Land continues to slide toward river at Harlan County cemetery

HARLAN CO., Ky. (WYMT) - Imagine knowing your ancestors' graves were slipping into a river.

That is a reality for many in Harlan County.

"We do not want to see our Revolutionary War hero washed into the Cumberland River,” said Sharon Osborne, who lives in Harlan County.

Osborne is a descendant of Samuel Howard - a Revolutionary War soldier, widely known as one of the founders of Harlan County.

Howard, his wife, and their child are all three buried at the Wix Howard Cemetery.

“The demise of the graves is imminent,” said Osborne.

For months, people who live in the area have watched the land sink farther and farther down the hill at the Wix Howard Cemetery, waiting for something to be done.

"Common sense tells you this needs to be done,” said Osborne.

The US Army Corps of Engineers admitted that a design flaw from a decades-old project is the root of the issue, and has agreed to fix it, but the project manager says there are hoops they have to jump through first.

"A court order is necessary to obtain a disinterment permit from the Kentucky Office of Vital Statistics. The US Attorney's Office advised the Corps that the permit is needed and that they would go ahead and file for the order with the US District Court,” said Dana Alexander, with the US Army Corps of Engineers.

An estimated $30,000 in federal money will pay to move six graves.

"We're hiring an archaeology firm to go in there and do it by hand instead of the normal process which would be just with a backhoe,” said Alexander.

Another $3 million of federal money will be used to fix the landslide itself.

"I would hope that if something like this happened to me that my descendants would want to see me properly buried and honored,” said Osborne.

Time does not seem to be on their side, however, as with each rain, the land continues to slide closer and closer to the river.

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