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.”