NInth Street Park once a cemetery | New
Located at the corner of W. Ninth Street and Poplar Street, a lone monument and informative sign are the only features of this city park.
Covering 3 acres, Ninth Street Park was originally acquired for use as a cemetery in 1840, becoming the second oldest cemetery in Owensboro.
According to the book “History, Owensboro Parks and Recreation“, published in 1990 by Evan Ray Russell, the majority of the graves in what was then Ninth Street Cemetery were moved to a third cemetery located off Fifth Street, called rural cemetery.
The Messenger-Inquirer reported in its August 19, 1999 edition that the discovery of graves in the park would prevent the addition of amenities to the vacant park.
According to the story, “An unknown number of unmarked graves are in the small city-owned park near Ninth and Poplar, City Manager Ron Payne told the Owensboro City Commission on Wednesday.”
The article says the only way the city could develop the park would be to move the graves to another cemetery, which Payne said at the time would be an expensive undertaking.
“City commissioners had hoped to purchase $20,000 worth of playground equipment for the park, which is currently empty after the commission removed playground equipment from Smothers Park to make way for the Col. Shelton Freedom Memorial,” the article read.
Mayor Waymond Morris said at the time that the city would erect a marker or plaque there to maintain the property’s sacred status and avoid future confusion.
The June 14, 1923, issue of The Messenger-Inquirer reported that two sets of human remains had been discovered while work was in progress along W. Ninth and Poplar streets.
“Excavators working on a ditch for the laying of pipes in Poplar Street in Ninth, this morning unearthed parts of the skeletons of two people, buried approximately six feet underground,” the article said. “The parts unearthed this morning were two skulls and the rest of two bodies.”
It was not the first time that remnants of the old Ninth Street Cemetery had been unearthed due to urban development.
“Residents of this part of town remember that a few years ago, during excavations for the sewer connections to the store now occupied by CJ Montgomery, a skeleton was unearthed there, evidently that of a woman, rubber hairpins were found in a relatively good state of preservation near the skull,” the article also reports.
Today, the monument dedicated by the city in 1999 stands in the park, designating the land as the “cemetery of the first settlers”. An inscription at the base of the monument reads: “Where we stand they stood, where we are they were, where they are we will be.”