SIDNEY — The restoration of the gravestones of Civil War soldiers buried in Graceland Cemetery is underway. The project, funded through monies received during the 2016 Civil War Living History Weekend, will restore the gravestones of approximately 50 veterans. Mark Smith, of Gravestone Transformations, has been contracted by the Shelby County Historical Society to undertake the work.
Each stone is removed, raised to the proper height, leveled and then reset. After being reset, most will need a small band around the bottom thoroughly cleaned as that portion of the gravestone was under the ground before being reset.
The stones are then painstakingly pre-cleaned. The stones will then be individually sprayed with an approved biological solution that will kill the embedded growth of various organisms and whiten the stones.
“The stones will eventually be as white as those in national cemeteries like Arlington,” Smith said. “This is not an instant whitening, but a process that happens over time with help from the sun, wind and rain. The stones should be nice and white for Sidney, Ohio’s Living History Weekend next September.
“The project has moved along nicely,” Smith said. “I have placed orange flagging tape around the stones that I have reset, so those stopping by the cemetery will know the stones on which I have been working.”
When the project is complete, Smith intends to provide a list of names for the veterans whose stones were reset and cleaned. He will also provide a CD with before and after photos of each stone.
“I discovered that some of the headstones have the wrong flag holder on them,” Smith said. “For example, one had a World War I flag holder rather than a flag holder from the Civil War.
“I also found two graves that are marked with flag holders that have no headstones,” Smith said. “One has just the flag holder and the other a temporary funeral home plaque. If these men are veterans, the Veterans Administration will provide a free headstone for them. If they are not veterans, the flag holders ought to be removed.”
“When we offered the opportunity for those participating in the event last year to either receive a black powder ration or allow the money that would have been used to purchase the powder to be used for the restoration of gravestones, we had no idea how many re-enactors would contribute,” Sidney Mayor Mike Barhorst said, who chaired the Civil War Living History Weekend Planning Committee.
“As it turned out, we had about $10,000 to use for restoring gravestones. It made sense to begin in Section 5, as a portion of that section has been reserved for veterans,” Barhorst said. “The funds allowed us to make a dent in the restoration of Civil War veteran’s gravestones in that section. It is unfortunate that we don’t have enough funds to do all the work at one time. However, if we continue, we’ll eventually be able to complete the project.”
“Outdoor elements play a key role in the weathering and erosion of gravestones,” Smith said. “Algae, fungi, lichen, mold and plant life can trap moisture on the stone, as well as, under the surface. By cleaning and eliminating those elements, monuments can be preserved for many generations.”
Gravestone Transformations is a historic cemetery conservator dedicated to preserving monuments. The company is located in Circleville, Ohio.