Two coal company officials on Monday ordered a WYMT-TV news crew to leave property near a cemetery at Carcassonne that became a center of controversy after the January 21 meeting of the Letcher Fiscal Court.
The news crew was standing on a county-maintained road finishing up a report about the proposed relocation of the cemetery when the officials, who work for Virginiabased James River Coal Company, appeared in a large black pickup truck and told them they were trespassing, said a property owner who was being interviewed by the reporters.
Michael Caudill attended the fiscal court’s January meeting to ask that Letcher Judge/Executive Jim Ward and the county’s five magistrates help him and his wife, Marcia Caudill, fight coal company plans to relocate the cemetery from Civil War Gap to Green Acres Cemetery in Whitesburg, 21 miles away. He said the company officials — a male and a female — did not give their names but spoke in “firm” voices when they told the reporters they were on coal company property illegally and that any footage they had shot could not be used.
“‘You all are trespassing” is the way they put it,” said Caudill.
Caudill said the road to the Caudill-Hall Cemetery, which located adjacent to his property and is where he and his wife have long planned to be buried, is officially known as County Road 1366. He said he and his wife and two reporters were standing on the road when the officials arrived.
Though the Caudills don’t own the cemetery property, which they consider to be public, they are opposed to its relocation. They say they have maintained the property since the 1970s and were allowed to select burial sites there by relatives who did once own the property.
The Caudills learned about the proposed relocation after a legal advertisement was published in The Mountain Eagle during December and January.
They say they have no desire to turn the issue into a “coal war,” but don’t want to be walked over either.
“It’s tearing us up,” said Michael Caudill. “We’re not public people. We just want to live our lives, but when they start stomping on your ancestors …”
Two graves located in an adjacent plot known as the Newman Cemetery were relocated last month.
As of Tuesday night, WYMT, located in Hazard, had not reported on the cemetery relocation or coal company demands that the station not use any of what was filmed on Monday.