Narrated by Larry Tippin
An initial condition assessment of this cemetery was performed in February of 2005. We determined at that time that over 100 of the approximately 250 tombstones in this cemetery were in need of attention, either because they were broken, leaning or otherwise damaged. This count did not include the stones that are in good condition, but needed to be cleaned.
This cemetery is now mowed and maintained. But this has not always been the case. As we went about our work, several neighbors dropped in to check out what we were doing. All were pleased the cemetery was being restored. Several indicated that in times past the cemetery was not maintained as well as it now is.
There are about 250 tombstones in this cemetery, representing burials of about 275 of our early pioneers. There are likely additional unmarked graves in this cemetery, representing the final resting place for those known only to God.
After consulting with officers of the Palestine Cemetery Association, we agreed to proceed with restoration of this cemetery.
We began our restoration in mid-May by cutting the overgrowth and sapling trees in various parts of the cemetery. After locating and assessing the stones visible at that time, we decided to start by cleaning and repairing about 15-20 broken tablet stones.
We then worked on cleaning the tombstones. We ended up cleaning about 230 tombstones. Most of these tombstones were very thick with lichen and considerable time was spent cleaning each one. Cleaning was done only with approved methods, no abrasive materials were used. As such we were able to restore most of these stones to near their original condition. There were a number, however, that had the lichen growing so deep into the stones that we were not able to get the stones “white” clean. But those few are legible now and in pretty good condition. There are also several stones that are so deteriorated that the inscriptions are difficult, if not impossible, to make out even after a proper cleaning. Only a few modern stones did not need to be cleaned.
We finished by resetting 5 or 6 large monolith stones. We reset and leveled about 100 tablet stones. Many were leaning or had sunk down into the ground. We raised the sunken stones to ground level and reset the leaning stones as much as possible.
The stone for Sarah J. Wilson was found lying face down between the stones of Mary E. and an infant son, both children of Alexander and Emily (Connett) Wilson. We’re not sure where they are buried, but this Alexander Wilson was a son of Abel and Nancy (Holsapple) Wilson, who are buried about three rows west and a little south of these stones. Sarah J. Wilson was also a daughter of Abel and Nancy (Holsapple) Wilson, meaning she was the aunt of Mary E. and the infant son Wilson who are buried near this stone. We could not locate a base or actual burial location for this stone. But we feel she is probably buried near here. We placed this stone in sand just north of the two above mentioned stones. If someone comes forward in the future with the exact burial location for Sarah J. Wilson, it would not be difficult to lift this stone and reset it.
Many stones had previously been set in “wet” concrete. This is NOT an approved method. Tablet type stones are intended to be set in one of two ways.
Some are made long with the intention that about one-third of the stone is to be set directly into the ground, leaving the inscription and other information above ground level. We reset these properly by packing a sand and gravel mix in the portion below ground level. This should keep the stones standing level for many years to come, while at the same time allowing some “give” below ground level if the stone is stressed due to natural leaning, strong winds or other stress factors.
Other tablet stones are made so they are to be set in a “slotted” base. For those, a slot is made in stone or poured concrete with the slot being a few inches deep and just a little bit larger than the tombstone. The stone is then set in the slot and affixed to the slot with approved materials. The materials holding the stone in the slot are sturdy, but should break away instead of the stone itself breaking. This allows the stone to “rock out” of the slot if the stone is stressed. The stone can then be reset in the slot, again using only approved materials.
There are several problems with placing a tombstone directly into “wet” concrete. The concrete is always harder than the stone. This virtually always results in the stone itself breaking if stressed. In fact, many of the broken tablet stones we repaired were broken due to this very reason. Had they been properly set, the stones would likely not have been broken when they were stressed. Another problem with this method is that in many cases no effort is made to repair a broken stone, which results in only the top portion of a broken stone being set above ground level. There are many stones in this cemetery that have the death date, age or other crucial information set into the concrete, meaning this valuable information is lost forever.
View photos of restoration of the