Memorial Menders is dedicated to the restoration and preservation of the cemeteries and burial grounds of Putnam County, Indiana.

We became interested in the cemeteries of Putnam County while performing genealogical research on our individual families. Birth and death records began to be maintained in Putnam County in the early 1880’s, and those records were not always complete. For instance, many infants that were born and died at home were not recorded in the birth or death records. And unless there was an attending physician, births were not usually recorded in those early years. Thus, the best record, and usually the only record, of individuals that died prior to the early 1900’s comes from tombstone inscriptions.

But we became frustrated since many of the older pioneer cemeteries have fallen into a state of disrepair. Many of these older burying grounds were on the family farm at the time. But over time, the families have died out or moved on and the property is now owned by individuals who have no direct connections to those interred in these old pioneer cemeteries. Over time, the tombstones have toppled over, have been broken and have otherwise deteriorated to the point the inscriptions are difficult to read.

We became interested in restoring these cemeteries so we could perform accurate genealogical research. But over time, we realized we could perform a service to our heritage and our community by properly restoring these old burial grounds. We saw that no one else seemed to be interested in performing this service and became to feel that if we didn’t try to restore and maintain these pioneer cemeteries that nobody would. And many are to the point of disrepair that they will soon be lost to the ages and no record of these brave and hearty pioneers would remain. We too often take for granted the sacrifices and heartache these original settlers and their early descendants endured. We feel it is honorable to try to preserve their memory as best as we can.

But we wanted to do the right thing. We have seen too much damage to these old tombstones by well-meaning, but misinformed individuals. The worst offense, by far, that we saw was the placing of the old marble tombstones into new concrete. This is about the worse thing that can be done. Since the concrete is much harder than the marble, the tombstones themselves will always break just above the concrete. Even worse, we have seen many broken tombstones set into new concrete in such a way that part of the inscription is gone forever. This is not the way to honor our pioneers.

To ensure we would perform the restoration process properly, we attended workshops put on by the Indiana Historical Society and shared best practices with other restorationists and preservationists. We have now restored about 20 pioneer cemeteries in Putnam County and the surrounding area. We have focused our efforts in properly cleaning, repairing and resetting the grave markers as close as possible to their original condition.

We also work very hard at preserving the record of these memorial markers. To the extent possible, we have read the tombstone inscriptions and mapped the cemeteries. This will enable those in future generations to locate the tombstones of their ancestors. We also take digital photos of the individual tombstones and of the cemetery itself. This is done for several reasons. The main reason of course is to have a preserved historical record of the tombstones and their inscriptions. In addition, we can provide the photos to descendants that live far away or are otherwise unable to physically visit the cemetery. And if the tombstone is vandalized we will have a record of what it looked like to assist in the prosecution of responsible parties and to properly restore the cemetery.

To date, we have read and mapped about 125 Putnam County cemeteries. Since our research started in the northern part of the county, most of our efforts are concentrated in this area. But we have read and mapped a number of cemeteries in other parts of the county as well. We have also taken well over 10,000 digital photos of individual tombstones.

In order to preserve the heritage of our pioneers, we also perform extensive research of the interred, particularly for those buried in the older pioneer cemeteries. We do this for several reasons. The main reason is to preserve the history of these individuals. For most of these individuals, there is literally no other physical record of their heritage. Another reason we perform this research is to assist in reading the inscriptions on the tombstones. For instance, it is often difficult to determine if an inscription is dated 1886 or 1866. By research the individual and their families through existing records, we can often determine with accuracy the actual date of the inscription. Census records began naming individuals in 1850 and marriage records are often a big help in research

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