Archive for Friday, May 27, 2011

City plans to clean Civil War veterans’ tombstones by 150th anniversary of war’s end

May 27, 2011


They’re old, but city leaders want to make sure they definitely are not forgotten.

In the city’s Oak Hill and Maple Grove cemeteries, there are about 600 tombstones of Civil War veterans.

And many of them are dirty.

Crews with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, though, will spend parts of the next two to three years working to change that. Mitch Young, the city supervisor who oversees cemetery maintenance, said work has begun to clean and sometimes straighten the tombstones of Civil War veterans and others who are mentioned prominently in the area’s Civil War history.

“There are a lot of hard-core Civil War buffs who are pretty into this, and we expect to see more of them in the future,” Young said.

Interest is expected to rise in all matters Civil War related in part because the country is marking the 150th anniversary of the start of the war. Locally, interest is expected to pick up as the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area opens an exhibit at the former Carnegie Library in downtown this summer, and creates more activities to promote the area’s role in the buildup to the war.

Young said the project has just gotten under way with a few test stones, so don’t expect to see much if you are headed to the cemetery this Memorial Day. Instead, city crews hope to have the project finished by the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, which will be in 2015.

The project will be a delicate one. Many of the tombstones are made of soft marble, which was the standard material for government-issued tombstones. That means power washing the stones will have to be done with care.

The city doesn’t have plans to create a map of all 600 stones — they think there are about 510 in Oak Hill and about 90 in Maple Grove — but the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau does have a brochure that lists the location of several prominent graves.

Young said he can see how the graves someday may become an attraction. Most list, in addition to names and dates of birth and death, information about the soldiers’ faith, their rank, any awards won, and their military units.

“I definitely stop and read them from time to time,” Young said. “You see all their information and see that they were in the infantry that they were part of Company B and you wonder what did Company B do, where did it fight. It does get you to thinking.”


Fritz216 6 years, 7 months ago


I think it needs to be said that the City needs to make sure the work is being done by someone who is knowledgeable and who specializes in preservation.

Using a power washer on a soft granite stone will most likely strip the face off the stone.

Cleaning gravestones is not something a do-it-yourselfer can do... it requires training.

Also, if they are going to clean the stones, why not log where they are? There's no reason they can't... they are going to be right there, how hard would it be to write down where so-and-so is???

roadwarrior 6 years, 7 months ago

At the National Cathedral in Washington there was a clinic on 'rubbings'. Many old tombs have intricate carvings etched into flat surfaces such as stone or brass. It's a fairly simple archival process. Take a length of 'butcher paper' hold it securely to the surface then use any number of crayon shaped materials out of graphite, colored waxes etc and rub the entire surface. What remains 'uncolored' will be the writings or carvings. I'd take the job. It is summer after all, could be lots of kids who would enjoy this kind of outing with snoopervision.

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