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  • Writer's pictureLawrence Lore

Please Save Our Cemeteries

Time has taken its toll on the older tombstones in our county cemeteries. One would not know this from looking at Find-a- Grave photos because most of those pictures were taken twenty years ago. Many of those stones that were once white and standing upright are now lying broken on the ground or covered with moss and black mold, making the inscriptions impossible to read. These “history parks”, that capture the changing history of our county are in need of serious restoration. We don’t have much time to save some of these cemeteries.

The Lawrence County Historical Society has, with the help of a small grant, purchased D-2 Biological Solution, an approved tombstone cleaner. (The solution costs $50 a gallon.)   Volunteers have spent many hours manually scraping, brushing, and spraying tombstones at Ridgley, Wright/Gaddy, Bell, Moffett, and Denison Cemeteries.  We are proud to announce that restoration and cleaning at Ridgley was completed last fall (2023). Wright/ Gaddy is complete except for two large fallen tombstones that are unable to be reset by our tombstone restorer and despite numerous calls to a monument company with the right type of equipment, there has been no response. It is hoped that Friends of these cemeteries will continue to look after them as we move on to work on other cemeteries. 

Thank you to all the volunteers and all the financial supporters who have assisted us in the past, but the job is not over.  Bell, Moffett, and Denison need more work to clean, repair, restore and reset broken and semi-buried stones. Township tax funds set aside for cemeteries are only adequate to pay for mowing the cemeteries under the townships’ care. The repairs cost between $100-250 a stone depending on size and damage.

The Historical Society has chosen to use some of the grant money as “seed money” for groups who want to restore cemeteries and who can raise funds of at least $500.  The criteria for a cemetery to be accepted for one of our grants is that it is historic, in desperate need of restoration, and private donations of at least $500-1000 have been made. While this amount might sound daunting at first, one has only to see the result of the restoration work at Bethel Cemetery, Ridgley and Wright/Gaddy to know it can be done, when people work together. Otterbein Cemetery located in Bond Twp on the east side of Co Road 1520E has been added to our list for cleaning and restoration this season thanks to a group of people who care.  

So, this spring as you visit graves on Memorial Day, or do research on your ancestors’ final resting places, help us continue our work. Who doesn’t love being outside on these beautiful spring days?  Get a group of people together and contact us about learning how to properly clean stones or just join our volunteers for a rewarding afternoon, as they “scrape, scrub and spray”, (and maybe gossip a little) knowing you are preserving Lawrence County history.

Your financial donation, any amount, would be greatly appreciated.  Our funds for Bell and Moffett have been allocated for this season and they will only do one more row in each. These cemeteries are large with many stones that need repair. Once this season’s work is done, without more donations, we won’t be able to complete the restoration work and will have to move on to other cemeteries.   Please help us continue our restoration work by sending donations to Lawrence County Historical Society, PO Box 425, Lawrenceville IL 62439.

For information about this project or cleaning dates contact Nancy King 618-240-2021, Marilyn Wagner 618-310-6452, or Donna Burton 908-208-2372.

 Progress at Moffett Cemetery Spring 2024

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