The mostly buried grave marker of a Revolutionary War soldier was recently uncovered when a group of local community members took part in a recent gravestone restoration and repair class instructed by Mark Morton of Gravestone Guardians of Ohio.
The project was hosted by Support Our Troops Of Highland County in an effort to bring to light the fact that many of Highland County veterans’ and ancestors’ gravestones are in dismay and on the verge of being lost forever.
“I am proud of what we were able to accomplish. I learned a lot of valuable information from this class and am so glad that I decided to be a part of it,” said class attendee Jeff Crone of New Vienna.
Morton said the class was the second he instructed in less than a month in Highland County.
“It’s very important to me to teach proper cemetery restoration methods to others so we may all continue to save more of our history. And a large part of that training is explaining why some procedures and techniques are damaging to these old tombstones,” Morton said. “Things like bleaches, harsh chemicals, and mechanical cleanings with Nyalox wheels can destroy old stones. A short list of specific fairly inexpensive products is really all anyone needs to properly restore a tombstone. The rest is just procedures and practice.
“The group that showed up for this one-day class learned a lot and have already begun taking this knowledge on to restoring another small cemetery in Adams County. If anyone wishes to see a night and day difference in what can be accomplished by a few dedicated people, please visit the cemetery in Greenfield on the grounds of the Greenfield Historical Society. Scott Andersen would be happy to have you participate on one of the days they work in that cemetery.”
Kathe Chaney, a Support Our Troops Of Highland County member, said, “This class was a very spiritual experience. I felt that those whose time on earth came before mine were happy that we cared enough to make sure their respective headstones were alright, and if not, we are going to try to help get them fixed up.”
Steph Roland, president of Support Our Troops of Highland County, said that most of the many cemeteries in Highland Clounty are maintained, but some are not, and some are even hard to find.
“That’s sad,” Roland said. “I look at it this way. I’m going to be where they’re at now, and even though I’m not a famous or notorious person, I do hope there are caring individuals that are willing to make sure what little bit I can leave here on earth is here for a long, long time, even if it is just a gravestone. And that is what has made this class so very special. We not only learned so many proper procedures for cleaning and repairing several different types of gravestones, but we unexpectedly unearthed a Revolutionary War veteran’s (Alexander Wright, 1759-1819) gravestone that appears to have been almost entirely buried for many, many years. Who knows, it could have eventually ended up never being found again had we not had this class.
“And what is even more special to me is that I am the one that began documenting and placing veteran flags and grave markers here in Fall Creek Cemetery a few years ago when no one else was, other than one or two families of the 13 veterans that are interred there. And because many of the older stones have been unattended for so many years a lot of those respective inscriptions have weathered severely, or become completely covered with lichens, making them illegible at all. I had what now looks to be Mr. Wright’s son marked as the Revolutionary War veteran because all I could read was the name, and that was only because my daughter helped me clarify it by conducting a stone rubbing a couple of years ago by using a piece of sketchpad paper to cover the inscription and then gently rubbing a crayon over top. Had I been able to know back then how to be able and clean this particular stone, we would’ve already known that Mr. Wright’s stone was missing from the grounds, as there are other documents stating his final resting place and veteran status. All in all, it was a great day for everyone that attended and we hope to continue this effort later this fall.”
The class was sponsored Eagle Riders 1161, Peggy Carter, Bill and Marjorie Pike, Barb Vergamini, Letcher Langston, Steve and Kim Witham, KC and Kathe Chaney and J&K Rentals, Ltd.
“Without their help of supporting this effort the class may not have been able to take place,” Roland said.
She said the people who attended the class are interested in starting a Friends of Fall Creek Cemetery group and intend to plan more visits to clean and conduct more restoration work at the cemetery, located on Morrow Road in Liberty Township.
“They hope that their effort can help educate others, as well as get individuals in the community interested and involved in helping preserve history right here at home,” Roland said. “Also, if there are any genealogists in the area that would like to help research these veteran graves, their help would be greatly appreciated.”
For more information on how you can help preserve and maintain gravestones at the final resting areas of those in our community, reach out to one of the following:
• Mark Morton, a cemetery conservator trained in the preservation of pre 20th century cemeteries who follows guidelines set forth by the National Park Service, Arlington Cemetery, and best practices in the do no harm methods. He can be reached via his website at gravestoneguardians.com and https://www.facebook.com/Gravestone-Guardians-of-Ohio-538662842826649/.
• Scott Anderson, Greenfield, Old Burying Grounds, can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elaine Hinton, Friends of Cherry Fork Cemetery, can be reached at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1078801552163318/.
• Roland can be reached via text at 937-763-8164.
For more information about upcoming events pertaining to local veterans and military personnel, follow SOTOHC on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Support-Our-Troops-of-Highland-County-126202454107304/ and also, Highland County Veterans Service Office: https://www.facebook.com/HighlandCountyVeteransOhio/.
Information for this story was provided by Steph Roland, Highland County Veterans Service Office outreach coordinator.