Charles City middle schoolers bring new chapter to Riverside Cemetery

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(ABC 6 News) – Most of us have that one relative whose story gets passed on through generations but sometimes, those stories can get lost as time goes on. Thanks to students at Charles City Middle School, families won’t have to worry about their loved one’s legacy being forgotten.

At Riverside Cemetery, you might notice metal stands by certain graves. Those are not markers to tell you where you are, but rather to help bring history to life.

“Not a lot of their family is alive anymore to remember them. So it’s good to research them and keep their memory alive,” said 8th-grader Edie Collins, as she helped clean gravestones with her classmates.

For some, they’ve been gone decades. Then, there are some who have been gone even a century. The cleaning is just one step in making sure their name is more than just a clean gravestone.

“[I] feel like it’s more meaningful. Like people can finally hear about someone’s story that they’ve never heard before. That they’ve never thought of hearing about,” said Ian Hallett, another 8th-grader at Charles City Middle School.

With the assignment of writing a biography for someone born before 1890, Ian chose Martin Troutner. Behind his name, Ian learned there was so much more.

“I learned a lot about him. Not what he was like but what he did. It was really cool learning about him just because things were different back then.”

Kati Haglund did her project on Estella Dow. A woman who was killed when her husband and brother got into a fight over cattle.

“I would have not known otherwise if I didn’t do this project,” said Kati.

“It’s helped me learn how diverse Riverside Cemetery is. At first, I didn’t come here at all. But now, I think it’s really cool to be involved in this.”

Each grave sits with a metal stand displaying a QR code. Scan it, and their story comes to life.

Ryan Rahmiller, a Social Studies Teacher helping lead the project explained the challenges some students had.

“Some of them we’ve really had to do some in-depth research. We’ve used Ancestry. We’ve looked at old census records. We made phone calls to Montana and other places to look these people up. Kids enjoy that hunt.”

A hunt with a treasure for everyone. Just ask Jeff Sisson, the President of the St. Charles Cemetery Association.

“I think the community will get an opportunity to learn from these 8th-graders a lot of information.”

Monday there will be an “Open House” at the Cemetery from 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. showcasing everyone’s hard work. If you can’t make it to the cemetery, you can hear people’s stories here.