Grave matters: ‘Guardian’ repairs headstones

Just last week Lucinda McIntosh’s Mound Cemetery headstone was cracked, covered in moss, and sinking into the ground.

Now thanks to a local cemetery preservation group and Ohio’s “gravestone guardian,” McIntosh’s stone, as well as two others in the historic cemetery have been repaired, cleaned and set straight.

“There are several, several stones in these cemeteries that are in need of repair,” said Marietta Cemeteries Coming Alive (MCCA) member Chris Painter.

The community-based group was formed earlier this year with the goal of documenting, archiving and preserving Marietta’s three historic cemeteries-Mound, Harmar and Oak Grove.

When Painter met gravestone restoration professional Mark Morton, of Richland County, at a presentation at the Washington County Public Library last spring, the wheels were set in motion for Morton to repair some local stones.

“I got into (restoration) by doing a lot of genealogy work. Part of that is looking up ancestors and cemeteries, and I started wondering what I could do to salvage and save them,” explained Morton of how he stumbled upon his current profession three years ago.

Saturday, he traveled to Marietta to fix three stones that were in various states of disrepair.

The great part about the restoration project was that it focused on the headstones of some of the lesser known figures, said Scott Britton, director of The Castle and MCCA member.

“These people have a story. It’s just not a famous story,” he said.

McIntosh, for example, was the daughter of two former slaves.

“It’s a little unusual because she died in 1857, before the time of the Civil War,” said Britton.

At the time, it would have been common practice for African Americans to have been buried in a completely separate cemetery, he explained.

“You have African Americans buried in the same cemetery right next to the founders of Marietta. It says a lot about the attitudes of people in Marietta at the time,” Britton said.

Also restored were the headstones of Emily Stephens and Reuben N. Goldman.

Morton learned his restoration techniques through training with other professionals. A special epoxy created in Germany is used to piece together stones that have fallen apart entirely, he said.

“You sort of have to dry fit them together first. It’s kind of like a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces are only going to work one way,” he said.

The restoration work cost $300 and was funded by a $100 donation from the Marietta Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution and by private donations, said Painter.

Now the group is hoping to raise more funds to have Morton return for a grave restoration workshop, said MCCA member Roger Kalter.

“The next step will be to get him here for a full eight-hour day in April or May to teach us how to repair the stones as he’s repairing them,” he said.

The cemeteries still contain hundreds of stones that would benefit from repair work and MCCA would ultimately like to take the helm and do the restoration work on a local level, said Painter.