-penetrating radar to pinpoint the exact locations of the burial sites. The exact number of people buried in the cemetery may never be known with certainty, Trotter said.

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