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City claims lost graveyard

How do you claim a graveyard that belongs to a ghost?

If you're the city of Red Wing you try a legal procedure called a quiet title action.

For the past 30 years the city has maintained the small Mount Carmel Cemetery. Red Wing assumed responsibility for the graveyard, located just off county road 46, after it consolidated with Burnside Township in 1971.

But Red Wing has no legal title to the property. And according to the city's attorney, the last entity known to hold its title was the Mount Carmel Church of the Town of Burnside, which is no longer in existence. Furthermore there's no evidence the church ever passed the cemetery's title on to anyone, according to the city's attorney.

"It's really one of those things that's sort of weird," City Council Administrator Kay Kuhlmann said.

Red Wing City Council voted unanimously Monday to move forward with a quiet title action. To complete the action the city will publicly announce its intent to annex the property and any party that objects may challenge the city's claim. If no one objects the cemetary becomes the city's.

A challenge could make things messy, but Kuhlmann said in this instance that's not a large concern.

"We don't think there are going to be any objections," she said.

The other option would've been to ask Goodhue County to take over the cemetery - which it has the authority to - and maintain it for one year. After a year the county could transfer title of the property to the city.

Kuhlmann said the measure is mostly about tying up loose ends in the city's paper work and gaining legal rights to the cemetery wouldn't change how Red Wing maintains the tiny cemetery - which has fewer than a dozen visible headstones.

Choosing to ignore the cemetery, however, isn't an option, Kuhlmann said.

"It's a responsibility," she said, adding that maintaining the cemetery is a moral issue in terms of respecting the dead buried at Mount Carmel.