EAST PEORIA — Tiny Fagotte Cemetery off Muller Road is getting more help from France.
The French government, via its consulate in Chicago, has allocated another $1,100 for work to the old cemetery. The graveyard, created in the early 1800s, is the resting place of more than 36 French settlers, fur traders, trappers and soldiers that lived in and around old Wesley City.
The cemetery came to the attention of area residents, organizations and local and French government officials two years ago when a Memorial Day celebration by the Wesley City Historical Society was held there.
The ceremonies honored the forefathers of this area whose graves had been desecrated by vandals and grave robbers.
At that time, the cemetery was overgrown, the black iron fence had been stolen and tombstones were broken, missing or thrown into a neighboring creek.
Three graves gaped open after robbers opened them for the contents.
The French Consulate in Chicago was contacted about the condition of the early French settlers’ final resting place. The group donated $1,100 last year to clean up the property and repair some of the stones.
This year’s donation will help finish repairing existing tombstones and start a search to dig out stones that were cast over the hill into the creek, said Tazewell County Historic Places Society President’ Christal Dagit
“At this point many of the stones are broken and in a pile,” Dagit said. (Abel Vault and Monument Co. of Pekin) will put the stones back together the best that they can.
The hard part will be figuring out where they go when we are finished. If there are bases for them, that makes it easier. Once we have completed all of that, we want to get a stone that will have the names of all of those that we know of that no longer have stones or never did.
She said the group has a good idea of who is buried in the cemetery from family histories and other records.
“But I know there are probably some we don’t know about yet. We found a new one this past summer,” she said.
Dagit gave a check for $800 to Abel Vault and Monument Co. The money will be used to rebuild stones with a special epoxy fixative.
Dagit said the Tazewell County Historical Society will ask the city for help with the project of probing the creek. One of the stones suspected to be buried in the mud is a monument to a French soldier who was known to have ridden with Napoleon.
Dagit said she has reapplied for a grant in the same amount to continue work next year.