After the weeds are whacked, the woodchuck holes filled in, and the bushes pruned back to manageable proportions, it’s time to tackle the difficult part of cemetery restoration; the headstones.
While the first instinct may be to power wash and/or bleach the stones, either one of these choices can do more damage than good. Ditto for wire brushing. Then there’s fixing the actual stone, which may turn out to be sandstone, granite, marble, or not even stone at all (zinc carbonate, anyone?).
Faced with these challenges and wanting to do things right, the volunteers for Demersville Cemetery in Montana decided to bring in Jonathan Appell, a restoration expert to teach them how to re-set broken headstones and conserve the ones still in good shape.
According to the article in the Daily Inter Lake highlighting the cemetery restoration, “…Demersville is the earliest established formal cemetery in Flathead County (MT) and provides a free history lesson of the valley. It was started on land donated in 1890 by four families of the long-since-vanished riverboat town of Demersville, and sits about 2 miles from the original townsite. The gravestones are a who’s who of Flathead pioneers, with names such as Foy, Terriault and Coram carved in stone.
Many railroad workers killed during the construction of the railroad are buried there, including Japanese workers whose tombstones — in a far corner of the cemetery — have Japanese writing on them. A number of Kalispell’s early-day Chinese residents also are buried there.”
Considering the history of the town, it’s a worthwhile project.
To get a little taste of what Demersville volunteers got to experience with Jonathan Appell, check out the video below. To learn more about one option for washing stones, check out this popular post: Wash a stone, restore some history.