Historic Beech Grove Cemetery Sees Renovations and Revitalization
Writer / Aimee MacArthur
Photographer / David Fennig
When Troy Watters became superintendent at Beech Grove Cemetery in July of 2022, he was happy to work at a historic location.
“I love the job,” Watters says. “The reason I took the job is the passion I have for Beech Grove Cemetery.”
Watters is a lifelong Muncie resident who is proud to share his love of Muncie. He previously worked for Muncie Sanitary District.
The city-owned cemetery, which has been a part of Muncie history since 1841, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The property covers 140 scenic acres and is the final resting place of 44,000 individuals, including city founders and notable Muncie residents. Several members of the well-known Ball family are interred at the cemetery.
History fans will find veteran graves from almost every war. Teachers and students visit the cemetery on field trips. “We’ve actually got sheets they can take with them for scavenger hunts,” Watters says.
Watters understands the appeal. “It’s just a peaceful, beautiful place with a lot of history,” he says. “The history just goes on and on.” Watters receives requests from people each week researching and tracing their family roots. He enjoys helping people find out information about loved ones.
Beech Grove Cemetery, an integral part of Muncie history, was in dire need of repairs. Watters was up to the challenge to help preserve history.
The chapel, built in 1921, required exterior and interior renovations. Contractors were hired to help repair and restore the stone on the exterior of the building. “The outside of the structure is completely done now,” Watters says. He says the interior of the chapel is almost complete and those involved with the project are currently working on the finishing touches.
Watters asked for the city council’s help to acquire new and updated equipment for necessary repairs. He also hired additional employees to help complete renovation projects and maintain the grounds.
Watters and his employees made countless improvements to the landscape, including removing trees and updating and repairing headstones. The stone fence also needed to be repaired. “The stone fence was built in 1901,” Watters says. “It’s stone and wrought iron, and sections of it were falling. One section got hit by a car. We finally got it done.”
Watters says he is grateful to his dedicated and hard-working employees. The employees were an integral part of completing project repairs within a short period of time.
The hard work paid off and visitors immediately noticed the changes to the cemetery. “I have people just walking in the cemetery, thanking me for the improvements,” Watters says.
Visitors can now walk dogs in the cemetery. All dogs are required to be on a leash, per city ordinance. “There’s a lady who drives up all the way from Marion just to walk her dog,” he says. There are also many people who walk the grounds, drive through, and even those who stop to take their break and eat lunch.”
Watters says he is lucky to have a group of hard-working volunteers. He is always looking for more people to donate their time and help at the cemetery. “We are always open for volunteers,” Watters says. “If anybody wanted to volunteer to come in and clean headstones, mow and trim or anything, volunteers are welcome.”
Many groups volunteer their time, and members of the Boy Scouts work on projects at the cemetery.
Watters says the historic chapel can be rented for a fee to hold weddings, birthday parties and other events. He receives inquiries from people interested in having celebrations at a historic place. Anyone interested in renting the space can contact the office for fee information and other details.
The outside of the chapel and grounds is a busy place where amateur and professional photographers take photos. Photographers can stop by the office to request permission before taking any photos.
Watters encourages members of the community to visit the cemetery any day of the week to see the improvements, take a walk, and enjoy some quiet and calm. Members of the public are welcome to attend the cemetery’s annual Memorial Day and Labor Day celebrations. The Old West End Neighborhood Association holds a guided historic tour each October. Watters hopes more people will visit to experience an important part of Muncie’s history.
Beech Grove Cemetery is located at 1400 West Kilgore Avenue in Muncie. For more info, call 765-741-1352 or visit beechgrovecemetery.com.