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Hundreds Of Unmarked Graves To Be Memorialized

By Bobak Ha'Eri (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

Woodlawn Cemetery is the oldest cemetery in Las Vegas.

It opened more than 100 years ago, and it’s the final resting place of gamblers, gunfighters and other characters that shaped this city.

It’s also the site of hundreds of unmarked graves.

The Centennial Las Vegas Genealogy Society is working to remember those buried without a marker with two memorials.

BettyAnn Meyers is with the society. She said the two memorials will focus on two areas of the cemetery that have unmarked graves. One area is Section O, which is where African Americans were buried before segregation of the cemetery ended in the 70s.

The second section is Cypress Section. It is owned by the city of Las Vegas. It's where remains that are not identified or that the family doesn't have the money to bury them are placed.

“The coroner actually gets the people when they pass away and if he’s able he will identify them but if not then they get buried anyway,” Meyers explained.

There are some records of the Cypress section but even though the cemetery might know where a person is buried, they often don't know who that person is.

As far Section O, the unmarked graves were actually first discovered when construction crews worked on widening Owens Street, which runs along the northern edge of the cemetery.

As street construction was underway, crews found bodies. Meyers said because the bodies couldn't be identified, but they were close to the African-American section of the cemetery they re-interred them there without any markers.

The Centennial Las Vegas Genealogy Society is working with the Nevada African-American Geneology Society to put a gray granite bench in that section to honor the people who have been buried but did not have markers.

The Cypress Section of the cemetery will be marked with an obelisk.

"Even if we don’t know who they are, we try to remember that they were loved," Lynne Bogner with the genealogy society said, "They were cared for at some point in their life. And it’s a shame not to be able to remember them.”

BetteAnn Meyers, co-founder, Centennial Las Vegas Genealogy Society; Lynne Bogner, co-founder, Centennial Las Vegas Genealogy Society

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Kristy Totten is a producer at KNPR's State of Nevada. Previously she was a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly, and has covered technology, education and economic development for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. She's a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism.