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Neglected Bruner Cemetery comes back to life after restoration efforts

Chelsea Copeland / Red Dirt Report
An uncovered headstone at Bruner Cemetery.
Fertile Ground Compost Service
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COWETA, Okla.-- Down a dead-end road in a Coweta neighborhood is one thing you may not expect; a cemetery. Coweta has a penchant for oddly placed burial grounds. 

I grew up in the neighborhood near Bruner. It was so overgrown that I thought it was an urban legend, the old Indian burial ground. One man, Mike Walker, brought together a team to fix that.

“I wouldn’t want to be buried anywhere and one hundred years later, it be a forest,” Walker says.

For decades, the eight-acre Bruner Cemetery was obscured and taken over by undergrowth, bushes and trees. Today, after two years of work, ninety-five percent of the cemetery has been cleared. Bruner is finally visible thanks to a core group of regular volunteers that includes former and current Coweta mayors.  Thirty-seven clearly marked graves have been found; however, Walker believes there are at least fifty graves, including the unmarked ones, in the cemetery.

“We found two more graves last weekend,” Walker says with a chuckle.

Established in the mid-1800’s from the original Koweta Mission, Bruner is the final resting place for an eclectic group of people including a handful of Creek Native Americans who walked on the Trail of Tears, Coweta’s first mayor, Civil War veterans and notable early Coweta residents. Koweta Mission was started by missionaries Reverend Robert and Olivia Loughridge to teach Native American children. This is where the city would get its name and be changed to Coweta.

“Being a veteran, that’s just heart wrenching to me- seeing veteran cemeteries neglected like that, so we just started cleaning it up.”

Walker was asked to start the restoration by a few city officials while working on cleaning up a local creek.

The Muscogee-Creek Nation is also heavily involved in the project. They will soon begin using ground penetrating radar to find any remaining burial plots. The Muscogee-Creek Nation will also help rebuild any time-ravaged grave markers. 

“Creek Nation has been beyond helpful. They help when they can, where they can. All those people down there, they’re just…wow!”

Last Memorial Day, Walker was sure to decorate the found graves. For the next Memorial Day, Walker plans to have all the graves decorated with donated wreaths and have all the graves GPS located and mapped.

“We still need help. We still need funds,” Walker urges. “Right now, we’re at the part where it’s raking, picking up sticks and keeping leaves blown and keeping it mowed.”

“After we get that cleaned up, we’ll move on to another project in town and continue on.”

If you are interested in helping, you can visit their Facebook page for news and information. 

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About the Author

Chelsea Copeland

Chelsea Copeland is a native Oklahoman, born in Tulsa and raised in Coweta. She graduated from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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