I am a huge historic cemetery nerd. I’ll stop the car when I’m driving, or make whoever else is driving stop, so that I can explore the old stones. The state of many graveyards and cemeteries disappoints me. I think that they are great places.
I recently attended a Graveyard Restoration Workshop in New Knoxville, Ohio organized by the Auglaize County Historical Society and led by the Graveyard Groomer at the Reformed German Cemetery. Some three or four decades ago, a road was run though the cemetery bisecting it, and the disturbed stones were thrown into the nearby creek. Within the last few years the stones were discovered by a farmer who then pulled up all of the stones with writing on them using his tractor and brought them back to the cemetery. This past year, a CW150 AmeriCorps member of the Ohio History Service Corps devoted service time to finding the proper places for these headstones.
The workshop involved repairing and resetting these stones into their rightful places as well as cleaning those that were already standing. Here are some pictures from the day:
Before the workshop
Stabilizing a stone as the stone and mortar set in the slotted base
Keeping mortar from drying out too quickly with cloth and plastic wrap on a stone that was repaired because it had broken into two. This stone also got a new base. Its old base is the big block that the shovels are resting on to the left. It’s a big hunk of concrete, a previous “repair.”
The Graveyard Groomer explaining the process of using a tripod and nylon straps to lift heavier stones back into place
Lifting the stone before placement
The stone in place. This particular stone had been gone from the cemetery for at least 30 years and kept in a descendent’s house for safekeeping after the road went through. This stone is for an ancestor of Neil Armstrong, who was born in nearby Wapakoneta, Ohio. The imagery on the stone and the quilted base are elements I didn’t regularly see in New England.
It was a well attended workshop and I learned a ton, about everything from D2 (a cleaning solution) to mortar types. I definitely plan to use this information for good at my local cemeteries.
How can we better protect our cemeteries?