Restoration of Athey Cemetery

Putnam County, Indiana

April 5, 2003



On April 5, 2003, Susan Huber, Lee Creed, Sheila Morrison and Larry Tippin participated in restoring the Athey Cemetery in Washington Township.  Also participating were five direct descendents of the families buried in this cemetery. 


We met at 10:00 at the cemetery. After assessing the condition of the cemetery we documented the area by taking photographs and mapping the location of each visible stone. We then started cleaning the grounds. It took about three or four hours to complete the cleanup. The area contained about half a dozen mature multaflora rose bushes, a good sized honey locust (thorn) tree and a lot of scattered brush and briars. We treated the stumps and brush with Tordon. This will greatly inhibit the regrowth of these undesirable species.


We then made a diligent effort to locate as many tombstones as possible, and to ascertain their original location. Several of the stones were broken in two or three pieces, and many were difficult to read. We cleaned the stones to the extent possible. As always, cleaning was done using only water and a soft brush. This method helps restore the face of the stone, while causing the minimum amount of distress.


After cleaning the stones, we performed a careful examination of names, dates and other legible markings. We also attempted to match up the stones that were fragmented. We then compared our readings to the listings made by Bill Boatright in 1956. We were able to match several dates to the proper name that Mr. Boatright had not been able to do. For instance, we were able to come up with an age for Telithia Rice, but we were not able to read the date of death as the stone was cracked right at the dates.


We were also able to locate one stone Mr. Boatright had not read, that of Cary A. Moyers. But we were not able to locate the stones of James and Prudence Athey. This is disappointing, as it is believed that this is the same James Athey mentioned on page 12 of the 1879 Atlas of Putnam County. It is stated that James Athey erected the first house in Putnam County in the winter of 1818-1819. For this reason, many consider this cemetery to be “the” pioneer cemetery in the county, even though it does not contain the oldest death date.


We did find fragments of stones with dates that match Mary J. Athey w/o Henry Athey. Those fragments were about 90 feet west of the main part of the cemetery. We also located a stone fragment that appears to have the date 1878. This date does not match James or Prudence Athey. It may be possible that this fragment is from an entirely different stone. We speculated that it might be that of Henry Athey, as it was very close to the fragments of the stone of his wife.


We mapped the location of the stones, and also documented our estimation of location of the stones that were not set. We also updated the names and dates from Mr. Boatright’s readings. We also photographed the area at this stage of the restoration process and took photographs of each individual stone.


We performed our restoration efforts in accordance with generally accepted standards for cemetery restoration, such as those advocated by the Indiana Pioneer Cemetery Project. Our goal is to locate, restore and preserve the pioneer cemeteries in such a way they will be in good condition for future generations. We were especially pleased that members of the family participated in the restoration process. They will certainly visit this cemetery for many years to come.


Our exhausted, but happy, group left the cemetery around 6:00 in the evening. Plans were made to return to the cemetery the next weekend to repair and reset as many tombstones as possible.



Restoration of Athey Cemetery (Continued)

Putnam County, Indiana

June 21, 2003



On June 21, 2003, Lee Creed, Sheila Morrison, Phyllis Brown and Larry Tippin returned to the Athey Cemetery in Washington Township to continue restoration work.  Also participating were five direct descendants of the families buried in this cemetery. 


We had performed preliminary restoration on April 5, 2003. At that time we mowed the thick underbrush and located sixteen tombstones. In that two months time the weeds had grown to a height of about four feet. It took over an hour to get the weeds mowed down.


After mowing the weeds, we reset the stones for Carey and Susan Moyers. These two stones are monolith type stones. For these two stones we dug a square hole eighteen inches across and eighteen inches deep. We put about six inches of sand and gravel mix in the bottom of the holes and poured about eight inches of concrete on top of that. Later in the day, after the concrete dried, we reset the stones. The bases were chipped, so Lee repaired them with mortar mix. We then set the stones on the bases. These two stones are a little bit into the power line right of way. We decided it would be a good idea to set a tall post near these stones so future mowing crews can see the stones and hopefully avoid hitting the stones.


We were able to locate the bases for Ellsan and Michey Johnson. Their stones were just west of their parents. The footstone for Michey was Michey was located about six feet northwest of her father Henry Johnson. Since she was two when she died we thought it would be logical her headstone would be about four feet west of her footstone. We searched the area and found an intact base with a piece of a tombstone broken off just above the base. The bottom edge of Michey’s stone fit perfectly. We then looked about six feet to the south of this stone and found the base for Ellsan’s stone. It also had a bottom piece broken off just above the base and the stone fit perfectly into the base as well. We repaired the crack in the stone and reset it in its base.


We then matched the base for Caroline Matkins. This stone is a very large tablet stone. It was broken off below ground level about three feet north of the stump where many stones had been piled, and about 25 feet west and a little south of the stones of Henry and Elizabeth Johnson. We dug a hole and set the base in sand and gravel. We then repaired the stone at the break.


The stones for William Webster and Telethia Rice were repaired and reset at the location they were found. That still left six more stones piled against the stump. It looks like someone had picked these stones up from their original location and piled them against the stump, not realizing how important it is to keep the stones at their original location. We wanted to set these stones as close as possible to their original location, rather than to leave them leaning against the stump. We left most of the decisions to the descendants of the family who were working with us. We felt it proper to let them decide where to reset the stones of their ancestors. Here is the logic we used to determine the location of the stones.


The stone of Maria Matkins was one of those leaning against the stump. We felt it would be best to set this stone about three feet north of the stone of Caroline Matkins, her mother.


The stones for Margaret Webster and infant s/o S. & M. Webster were also leaning against the stump. We felt it would be proper to locate these stones near the stone of William Webster, which is about 25 feet west of the stone of Caroline Matkins. We set the stone of Margaret Webster north of William Webster and the stone of the infant son south of William Webster. Both of these stones are slap stones in good condition. We set these stones by digging a hole and packing the bottom third of the stones in sand and gravel. This may or may not be the original location for the stones, but we felt they were probably originally near where we reset them.


This left only the stones for Jasper, Malissa and Mary Rice leaning against the stump. We felt it would be best to set these stones near the stone of Telitha Rice. We marked with surveyor’s flags where we intend to set these stones. We intend to set the stones for Jasper and Malissa north of their mother Telitha Rice, and the stone for Mary J. Rice south of that stone.


We worked until almost dark. Since this was the longest day of the year, we were able to work until after 8:00. We could have finished setting the last few stones, but we ran out of sand and gravel mix. We marked the location for the remaining stones and went home tired but happy. We plan to return in the next several weeks to finish setting the last few stones. The area looks like a cemetery now.



View photos of restoration of the Athey Cemetery:

Athey cemetery before restoration

After trees cut and before mowing

During restoration

Athey cemetery after restoration



View information on individuals buried in the Athey cemetery

View information on all Putnam County cemeteries