When Johnson County’s famed “Grave in the Road” was in need of preservation and repair, officials created a plan to save the unique landmark.

For its efforts, the county has been recognized by the Association of Indiana Counties. The organization announced Johnson County as the winner of the 2017 County Achievement Award on Wednesday during the association’s annual conference.

The award recognized the work done to save the gravesite, honoring both the people buried there while making County Road 400S more safe for drivers.

The grave of Nancy Kerlin Barnett is one of the county’s quirkiest features. Barnett died in 1831 and was buried in her favorite spot, overlooking the banks of Sugar Creek. Her grave remained undisturbed for more than 100 years, when plans were made by the county to build a road through the area. All of the graves would have to be moved.

Local legend says that Barnett’s grandson sat near the stone with a shotgun to prevent her remains from being disturbed. So the road was built around it.

In late 2015, highway department employees noticed human remains spilling from the eroded side of the grave mound. Officials worked with the Johnson County Museum of History to put together a plan to preserve the unique nature of the grave while also making it more sturdy and safe for drivers.

They partnered with Barnett’s descendants to ensure the work would be done in a respectful way. Archaeologists from the University of Indianapolis took great care to unearth the remains in the grave. During the process, they discovered not one but seven people were buried at the site.

In late August 2016, the remains were returned to the newly refurbished concrete vault.

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Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rtrares@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2727.