Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Cemetery Preservation

Mount Rest Cemetery sits on a hill just south of La Plata and is the burial grounds for Christ Episcopal Church, the same one moved from Port Tobacco in the early 1900s. Most of the stones in this spot are fairly modern, but according to Dave Chapman, cemetery director for the parish, many of the older stones and burials were removed to this site.

My firm, Grave Concerns, was hired by the Charles County Genealogical Society to repair two of the older stones that had broken. This cemetery was vandalized about 10 years ago and was restored, but careless grounds keepers have damaged other stones over time. Another problem is that well-meaning people decided to encase some of the fragile marble tablets in concrete...always a bad idea.

An employee of Grave Concerns mending the gravemarker of Virlinda Stone.

The same stone after reapir.

There are many ways to preserve old burial grounds and just as many things one should NOT do to fix a stone. Like I mentioned above, a marble marker should never be repaired or re-erected using concrete or Portland cement. That material is much harder than marble and will create a snap point for the softer stone.

I will be speaking to the Charles County Genealogical Society on May 15th about cemetery repairs, research, and preservation and I will also discuss the subject one evening during the summer archaeology session at Port Tobacco in June. See ya'll there!


Ken Quantock said...

The maintenance of markers and the recording of data from these monuments are an important link to our past. In many cases these stones may be the only way in which we are able to trace our ancestors. Markers normally include the name, DOB and DOD of an individual where, in some locations, there is no paper trail. This may be due to the lack of any record keeping, or the loss of records due to wind, rain and fire.

A depression era marker of my grandfather consists only of a small round brass marker with the number 185....but with this information I was able to locate more information on date of death, an obituary, a death certificate and finally,a birth certificate including names of parents and spouse.

I applaud the foresight of many cemeteries who recognize this and thankful that companies such as Grave Concerns exists.

With better record keeping the future should not hold the same problems. What will cause havoc for genealogists in the future, is that if the records are lost, the cremation and spreading of ashes will effectively erase burial information unless one choses to mark the location with some type of plague or small marker. I encourage a memorial marker on any burial or cremains....remember, it's not for us...it's for unborn great great grandchildren who will come to know us only through what we leave behind.

Were I closer, I would be one of your frequent volunteers.

Keep up the interest and the good work.

Dancing Willow said...

Awesome job on that stone! You can barely tell that it was decapitated.

Scott said...

Thank you Mr. Quantock. It's funny how the burial stone is erected to appease the living, yet after a few generations, they become more of a problem to many people and they are easily dismissed, literally and figuratively. It is a tragedy. Grave Concerns labors to educate people and help them realize the importance of these historic resources. These sites are the remains of the actual PEOPLE who made our history. We owe them.