Saturday, October 31, 2009

St. Nicholas Cemetery Finished!

Although there are a few monuments to repair and re-erect, and some others that have to be re-plumbed, for all intents and purposes we finished the St. Nicholas Cemetery restoration fieldwork on Friday. And no lives or limbs were lost in the process...not that there weren't some close calls.

After six years of muscling stones out of the ground, Scott and I are broken, but wiser men. Scott raised some money to pay for a machine to excavate and raise the last four monuments which we knew to be very large and heavy, or deeply buried beneath construction fill.

See the large stone exposed in the photographs above and to the left...that's just the base. Granite markers became very popular in the early 20th century as cutting and polishing technologies developed and the Vermont monument makers became more innovative in marketing the 'rock of ages.' Although virtually indestructible and requiring no repair, only resetting, the granite markers at St. Nicholas posed a problem. They were generally much larger and far heavier than the marble monuments. We managed to re-erect several over the past six years using a chain pull and sweat, but just barely averted severe injuries to the foolhardy crew. Machinery allowed us to recover and reset the monuments Friday with minimal risk. It would otherwise have taken us an additional day or two, and we might not have returned Pete in the same condition as when he arrived on site.

The actual marker for the Freeman family, which sat on the granite base from 1935 to 1943, appears in the photographs to the right and below. If lifted into the bed of my small pick up truck it would just fit. Of course, given the weight of granite, it would have crushed my pick up truck, eliminating the need for that overdue oil change and brake cleaning.

It took Scott, Pete, and I, Cory the machine operator, and Laurie (she took these pictures) six hours to complete the work.

Over the coming months, Scott and I will prepare a report and a website for researchers, and Scott also will work with a genealogist on a book about the cemetery and the families buried there. We'll announce through this blog the completion of those tasks with information on how readers can access those final products of this project.

My heartiest congratulations to Scott Lawrence who conceived the project and navigated the often resistant State and Federal bureaucratic systems to make the project a reality, and who then sought the training and developed the expertise needed to repair scores of damaged marble monuments. It was a lunatic idea for Scott to undertake this volunteer project, although in retrospect it doesn't seem so hair-brained. Success alters memory.


1 comment:

Scott said...

And lunacy breeds friendship. This project would never have succeeded without Jim Gibb. He gave freely of his time, intellect, and his old back. You sir, are my hero. I look forward to other wacky projects in the future. Maybe not on such a grand scale though...