The Basics for Cemetery Documentation


Hello. Glad to have you guys join us. My name
is Jason Church and today we’re going to talk about the basics for cemetery documentation.
Hello to our group in Omaha. We’re glad to have you. Sorry we couldn’t be there but glad
to be able to do remote learning with you and be able to present from far away across
the country. We’re excited about your project and looking forward to hearing your questions.
As I go along today, we’ve got about an hour, think about things I’m talking about, think
about your own project. I’m very happy to get your questions at the end and be able
to help in any way that we can. So to get started the presentation today is
coming from NCPTT. We’re the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training.
We are a cultural research and training office for the National Park Service. So we don’t
look at fuzzy bears and bald eagles. What we’re interested in is the cultural resources.
We look at historic buildings, historic landscapes, archeological sites, architectural features,
collections and very importantly at least for me, we look at materials, research and
materials conservation. I’m in the materials conservation program.
I’m a materials conservator. My specialty happens to be historic cemeteries. One of
the things that we look at is new treatments, how they interact with historic materials
and also historic materials and historic treatments, how they’ve decayed and weathered and held
up to the test of time and what we can do for that, how we can repair things, what we
can do to try to slow some of the ravages of time. So that’s what is important to us
and what our training focus is on. I think I heard someone mention earlier on the phone
bridge that they’d been part, I think it might have been Brian McKutchen, they’d been part
of some of our training. So we do training and events like this and also hands on training
about historic sculptures and cemeteries and things like that throughout the year across
the U.S. So today we’re going to talk about the importance
of cemetery documentation. I don’t know whether the site that you have looks like, but people
do cemetery documentation everyday all across the world and they may come up on a site like
this, a site that’s derelict, it’s been abandoned, you know really what are you going to do about
this? How do we start? What are we looking at? What are we looking for? What is important
to us and that sort of thing but also people do cemetery documentation that come up on
pristine sites that have been maintained for their entire history but no one has ever really
stopped to do the documentation, to find out who’s buried there, how their graves are marked,
and that sort of thing. So, cemetery documentation can really take any form.
So first of all, what is a cemetery? And in its most essential base definition, a cemetery
is a place where we memorialize and honor the departed. So we have to keep that in mind.
The Victorians talk about it being a park-like setting and I know some places, myself included,
I got into historic cemeteries as more of a sculptural garden, looking at historic sculptures,
looking at historic monuments, but one thing we have to think about when we’re out there
doing our documentation is that this is a sacred place, this is a reverent place and
that we are there to memorialize and honor the dead. We have to really think about that.
So that is what a cemetery is. Now cemetery and graveyard get intermixed
a lot. I believe what you’re working at is a cemetery. A graveyard by definition is literally
that. It’s a yard of graves and they’re usually associated with a church or religious institution
and it’s the area that directly surrounds it.
As we get into documentation, there’s lots of different types of documentation you can
start with before you even get to the cemetery. One phase of survey and this may be important
to you because I know you’re all so very interested in not only the markers and the history but
also the people themselves that are buried there. That’s something we forget a lot about.
Myself as a conservator, I think more about the monuments as objects of historical value
themselves, but we sort of forget a lot of times about the actual people and their importance,
and their life, and their stories. So I’m excited to hear from Dave that you
guys are working a lot with who are the people. One thing that we take for granted is primary
sources. You know there is a lot of research we can do before we even get to the cemetery.
More famous cemeteries, urban areas might have had post cards that really show the historic
landscape, how it’s changed, maybe how the plants have changed, and even how the monuments
themselves have been moved around and changed through time. Also, historic photographs.
We don’t think about cemeteries now the same way they thought about them a hundred, even
fifty years ago. Then they were much more of a place for visitation. A lot of family
reunions were held in cemeteries, a lot of church events were held in cemeteries, picnics.
You know here we’ve got a great photograph, a family visiting a grave and we’ll find photographs
like that in family collections. A lot of times they don’t even think about it. I, myself
was doing work in a historic cemetery and was told no historic photographs existed,
but I realized the cemetery was just right outside the steps of the church, so I started
asking people in the church, “Does anyone here have wedding photographs of the church.
Everyone said, “Yeah, but what does that matter” and I said, “Well, can I see them?” We were
actually able to piece together the history of the church over the shoulders of the wedding
parties over the years. So there may be pictures that people don’t think about. There may be
reunion pictures, there may be wedding photographs, there may be pictures of important events
that took place in the cemetery where you can see the surrounding areas well. So that’s
one type of survey that you can do. Another type of survey you can do is oral
interviews. This isn’t something we think a lot about. It doesn’t get done a lot but
there’s a lot of information that you can glean from people who were active in the cemetery,
maybe the former caretakers of the cemetery, maybe the former gatekeepers, the former sextons,
but also just elderly people who have unfortunately had to spend a lot of time there, who have
had to bury people there, who have been coming there. My photograph here is a great example.
This is Chestnut, Louisiana, a little rural community. This is a lady named Miss Bertha
Lee. She’s in her upper nineties, incredible memory, you know really, really on task here.
We took her out to the cemetery and she was actually able to tell us who most of the unmarked
graves were. She was able to tell us stories about the people going back some seventy or
eighty years and she was actually able to tell us stories about some of the people whose
stories had been told to her that had been deceased eighty to hundred years ago. She
remembered hearing the stories so was able to tell us about them.
I show this photograph because in the forward photograph we have a fieldstone and historically
we think about and we study in history that fieldstones were used to mark graves when
we didn’t have the money for headstones and you know early pioneers and that sort of thing
marked with fieldstones. So Miss Bertha Lee started telling me who was buried there. And
I said well, “how long were they buried” and that’s when I started noticing the outline
of the grave where the grass had not returned and she was explaining that,” Oh, they’ve
only been buried about five years and what we do is when the next person is buried we
roll that same field stone to the new grave and then we collect money to put a headstone
on the last grave.” As best she could figure that same stone had rolled around that cemetery
for about 150 years. So these are great stories we would not have known had we not decided
to do some oral interviews. So that’s one thing you may consider when doing documentation.
So when we’re doing documentation, why is this important? Well, one thing is an account
of the current condition. A lot of times for grants, for historic register nominations,
things like that, they want to know that you’ve already done the documentation. They want
to know what is there, who is buried, how many monuments, how old they are, what type,
that sort of thing. So it’s important to get an accurate account of the current conditions
right from the beginning. I know a lot of very well meaning people jump into a cemetery,
they start doing work without doing the documentation first and they’ll come back later and say,
“Wow, if you could have only seen what this place looked like when we started.” You think
to yourself, well I really wish I could see what it looked like before you got started.
I wished some survey work had been done and some documentation had been done in the very
beginning. Another important thing is to record the existing
materials. This is really important. A lot of times when you have a historic cemetery
that’s been abandoned for a long time, it’s sort of been forgotten and when people start
revisiting it, they start doing documentation, they start doing cleanup. The local newspaper
gets involved, school groups get involved, people start talking about it. This is also
a high time that you start to see theft. People are remembering the cemetery and they’re starting
to clear out the weeds, they’re starting to get in there and a lot of times, we don’t
know things have been stolen if we don’t know they existed there in the first place. This
is a great example. This is a stack of gates that were recovered from the back of a truck.
To take a plea bargain, the thieves admitted they had stolen it from the cemetery and they
were returned for a lesser sentencing for their crime. Unfortunately, what we don’t
know is where those gates came from. We didn’t have a record or any documentation in the
cemetery, so when the time came, unfortunately we couldn’t return the gates to where they
had properly been because unfortunately we didn’t have that documentation to begin with.
Another reason that documentation is important is to help establish preservation priorities.
This helps conservators and preservation people and also the church or the cemetery or the
city that runs the cemetery, it helps them establish, oh, well we looked at the documentation
it says here, we figured out that 25% of our monuments are fallen or 30% are leaning or
70% have significant damage. That’s important for them when they’re looking for what do
we do with the cemetery. How do we move forward? It’s important to know some of that.
So when doing survey work, there’s lots of survey forms out there. We have some I believe
on our website. I’d be very happy to send them to you. I’ll show you some websites at
the end of the presentation that have survey forms on them. So there’s a lot available
and not all forms serve all needs. Its’ very easy to develop a form for just the things
you’re looking for. You know maybe your group isn’t as interested in the materials, or isn’t
as interested in the condition as far as is it leaning, is it falling, and you’re more
just interested in the genealogical information or the iconography on the grave, you can very
easily make a survey form for that. The important thing about a survey form is
you pick your form before you begin and really think about are there things we might want
to know later. Is there documentation that someone else might want to know later? It’s
important to do that from the beginning so you don’t have to go back and change things
and start again or make any corrections. It’s also important to decide the meaning of all
the terms before you begin and train the people involved and they can be something as complicated
as what we’re doing today with the webinar or as simple as pulling everyone into a room,
serving donuts and talking about what is a pedestal, what is a headstone? Let’s talk
about some of these basic definitions before everyone goes out and does documentation.
I have worked at a site where unfortunately, a large group came in, they had these great
survey forms, they sent everybody out, but they didn’t do any pre-training. They didn’t
talk at all about what is a ledger. So everyone’s definition of even the same monuments differed.
So unfortunately in the end, it didn’t mean a lot because everyone had called things differently,
they’d written down the transcriptions differently, so it’s very important to sort of decide what
all that is before we get started. So that’s what we’re going to talk now about
is how to accurately record these descriptions. Here are some simple definitions and simple
terminologies that we’ll know how to describe the monuments that we’re looking at. How many
people describe this differently? Is it a brick tomb? Is it a vault tomb? Is it a ledger
covered box tomb? There’s lots of different definitions and they may be all right or most
of them may describe it accurately. But the important thing is to decide how you’re going
to call it and stick with that and tell all the people involved this is how we’re going
to call this thing. So we’re going to start with what is a headstone.
It is literally that, it’s a stone placed at the head of a grave to mark the deceased
and that’s it in its most basic form and these can take a wide range of shapes, sizes, colors,
materials. It’s almost endless. I’ve said for years, if a material can exist, you’ll
find it in a cemetery and that as a conservator is what challenges me to work in a cemetery.
We’ll talk more about materials later. Sort of the basic differences between headstones
are those that are ground supported. These are some of our earliest headstones but these
are also used everyday still. This means there is no base under there. Only the ground itself
is holding this headstone up. This is what we call a ground supported headstone. These
could go for example, our VA marker here, with our assistant surgeon, this may go in
the ground two feet, three feet, with our slates, I’ve seen ones that go in the ground
another six or eight feet below what we see, so you never know how big these things really
are. These are only supported by the earth itself pushed up on it.
The second category and the most common that we see and definitely the one we see the most
now is a headstone with stack bases. This is kind of important when you’re doing descriptions
to say, you know, “a headstone with three bases” or “a headstone with four bases, or
one base” and sometimes these stones just sit, gravity itself holds them on the bases.
Sometimes they have metallic pins in them. They might have stainless or bronze or historically
they might have had iron pins that hold them onto the base. There may be some adhesive
between them. The next thing we’ll talk about is footstones.
This is the exact opposite of that. You have a footstone that is literally a small marker
at the bottom of the grave and this is the delineation between the head and the foot
of the grave and that’s it. They’re usually very small. They could contain the initials.
The next and this is really what we see most in modern cemeteries, is what we call a ground
tablet. This is what we see in our modern lawn cemeteries, our big, you know just fields
of flat markers and this really came about, unfortunately for no other reason, it wasn’t
a style choice, it was the advent of the riding mower or the power mower that really made
ground grave marker popular. This replaced the large uprights for the most reason so
that ground crews could save money; cemeteries could save money by having mechanized mowers
that could drive around and over a lot of markers.
So this is what we see now when we think about our bronze markers, but we do have historic
ones, we do have granite ones, there’s a nice sort of terrazzo looking one in this picture
and a lot of times these are very inexpensive markers that then come back. I think this
one is actually in Nebraska. We have a covered wagon pioneer and this date of 1852. But you
know this marker is probably five or six years old and it’s not from 1852. It’s a modern
material, it’s a modern style, its a modern font. We know this is less than ten years
old. Another type of grave that we see a lot is
ledgers. Now ledger stones are large heavy, a lot of times they have a lot genealogical
information on them, they have a lot of information. These are usually supported by a little brick
wall, maybe a small concrete foundation. Generally the body is not laid directly below that.
Generally the body is still a full six feet below that ledger. That’s something I get
asked a lot so I thought I’d cover that. But this is what we call a ledger stone.
Now one thing as historians that you’re working on and doing documentation, but you will look
for and these will become very important, are funeral home plaques. Funeral home plaques
are made to be temporary. The funeral home does not intend to mark this grave really
much longer than it takes the monument company to come out and put a grave. Unfortunately
for lots of reasons, these a lot of times become the permanent marker. As we can see
here, the gentleman buried, his is dated 1967, so this has been there since 1967, what was
intended to stay probably a month or two, a year at the most. Unfortunately the next
one we see, that’s actually porcelain and it was written on in a wax crayon. It’s been
there so long it’s faded out. We’ve lost the genealogical information. We don’t know who
is buried there anymore. These are really important if you are doing documentation.
If you see these make sure you photograph them. Make sure you write them down because
the next time the mowers come through or the next time there’s a high water, these could
be gone and that marker is lost. So, it’s important to mark these when we see them.
Another very common type of grave marker is the obelisk and the obelisk, think about the
Washington Memorial, the Washington Monument. You know Washington himself isn’t buried there.
It’s a big monument to him and these are obelisks. These are kind of a holdover from the Egyptian
revival craze. We got really interested and the whole world did get interested in Egypt
and copying the art of Egypt and things like that around the turn of the century and really
heavy on into the twenties. This is something, a shape that we got from ancient Egypt that
has stayed. We still use obelisks now. I’ve seen ones a foot tall to twenty, thirty feet
and of course the Washington Monument. So these are something that we see very common
in cemeteries. Another thing and I know you’ll see quite
a few of these in your area of Omaha, the whole Midwest, the whole US, we see tree stumps.
Now a lot of times, I hear people talk about these as Woodmen of the World markers. Now
one thing I want to clarify is they could be or they could not be. The tree stump monument
actually predates Woodmen of the World. So the tree stump was first and this signifies
you know the cutting short of life, the end of life, you know it’s a tree, its died, its
life has been cut short and that was significant iconography for a cemetery.
Up comes the burial insurance company of Woodmen of the World, who is now a fraternal organization,
they adopted this because of course, the iconography matched so well with their mission. If it
is a Woodmen of the World marker, it will always be marked as such. The reason is that
you paid a small fee, this is part of your burial insurance packet, you got a headstone.
If they provided the headstone through your burial insurance, then they always marked
it. It was advertising for them. It made the next person at the funeral say, “Wow, that’s
a really nice marker he got. I should buy into Woodmen of the World and get a really
nice marker myself.” So they’re always marked. So, if they’re not marked “Woodmen of the
World” they’re not Woodmen of the World markers, they’re just a tree stump memorial and that’s
important when we’re doing documentation. Another common grave marker that we see are
crosses. It could be stone, wood, iron, bronze, it doesn’t matter. We see a lot of crosses
throughout the country. Bedsteads, this is really a Victorian idea and it literally gets
its name ‘bedstead” because it looks like a bed, a headboard and a footboard, you have
your side rails. A lot of times, you actually had a flower bed in the middle and this is
also important when you’re doing documentation. You might want to check back in a couple of
seasons and look to see if any flowers come back up. A lot of times, heirloom plants,
you know very old plants that we don’t see as much anymore, will comeback in cemeteries
and a lot of times, they’ll comeback in the middle of these bedsteads where they were
originally planted. Another thing that we don’t think a lot about
but is very important when doing documentation is not just the headstones but all the features
in the cemetery and one of those is called cribbing. Cribbing is usually a very short,
low lying material that surrounds the grave itself. In the top photograph we have some
marble cribbing. They do have the initials carved in. Some of them even have the full
name carved into the cribbing but usually there’s no evidence. It’s just a grave marker
itself. The lower we have clay tiles that are marking the graves, unfortunately we don’t
have any information on them, there are no names or dates, but there are still very important
features we know that marks a deceased. So it’s very important when doing documentation
to also include things like this, not just the headstones.
And of course the thing that brings us to cemeteries a lot of times, the reason a lot
of cemeteries are photographed and visited is the statuary and this can range from everything.
I’ve seen dogs and buildings and miniature trains and toys and statues of the grieving,
statues of happy people. It really runs the gamut. If it can be carved, you’ll probably
find it somewhere in a cemetery and these are really beautiful and very important to
the overall look and feel of the site. Another thing, and these are becoming more
popular, we really started to see them in the forties and fifties and they’re really
becoming popular now are benches. I usually don’t have a lot of people in pictures but
I include this bench with people sitting on it because this is the only time when we’re
in a cemetery, its okay to sit on something. Otherwise we don’t sit on the ledges, we don’t
sit on the tombs, we don’t sit on the graves, but a bench, a bench is a bench, it’s there
for a reason. They’ve chosen this, the family or the deceased themselves have chosen for
whatever reason to have their grave marked with a bench for a reason. Feel free to sit
on it. It’s part of the landscape. It’s an important feature.
The next thing you may or may not see are mausoleums and a mausoleum is a building that
contains the deceased. So these are usually above ground. They may be huge. I’ve been
in mausoleums that were three stories tall with thousands of graves in them. So, they
may be small buildings, they may be very large buildings but the deceased are in coffins,
inside the little sidewings on this Egyptian revival and you can see an interior photograph
and then they have a stone that covers them. Typically a lot of vandalism happens. People
break in the mausoleums hoping to see deceased and it’s unfortunate because they’ve done
the damage for nothing. Most of the time, they’re still behind another stone or brick
wall. But a mausoleum is that. It’s a house for the dead.
Vaults could be above ground. They could be below ground, but you have this sort of square,
rectangular shape that usually, and this is important, does not contain the dead. Of the
vaults that you see here, only one of them is an actual burial vault. The blue one on
the bottom is a burial vault. Most of the time, these people are six feet under. This
vault is constructed on top of the ground as solely a representation, a small tomb,
a memorial and you don’t see people actually buried in them. A lot of vandalism that we
see is people bust the latches off, they bust the sidewalls out hoping to see the bodies
and they’re not there. They’re still six feet below. It’s very rare that a body is actually
inside a vault. The last thing that you might see as far as
architectural elements are crypts and crypts are sort of the difference between mausoleums
and vaults. A crypt is a building that contains the deceased underground. So you might have
a very elaborate top side but typically these are subterranean. These are crypts, the burials
are actually below ground and sometimes you don’t even know they’re there and you might
see a vent or glass pieces on the surface that allow light to get down into the crypt.
As you can see in these photographs, these are the shells underground inside this crypt.
This crypt happens to be empty that contains deceased.
MATERIALS Materials, as I said before, could run the
gamut. We have a wind gravemarker here. It has paint, it has little
metal letters nailed to it. If it can exist, you’ll find it in a cemetery and this is important
when you start doing preservation. What kind of material do you have? It’s also important
in documentation when you’re writing down, we’ve talked about the types of head stones,
we have a ground supported graves, we have tree stump markers here, we have a based head
stone, what are the materials? They kind of look all the same but they’re not. We have
marble, limestone, concrete, zinc, so the range of materials also is important for us
to talk about. The most common that we’re going to see in
historic cemeteries is marble and marble can be some of the most beautiful sculptural things
down to the simplistic of graves. It can be bright white; it can be very gray like our
Thomas grave here. Vermont marble is very gray and marble is a metamorphic stone. So
this is important for us as conservators. We look at all these different crystal structures,
how they interact and how chemicals harm these and this is how marble weathers and it’s very
grainy and sugary. It’s because we lose the grain boundaries between these little crystals
and they start to come apart and that’s important as things age and weather.
Limestone is our sedimentary material. Limestone will turn into marble in time, in a million
years or whatever the time scale is. What we have with limestone is a lot of early markers,
limestone is a very soft material, easily carved, so a lot of pioneer markers, a lot
of early markers are just beautifully carved, very artistic limestone and we sort of forget
about limestone a lot. Here’s an up-close of our sedimentary rock. A lot of times we’ll
have little fossils embedded in those. Granite is real important. Ninety something
percent of all monuments made now are granite. Granite comes in just about any color of the
rainbow. You can see some really beautiful blue granite starting to come out. We think
more typically about gray granite here. We definitely have carvings and when we have
carvings like this, they’re much more modern. Historically we didn’t have a lot of granite
in the cemeteries because we had to wait for the technology to catch up. We had to wait
for pneumatic drills, pneumatic chisels, diamond impregnated bits, things like that for us
to actually be able to work granite. It’s just too hard of a material, so historically
we won’t see a lot of granite in cemeteries. Granites are igneous rock. It’s fairly strong
and that’s really the reason that it’s used so much now because it lasts for so long.
Another thing you probably won’t see out in Omaha, but thought I would throw it in here
because it’s definitely one of the most beautiful and important materials and that’s slate.
Slate’s a sedimentary rock. It can be beautifully carved. It lasts very, very long times and
you’ll see slates from the 16th and 17th hundreds. It still is beautiful. It hasn’t really weathered.
It hasn’t really aged like our marble does. You probably won’t see slate that far Midwest
but you could. Every once in a while, a New Englander would have a slate shipped out to
him to mark the grave. Sandstone is a fantastic material. It’s another
sedimentary rock here. Sandstone can be a very buff color. It can get very red, very
brown, easily carved, and doesn’t weather that well unfortunately. A lot of times, sandstones
were found locally and carved in very vernacular local styles.
One of my favorites is concrete. Concrete can be formed to look like the most exquisite
of carved marble but it can also really show us the hand of the loved one. It takes one
thing to go and place an order for a monument, it takes another to actually carve out and
make your own for the deceased. So this really puts us in direct connection between that
marker and the family or the loved ones. So a lot of times, we’ll have very homemade looking
markers, very important that they are overlooked because they don’t have the artistry or the
high-end-ness of some of the marbles and slates but very, very important markers.
Bronze, we see a lot now in our flat ledger markers. A lot of times they can be brown
or gold or weathered to the green color. Another thing that you might see that’s very important
that you don’t see a lot of, and I’ve photographed a few out your way, are zinc monuments and
zinc was also called white bronze. These are caste metals. They’re hollow, they’re thin
caste, they weather beautifully, they have a lot of really great detail in them. They
weren’t made for that long. They were made by the same companies. They had different
branches around the US. A lot of them came out of the Midwest; a lot of them came out
of Chicago and the Illinois area. You really see the decline in the twenties. So for a
period from about 1900’s to the late twenties, you’ll see zinc markers.
So we’ve started talking about documentation. We’ve talked a little bit about how to describe
a headstone, what it’s made out of, so we have a headstone with one base and we have
a concrete marker here. How do we write down the transcription? How do we find out for
the next person, who Lewis Hamilton was? Something we also want to look at in our description,
and of course a lot of this will be in our photographs and we’ll talk about it in a second,
is that there was paint on this. It looks like it was painted white. We have some green
in the flowers. There may have been other colors, we don’t see them anymore so we can’t
really write that down because we can only write down what we can see right now. We can’t
infer information. We can’t suggest we think it had yellow on it. We have to only write
down what we can witness and a lot of times this is what people write. We have Lewis Hamilton,
when he was born and when he died. But that’s not all, for us historians doing proper documentation,
we really need to look at what the headstone really says. If it’s written in capital letters,
we need to write it in capital letters. If it has misspelled words, we need to keep it
misspelled. And how we differentiate one sentence to a next is we put a backslash. So Lewis
H. Hamilton, that’s the first line, backslash, the next line, backslash. So even though we
may not write it in this order on our documentation form, we may write it all out, we’ll know
the break between the lines with our backslash. It’s very important to write it this way.
It’s what’s considered the proper documentation so that we can tell what line everything is
on. Like I said if it’s a capital letter, keep it a capital, if it’s a lower case, keep
it lower case. A lot of times, and we’re back to my favorite, my concrete markers here,
a lot of times these are very vernacular. When I say vernacular, they’re of the people,
they’re made by hand maybe by someone who wasn’t a professional, maybe it was made by
the family member themselves, there may be misspellings. These are important to the history
of that monument. These are important in your documentation so you want to keep the misspelling
and here’s two different ways to write it. You can actually have abbreviations that say
backward. Sometimes it gets a little jumbled. I prefer the second way, which is we have
a little asterisk there and at the bottom of our survey form, or at the bottom of our
documentation, we have an asterisk that says, you know, “this indicates a backward letter”
and you may have a lot. Another thing, we talked a little bit about
materials and the type and how to write down the transcription, another thing we want to
look at is the iconography. These little symbols are put on the headstone for a reason. They
tell us more about that person. This gentlemen’s name was Jim Davis. So we know his name, we
know his wife’s name, we know when they were buried and we know when he died. That’s great
but we also know by looking at these, he was a member of the Elks Club, he was a member
of the Knights of Pythias, he was a member of the Masonic Order. So these are all important
things that tell us this person was really a pillar in their community. They were a member
of three of the most important fraternal groups in his town. That really puts them as being
very influential and very important in the community. Another little thing if you can
make it out, I hope you can, the small photograph in the center lower, that’s the signature
of the carver. So Mr. Davis not only was very important in his community but he was also
influential enough, financially set enough to be able to go out and hire a very famous
carver to come and carve his grave marker. So that tells us more and more about the person,
how they lived and what they did. In doing a little research, I actually found out Mr.
Davis owned a very large trucking company. He was a freed slave who bought a single truck,
it was actually a wagon train at the time and by the nineteen teens, he actually owned
about fifteen trucks, actual vehicular trucks by the late teens. So this is someone who
became very influential in his community. Here I’ve listed a fantastic book. I don’t
have time to go through all the iconography that you’ll see and what those things mean,
but Stories in Stone, A Field Guide of Cemetery Symbolism Iconography by Doug Keister. It’s
a fabulous book. I definitely recommend the class buy it. It’s not a very expensive book.
If you’re going to be doing this a lot, I’d get my own. What this does is goes through
all the different iconography, the Knights of Pythias, who were they, when were they
active. In the middle we have the Boy Scouts. Over here we have GAR, the Grand Army of the
Republic. This is a veterans group for soldiers who fought for the north in the Civil War.
These are all important things that tell us about that person outside of just the information
that’s just on the headstone. This gives us more information about how they lived, maybe
what they did, and what they were interested in.
MAPS Alright, so maps. Maps are really good when
we’re doing documentation. It really helps us locate what we’re talking about. There
are several electronic programs now available online. There’s free downloadable map software
you can get. You can get as expert as getting GPS and GIS. A lot of camera phones and a
lot of cameras now will do GPS data on your photographs. Those are very useful. Another
thing though, you don’t have to get that high tech. You don’t have to go out and buy equipment,
learn software. I’ve seen some great work done where they just put out stakes. They
ran surveyors tape in a ten foot grid and I worked at one site, they had a fence around
the site. They actually took Dixie cups, paper cups and made giant letters every ten feet
along the fence line. One side was all letters, one side was all numbers and then they assign
people. You have a ten block and go out to the square marked out with surveyors tape
that became a ten and your job was just to document and draw what was in that and then
when it was all said and done, they put them altogether and they had a gridded map of the
entire site, didn’t cost them any money, no one had to learn a different software or learn
GPS. They were actually able to map the entire site by just drawing out on grid what they
had. The importance of a map is to locate our graves,
to locate what we’re talking about so when we start talking about the grave of Jim Davis,
“he’s number 540 in block A.” Not always as important, not always as high tech as that. PHOTO DOCUMENTATION
This is really important. You know they say a picture is worth a thousand words, well
by all means take as many pictures as you can. It’s really important to get one good
frontal photograph. You see the young lady here. She’s taking a photograph. She’s got
a board out. It tells the grave number, it tells the site. All her information is saved
there and then we go around and we take close-ups, we take back pictures, we take faraway pictures
to show us where that grave is in conjunction with other ones. So now with digital cameras,
there’s no reason we can’t take five, ten, fifteen pictures of each site, of each grave.
Another important thing when we’re all said and done with this, share the pictures. You
know when you do your documentation don’t just keep it as your class project. Don’t
keep it as your club project. Take those pictures, print them out, you can just print them on
regular paper if you want, staple the whole thing together, give it to your local library,
give it to the geology group, give it to your state archives. Pass that information around.
You’ve done a lot of work, you’ve gathered a lot of information, don’t hold it as your
own, pass it around, let other people know it’s out there.
There’s a lot of photographic tips that you’ll see on the internet. The ones we’re going
to talk a little bit about what not to use and what you should use. Never use shaving
cream, flour, or chalk. These are the most common that you’ll see recommended on the
internet. They’re all bad for the stones. In the lower photograph, the smaller photograph,
what you’ll see is this is what shaving cream is. Basically you take shaving cream, you
spray it on, you take a squeegee just like you have at the gas station washer windows
and you rub it down the front of the grave and it leaves the white shaving cream to highlight
all the letters. Unfortunately, what that does is now you’ve left, even if you rinse
it, it gets absorbed into the stone, marble especially, limestone, sandstone, they’re
very absorbent. They suck in this material. If you look at shaving cream, you look at
the ingredients on the back; lotions, oils, soaps, these are all things that are sticky.
They then stay on the headstone and every time the wind blows, pollen, soot, seeds,
everything gets stuck to the surface and then that becomes a gray smorgasbord for biological
growth. So what we can see in the larger photograph is where a very well-meaning geologist has
come by, they sprayed shaving cream, they squeegeed it off, they’ve taken pictures,
they’ve written it down, and even if they rinsed it, the stickiness of the shaving cream
is still going to be absorbed into it and then what you have is a great food bed for
biological growth to come back. The same with flour, it does the same thing.
What we do recommend is very easy to do. It can be done by just one person. It can be
done easily in a group of people is photo reflectors. Now these can be expensive ones
you can order online or I, myself, use a white one and a silver one that are made to block
the sun from your car windshield, it costs about $10.00 at your big box stores. So, it
doesn’t have to be expensive. I know a lot of people that bring out closet mirrors, you
know the inexpensive mirrors that you can get to hang on the back of your closet door,
those work really well. And all you’re doing is you’re reflecting light back from the sun
onto the headstone to give it more light, a nice raking light at about twenty degrees
works really well. This really highlights the text and then you have your photograph.
If you’re working by yourself, set up a tripod, set your timer for ten seconds, get it where
you like it, it’ll take the picture. I’ve done that plenty of times myself and it works
really well. If you have a really stubborn inscription
that you can’t read, a flashlight works really well laid at an angle. We had trouble reading
the last word; it ended up being “her.” We can lay the flashlight even in the daytime;
it works better if it’s a cloudy day or getting dusk. That raking light really highlights
those letters and really lets us take a photograph and lets us write that down. Of course there’s
a lot of things you can do with Photoshop. Playing around with the photos you took to
try to get that what we thought was lost inscription. These are great things involving the community.
You yourselves getting friends to come out, any family members to come out to help take
these photographs and write these descriptions. Another thing in documentation that we want
to think about is we talked about the materials; we’ve talked about the inscriptions, another
just small thing that gets overlooked a lot, especially in rural cemeteries, is color.
Color is important. We don’t think about color a lot but in the past, cemeteries were brighter
places. They had more color; they had more decoration to them.
We see Miss Bradley here in the upper smaller photograph. Her epitaph is painted on. So
we’ve painted some white, it’s actually been spray painted and then black lettering is
done, that’s real important in documentation to write down. This is a painted epitaph and
the epitaph is those written words. The epitaph is the information written on the grave marker.
It’s important to note this is a painted epitaph so that if your survey survives, someone finds
it in a local geological library and look through it and they say, “Oh, well Miss Bradley
had a concrete cross and this is about the northwest corner of the cemetery. This is
about where she should be, we can’t find her.” They can look on there and say, “Oh, well
it was a painted epitaph, well that’s been fifteen years, it’s been five years, and the
paint’s gone. This concrete cross over here is probably Miss Bradley and the paint’s gone.”
So that’s important to note. One thing also is just because you couldn’t afford a really
well expensive carved granite or marble headstone and someone might have gone with a less expensive
concrete marker, didn’t necessarily mean they wanted it to look like a concrete marker.
A lot of times concrete markers were painted. They were painted white. They may have been
painted gray. They may have been faux finished to have speckles in them to make them look
like granite or look like a buff color like limestone. So that’s important. A lot of times
that’s worn off or worn away so look at around the cracks and the letterings, to note that
this was once painted. If you see pieces of paint write that down. That tells us more
of the history of the marker that is going to be lost.
Another thing that we look at in documentation, we have our overgrown cemetery here, a lot
of times, this is the best time to do documentation. The one thing that we don’t think about a
lot is sometimes plants are the grave markers themselves. Here we have a type of tea rose
planted. It looks like this is just a brown scraggly little plant I would have totally
mowed over myself. When we come back out in the springtime, this thing is in full bloom.
It has bright red little tea flowers, little tea rose, beautiful plant. I would never have
considered that a grave marker had I not found several that still had the temporary funeral
home marker in front of them. Then you start noticing, well gee, all the rose plants in
here, these scraggly little old tea flowers, they’re in rows. They are about the length
of graves. That’s when you start thinking, “Oh, gosh, maybe the plants
have meaning themselves.” Plants have been used for grave markers forever. Sometimes
they were meant to be temporary, sometimes they were meant to be permanent. Here we have
two flowering bushes. Both have temporary markers in their bases. These are planted.
These now become as important as a marble headstone. These are marking the dead. We
need to document them just the same. Another thing you may run across in your cemetery
is what we call unconventional grave markers. They’re still there, they’re still meant to
honor the dead, they’re still as important as anything, and they still need to be documented.
The one on the bottom, the fieldstone, a lot of times we’ve talked about the story of Miss
Bertha Lee. You may have fieldstones that market, my favorite here is the tractor axel.
I actually did an oral interview and asked about this. A lot of people think that somebody
through some junk out in the cemetery and the family member actually said, “Oh, well
we couldn’t afford a headstone, we actually went and got an axel off a Ford tractor that
was in dad’s shop and we buried it here as his grave marker. He would have liked that.”
So sometimes unconventional grave markers are definitely as important as the conventional
and as the really high end grave markers. Another thing that you’ll run across is what
we call grave goods. These are things left by the family members of the deceased. Sometimes
they are garbage, a lot of times they’re not, they’re what we call grave goods. So you might
have broken crockery, you might have, I’ve seen broken clocks, I’ve seen broken pieces
of furniture, definitely toys, mementos left, money. In my opinion, this is all part of
the grieving process. This adds to the character of the cemetery. We photograph it and we make
a footnote in our documentation that it contained it and we move on.
Another thing that gets overlooked a lot is fencing and furniture. A lot of times we’re
very focused on the grave markers themselves. We think about the headstone, we think about
the foot stone and what contains our epitaph and our information, but one thing we might
also want to consider is when you’re doing your documentation, are there fences around?
Are the fences still there? Photograph them, write them down.
Now I know one thing our group here in Omaha is interested in is who are these people?
This isn’t something I do a lot myself, so I’m definitely not the expert at it. Some
guidance I can give you is where to look to find out more information about the graves
that you’re looking at the people; Rootsweb.com is a great resource. It’s a user friendly
resource that people constantly add more information to, so it’s being updated as we speak, people
are adding different records, different genealogical information that they’re gathering themselves,
photographs, newspaper articles about different people.
There’s also a great book called, “Your Guide to Cemetery Research” by Sharon Carmack. It’s
a great resource book. It has a lot of information in it as well about not only things I’ve talked
about in documentation but also how do we look up the people? And some of the tips I
can give you is census records. The U.S. Census records are all online now so we can look
up the people that way. We know of course where they lived, at least when they died
because they’re buried there. The city directory; these eventually morphed into phone directories
but before we had phones, we still had city directories. So you can go to your local library
historical society and look for city directories and a lot of times not only will it tell us
the person’s name, it may tell us who was in their household. That’s important for us.
It will tell us where they lived, somewhat important, but most importantly, a lot of
times the city directories listed their occupation, which is important when we’re looking up the
history of these people. Another thing we can look at is court records.
Court records may contain death certificates, they may contain marriage certificates, some
court records will contain baptism certificates, christening certificates, but also when they
bought property, a lot of times their estate records are there. So it may tell us about
not only how they lived, where they lived, what they did, it may tell us who was connected
with them. Maybe they’ll have criminal records even and that will tell us how they lived
and what kind of person they were. Church records are good. A lot of times marriage
and birth and death information is all contained in church records. They’re a little harder
because of course if you’re at a public cemetery or a city owned cemetery, you don’t really
know what church they attended or if they did, so those records are hard to get unless
you’re working with a church cemetery Also, death records, death records are really
interesting. A lot of times the cemetery itself will have a record. The death record will
tell a lot of times, where the person lived, how old they were if they knew that, sometimes
it’ll tell the occupation, but it will also tell how they died a lot of times. It’ll tell
if they came from the hospital or if they came from a funeral home or if they came from
an accident. I’ve done research with death records and it’ll say “ship accident, sent
here directly from the ports”, or “explosion on ______ (ships name).” So a lot of times
there’s more information in the death records and in the cemeteries’ ledgers than we really
think about. Now I know I talked today a little bit and
she said you weren’t planning to do much or any of cemetery care but what we’re going
to do now is just a very quick little snippet about cemetery care, about a five or six minute
video, give us a little break, be thinking about your questions when we come back, we’re
going to have a question/answer time. I know right now you are more interested in the documentation
but a lot of times, the groups I work with over the years, people do so much work with
the documentation that they kind of want to spruce up the people they’ve come to know.
You really get to know these people in a way by doing the documentation, so we’re going
to que up a short video with just the real basics of cemetery cleaning.
VIDEO Hello. In this video, we’ll be showing you
the basic procedures for cleaning a stone grave marker. There are two things to remember.
First, is always exercise personal safety and the second is to do no harm to the grave
marker itself. Stone is a very durable material. However,
keep in mind that stone can be affected by pollution and weathering over its lifetime.
So, exercise caution before proceeding with any treatments.
Now before we get started, let’s briefly go over what not to do. We don’t want to do anything
that will remove or damage the original surface of the stone. We never recommend the use of
bleach or other salt-laden cleaners. It is also never advisable to use any strong acids
or bases. Finally you don’t want to use any harsh mechanical devices, such as sand blasting,
high pressure power washers, or power tools such as, grinders or drills equipped with
wire brushes. All of these methods can damage the grave marker.
Let’s look at some damage that has resulted from well intending people cleaning with poor
techniques. Okay, so now that we know what to avoid, let’s
get started and set down the ground rules for how to proceed. In keeping with our do
no harm policy, it’s important to select the gentlest cleaning method possible to accomplish
your task. The first thing we need is to select our tools
before we proceed with the cleaning instructions. Always locate your nearest water supply. It
takes a lot of water to properly clean stone. If your cemetery does not have running water,
it is important to bring barreled or bucketed water to the site with you. Also, it is good
to have your selected cleaner in a convenient spray bottle. As for the brushes, you always
want to use soft bristle, either a natural or a synthetic. The general guideline is that
if your brush is safe for cleaning the hood of your car, it will work well for historic
stone. For chemical cleaning, acceptable products
are non-ionic detergents, solvents, surfactants, biocides, and intermediate water misting.
When looking for the right type of cleaning products to use, try to find a non-ionic detergent
or a product containing biocide with either a neutral PH or a PH similar to that of the
stone you’re cleaning. We can learn more about the cleaners by reading the product literature
and the material safety data sheets. Alright, so let’s get started. In keeping
with our do no harm policy, we’re going to make some small tests to ensure we are not
going to damage the stone. We have evaluated the selected cleaners and we like the properties
of this particular one for this stone. There doesn’t appear to be any damage caused by
the cleaner and the appearance is satisfactory. So we’re good to continue. Now we’re going
to want to soak the stone before we begin. Stone is a very porous material. It will quickly
absorb any cleaner that is applied to it. By soaking the stone first, it allows the
cleaner to stay on the surface of the stone. This minimizes the impact on the stone and
maximizes the cleaner’s effects. Once it’s wet, we start cleaning from the bottom and
slowly work our way up to the top. Starting from the bottom of the stone minimizes streaking
and staining. You’re going to want to sue small circular motions as we go. This helps
to get in all the crevices. Sometimes it’s important to switch brushes to meet the situation.
On stones with a lot of biological growth or heavy soiling, you may need to repeat the
cleaning methods more than once. If you are using a cleaner that contains a biocide, keep
in mind the stone will continue to lighten over the next few days. Also, as we said before,
we are going to use a lot of water. Make sure you keep the stone rinsed at all times. And
there you have it. These procedures are not only used for general
cleaning, but can also be performed for more complicated repairs or when conservation work
takes place. Now that we’ve finished cleaning this headstone,
we allow it to dry overnight to show that it will lighten when it’s dry. On this particular
grave marker, we’ve used a biocidal cleaner that will continue to lighten over the next
few days. Now that you’ve watched this video and the basic procedures for cleaning a stone
grave marker, remember, always exercise personal safety and to do no harm to the marker itself
and good luck. Well, we are back and that was the conclusion
of our talk, so today I’m interested in what your students, what questions they have. I’m
happy to answer anything that you have and just feel free to talk up. So who has the
first question? Unknown: Have you ever cleaned a gravestone?
My first question is from Jo and the question is have I ever cleaned a gravestone and the
answer to that is yes. I’ll be honest; it’s not my favorite thing. I’d much rather fix
one than clean it but I have cleaned it would be in the hundreds all across the country.
I think I’ve cleaned in about 20 states now across the country so yeah, I’ve fortunately
or unfortunately cleaned hundreds of gravestones, everything from little foot stones to full
mausoleums. It’s different every time. So what’s our next question? Who has another
question for us? (Logistical issues)
Unknown: Austin has the next question. Church: Alright Austin, what’s your question?
How long have I been cleaning gravestones? To be honest Austin, my first project was
in third grade. My North Carolina history class in third grade, Miss Lucas’s class in
Wilmington, North Carolina, I did a video documentation tour of the cemetery and got
to be friends with the caretaker and did cleaning there. My cub scout group went out to the
cemetery because of that connection, we did cleaning and I pretty much have done it off
and on ever since. When I was in graduate school, I did a lot of research on cemeteries
and started doing work there. I’ve been with the Park Service now seven years in this position
teaching people how to clean and teaching classes and talks like this on how to do cleaning.
So, a long time then. Unknown: We have a question from Barry [ ? ] here
at Omaha before. He’s a teacher of the class. Church: Okay Barry what’s your question?
Barry: We’ve got a lot of damage in the cemetery that we’re working in. What advice do you
have for resetting headstones? Church: Okay, depending on the size of the
headstone, headstones can be… the question that Barry had was, what advice do we have
on resetting headstones. If you go to our website the root here at NCPTT and search
for resetting, we actually have two series of videos on the basics for resetting headstones
that may be of benefit to you. Depending on the size and complexity, resetting is something
that can be done fairly easily, it’s inexpensive, and it really makes a big impact difference
in the cemetery. Just getting them off the ground, getting them back up in the air is
a big difference. A lot of times, if you have a lot to reset, this is a good thing to maybe
get a local monument builder involved. Go talk to them and say, “Hey, we’re doing this
volunteer project, we’re trying to adopt the cemetery, we’re working here, what help can
you provide on some of the larger ones or can you come out and talk to us about how
to reset some of the smaller ones even.” But a lot of times the monuments that are on stacked
bases are held together by gravity so those are things we can easily wipe them down, dust
them off and stand them back up, especially the small ones. A lot of times the smaller
ones are knocked over by just wind, fallen debris or careless vandalism over the years.
So I think if it’s the small ones that you can manage. I think it’s a great idea and
I’d be happy, if you guys wanted to get into resetting, to give you another talk. We have
some videos and I think even I recorded a webinar about resetting on our website. But
I’d be really happy to help you guys with any tips or sort of instruction on how to
reset. What other questions do we have?
McKenna: My name is McKenna and we have some concerns where the names are just completely
eroded away. What should we do to preserve it?
Church: Okay McKenna. So McKenna’s question or comment was that they have on their site,
they have headstones that the inscriptions are completely eroded away. Unfortunately,
this is something that we have to deal with. This is sort of the unfortunate thing with
the ravages of time. A lot of these materials, even though they are stone and their hard,
they still have been pulled out of the earth and beaten and carved and carted around and
their fragile. A lot of times they have weathered unfortunately beyond… if we know without
a doubt what was written there and who was buried there, if we have records, maybe photographs
or documentation of what was said, we could always make a small memorial plaque with the
inscription on it to be placed on the ground in front of the gravestone. I don’t recommend
attaching anything to the original gravestone. I definitely don’t recommend re-carving the
gravestone because in doing that, we really alter the historic fabric of the site. We
start to change how it looks, we start to change the original character of it. But if
we do know what was there, a lot of times I’ve seen small aluminum plaques or small
bronze plaques or even small concrete markers made, a small little thing that can be laid
on the ground right in front of the headstone. If it’s already worn, there’s nothing we can
do to recapture that. We can’t do some kind of special cleaning or scanning and get that
information back. When it’s gone, it’s gone, it’s worn off. We have to respect the ravages
of time that has taken that. There are treatments that conservators can do to help slow the
deterioration especially if it’s marble, but there’s nothing we can do to back that up
and there’s not much we can do on an everyday level to try to get that back. Best we can
do is try to document the way it is now, doing some light techniques, things to try to see
what little bit that might be left. There’s not a lot we can do to transcribe that and
there’s nothing we can do to bring that information back. Sorry about that. Any other questions?
While the next person is thinking about their question coming up to the mike, I’ve got a
slide here of just some places you can get more information. I’ll leave that up while
I’m talking for the next question but the Texas Historic Commission, our website, Association
for Gravestone Studies, Chicora Foundation, they’re all really good websites that have
more information about documentation, history, iconography, cleaning, care, all kinds of
things, resetting, that your class can use. So, do we have another question?
Unknown: I have a question just before the next question. Will they be able to hook to
this website and watch this video again or look at the slides?
Church: Yes, they will be. We’ve recorded our webinar and we’ll have that up. The video
that you saw is up all the time. We have a whole series of videos on cemetery care that
are up. We have cemetery link on our website that has more information and stuff like that
and also at the end I will send you in the last slide I’ll show you in a minute, is my
contact information and I’m more than happy if any of the students have questions, they
can contact me, they can email me questions, send me a picture with what can I do about
this or what do you call this, I’m happy to help in that respect as well. Yes, we will
post this webinar back up as a video that can be watched later.
Unknown: Great. The next question is Jo again. Jo: Have you ever known someone or anyone
else who has found a hidden grave that was like say next to a tree?
Church: Sure. Jo’s question was have I myself or known other people who have found hidden
graves in the cemetery. Yeah, definitely. It happens a lot, a lot more than you think
actually. It doesn’t take that much for a headstone to fall or maybe there was no headstone
there ever, or maybe there was a wooden grave marker that deteriorated, maybe it was stolen,
maybe it fell and it’s just been covered over by wind and rain and it’s just a few inches
below ground. Sure we’ve found whole cemeteries that no one even knew was there when the road
crew hit them or a geologist was looking into a site and did a test pit or shovel pit and
found oh, my gosh, we’ve hit grave hardware or we’ve hit bones. I myself have gone to
work in cemeteries and a lot of times, we’ll use a thin metal rod about seven or eight
feet to probe in the ground to look for graves or to look for artifacts and I’ve found headstones
and we’ve found whole sections that have just slowly been encroached upon by the woods where
once going back and raking back, we start to find headstones that have just been covered
over by years of leaves falling and mounding up sort of thing. So, yes unfortunately we
find unmarked graves and we find lost graves quite often and it’s an unfortunate thing
that means there’s been a lapse of care long enough and in memory for these to be lost.
Unknown: Maybe it would be good for you guys to just tell him a little bit about your project
so he can know what you might need. Church: Yeah, I’d like to know a little bit
more about the project that you’re doing. Unknown: My name’s Andrew. Mr. Jergens has
talked to us a little bit about your work in Hawaii with the leper colony. Could you
tell us a little bit about how that turned out?
Church: Oh, okay. So Andrew’s question was about the Park Service’s site at Kalaupapa
in Hawaii. I myself have not been out there to work. I know some of the masons at HPTC,
the Historic Preservation Training Center, in Frederick, Maryland who have been out there
doing the work. My supervisor, Dr. Mary Striegel has been out there to do some work. A lot
of work was done by Gretchen Voeks, an archeologist and conservator in the west. What we have
there is we have, as you said it’s a leprosy colony. It’s now a Hanson’s Disease site is
the term. This was a site and residents still live on site. There are still plenty of people
living that were interred on this site. The Park Service owns the land now with the arrangement
that the people still control it who are the patients there, the residents there. The cemeteries
for them are very important because all of their friends who have been there and then
they themselves of course are going to end up there at that site. The problem with their
cemetery is they’re right on a coastal bluff, so they have a lot of salt damage, a lot of
salt air that hits them. With the leprosy colony, they’ve pretty much had to deal with
what they had on site. There’s not a lot of cargo ships coming in. They can’t run a hardware
store, they can’t go down to Lowes and buy materials to make a headstone and they can’t
place an order. So they’ve made everything on site by themselves. So they’ve made their
own lime mortars, they mixed their own concrete with beach sand and that’s introduced a lot
of salts and salts are really bad for masonry. Salts as they dry and they get wet, the crystals
inside them expand and contract and that pushes apart our material. So to reinforce their
concrete, they’ve used a lot iron, scrap iron that they found on site. So all these make
for a really bad mixture and a really corrosive mixture. So they’ve been working a lot. The
guys at HPTC have worked a lot to reset the fallen graves that have been blown over by
the wind and they occasional little earthquake or volcanic activity, that sort of thing and
really cleaned up the site. As far as the headstones that have a lot of the salt damage
and lot of the corrosion, we’re still working on getting a good solution for that. So those
are still sort of lying in wait. They’re waiting for us to some up with good solutions on how
to protect and preserve those. A lot have been cleaned now and that’s helped a lot of
it, vegetation cutback, that sort of thing. So there’s been significant improvements made,
but there’s still a lot to be done. It’s quite the challenging project.
Tell me a little bit about the site you’re working at and what you hope to accomplish
with it. Unknown: My name is Kale and I’m part of the
cemetery committee that we have. We’re working on a site called Morley Cemetery or it has
a few names. The cemetery is kind of out in the middle of nowhere. There’s a small dirt
road I would say, not even really a road anymore, a path out there, and it was really overgrown
when we got there. There’s a local family that tries to take care of it but it seems
like they didn’t put a lot of effort into it. It could be worse I suppose. Lots of the
gravestones are knocked over. Some of them, like there’s one with a tree in the middle
of it in like a family plot. One has a fence around it that’s really corroded away and
rusted. Now, does anyone else have anything? Church: So it sounds like your site has a
lot of issues. How many graves are there, marked graves that are still standing that
you can say? Unknown: Probably about 50 or 60, maybe more.
Church: So that’s a nice size site, yeah. Unknown: Some of the gravestones have been
moved from their original location. They been moved under trees, set up on the side, some
are even broken aren’t they. Yeah like in half broken.
Church: Yeah, we see that a lot that graves get moved. Even small sites or large populated
sites, as maintenance crews come and one gets knocked over, one lies down and the maintenance
crew thinks, “you know, we don’t want to hit this with a mower, we need to move this out
of the way to protect the stone,” and rightfully so and the logic is good but then it gets
moved and it gets moved under a tree where a mower’s not going to hit it or a car is
not going to drive over it and if it stays there long enough, the placement memory is
gone and the next thing we know is oh, well there were always people buried over there
by the tree. Those get replaced and reset where we found them and graves unfortunately
move quite often because of things like that. So it’s good you know, if you can find some
documentation that maybe lists you where people were buried. One thing I’ve had good luck
with, not great but it’s a start, is if it’s a family cemetery and it’s a family plot,
looking for those last family members that are still around, sometimes, it’s not very
often but I have a couple of instances, talk to them and you know ask if they have a family
bible and can I see it. Looking in the family bible, I actually have found when people died,
but not only that, I’ve actually found once or twice, little maps drawn by great grandmothers
or someone showing where people are in relation to each other. So it might not be a site map,
but it may say your Aunt Jenny is buried here and Uncle Tom is right beside right beside
her. So we can sort of place where some of the graves are that way. So that may be one
aspect of research that you guys can look into trying to find where some of those now
displaced graves at the trees might have been located.
Alright, who’s going to ask the last question? Unknown: Austin has another question.
Church: Alright, Austin what do you have? Unknown: Have you ever preserved a famous
person’s grave? Church: Have I ever preserved a famous person’s
grave? Locally famous but not ever anyone of any national significance. I guess the
most famous graves I’ve ever worked on are at the Congressional Cemetery. I was fortunate
enough to work with the Park Service and HPTC on the Congressional Cemetery Cenotaph. A
cenotaph is a grave marker with no grave. So you have a marker but the person is actually
buried somewhere else. So in Congressional Cemetery we have Congressional cenotaphs from
all of the members of Congress in the early days, so the early members of Congress who
passed away while in office. I was able to work on those and the U.S. Arsenal
Monument. The U.S. Arsenal explosion was the largest civilian casualties of the Civil War
and it was literally the arsenal that made the munitions, that made the weapons, the
cartridges, the powder, things like that for the union Army. There was an explosion that
killed a large number of women and children that worked at the factory. I was fortunate
enough to work on that monument. At the same time and the same project at Congressional
Cemetery, General Alexander Macomb, which is probably the only nationally significant
person I’ve had the privilege to work on and Alexander Macomb was the leader of the army
in the War of 1812. I was the caretaker for a cemetery in Savannah
that had a lot of famous people buried in it. If we have any girl scouts in the audience,
Juliet Gordon Lowe is buried there, the Founder of Girl Scouts. I never got to work on her
grave because it’s still family controlled but I have repaired the fences on either side
of her grave to beautify the general area. Also I repaired the fence for James Pierpont’s
grave and he is best known for having written the song, Jingle Bells. So that’s my claim
to fame there I’ve repaired the fence for the guy who wrote Jingle Bells.
A lot of local significant people have passed mayors and politicians and that sort of thing.
I recently worked on the grave of John Sibley. Mr. Sibley was appointed, in Louisiana where
we live we have Sibley Lake and there’s roads named after him but more importantly he was
promoted by Thomas Jefferson himself to come down and be the Indian Agent, what we consider
now the Native American liaison. He was the Indian agent for the Louisiana Purchase so
significant in history that way. Nobody real famous or exciting though, sorry.
The last slide I’ve got is my information and feel free by all means to contact me,
shoot me an email. I answer emails well. It may take a few days sometimes because I travel
a lot with my job. But if you have questions, feel free, I’m more than happy to help you
guys with your project. Any last questions before we sign off.
Unknown: No, I think that’s it. Thank you so much Jason.
Church: Thank you and good luck students. I hope your project goes really well and I
really commend you for taking the effort to do such important work and to want to get
into this field. It’s very important to remember our past and the people who made our communities,
the people who made our country are buried in those cemeteries. So it’s very important
to remember them. I definitely commend you on your future endeavors. Thank you very much.
Unknown: Thank you.

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