Southampton works to restore gravestones

  • Richard Frary, veterans’ grave officer for Southampton, inspects a general monument honoring all those from the town who died serving in the Civil War, on Friday at Center Cemetery in Southampton. The monument recently underwent cleaning and restoration work using a state grant and town Community Preservation Act funds. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • The gravestone of Joseph Powers, who lived from 1824 to 1898 and served in the Civil War, was among 22 at Center Cemetery in Southampton that were recently cleaned and restored using a state grant and town Community Preservation Act funds. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Richard Frary, veterans’ grave officer for Southampton, inspects a general monument honoring all those from the town who died serving in the Civil War, on Friday at Center Cemetery in Southampton. The monument recently underwent cleaning and restoration work using a state grant and town Community Preservation Act funds. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Richard Frary, veterans grave officer for Southampton, talks July 28, 2017 about the gravestone belonging to Revolutionary War veteran Silas Sheldon who died in 1840 and was buried in Center Cemetery in Southampton. The stone recently underwent restoration work to clean off the discoloration formed over time by acid rain. The work was funded by a state grant and town Community Preservation Act dollars. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

@kate_ashworth
Published: 7/28/2017 11:45:57 PM

SOUTHAMPTON — A tall, sandstone monument stands by the front entrance to Southampton Center Cemetery, dedicated to “brave volunteers of Southampton whose lives were sacrificed in defense of Liberty and Union during the great rebellion.”

A sandstone eagle, missing a wing, keeps watch from atop the structure.

Though the monument withstood the ravages of time, it suffered cracks in the structure that became worse and worse.

That led the town’s Cemetery and Historical commissions to include it in an ongoing restoration effort. The monument was restored in 2015 as part of the Civil War portion of the restoration project, although the bird’s missing wing was never found.

The project continued this summer, as 14 Revolutionary War gravestones and monuments were cleaned and restored with a $7,500 grant from the Massachusetts State Historical Records Advisory Board, matched by Community Preservation Act funds. Eight Civil War gravestones where cleaned and restored in 2015 with a $5,000 grant, matched by CPA funds.

Beyond the Gravestone, a company based in Connecticut, did the work for both projects.

Lisa Cornell, Beyond the Gravestone’s owner, said that what appears to be minor on the outside of gravestones can have structural implications.

“What you see outside is not compared to what’s happening inside,” Cornell said.

For sandstone monuments, cracks in the sedimentary rock will turn to sand, so workers blow out parts that have turned to sand and harden the stone with a consolidator. Layers of the rock are then glued back together with a epoxy.

Acid rain has deteriorated some of the headstones. Cornell said on marble stones, the acid rain will soak between grains of sand and dissolve them. For marble stones, Cornell said the company will place the stones at a slight angle forward to ensure the rain falls on the back of the stone and slows down the deteriorating process.

An anti-fungal treatment is used to remove lichen, mold, algae and fungus.

At the cemetery Friday, veterans’ grave officer Richard Frary talked about the heavy impact the Civil War had on Southampton’s small community. With a population of 1,130 in 1860, 131 Southampton men were drafted to the Civil War. At the Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia, three of those men died.

Frary pointed out the restored headstone for Perry M. Coleman, 10th Massachusetts Infantry, who died in 1862 at the Battle of Fair Oaks in Virginia.

“First to enlist, first to come home,” Frary said.

Before the restoration, there were deep vertical cracks on Coleman’s headstone, according to Robert Kozub, chiarman of the Historical Commission.

“Before, you could put a nickel or dime between them,” Frary added.

As veterans’ grave officer, Frary routinely places granite markers at veteran gravesites that have deteriorated. He said the names are often unreadable. At the May Town Meeting, he received $5,000 in CPA funds to purchase and install markers.

Frary pointed out the first grave in the cemetery. The stone had deteriorated over the years, and the letters are no longer visible. Years ago, Frary added a granite marker to the gravesite for Simeon Wait, who died in 1738.

“Died from drinking too much cold water,” the marker reads.

Although he wasn’t a veteran, Frary said the gravesite is significant to the cemetery, which was registered with the National Register of Historical Places in 2013.

Much of the other graves in the cemetery have likewise deteriorated. Names were erased over time by natural causes. Some have fallen over, cracked or are broken. But when it comes down to fixing them, there isn’t the money to do it, Kozub said, pointing out that the grass was overgrown.

“Some of the stones are so old that the families don’t exist (anymore),” Kozub said.

For the veterans’ gravesites, Kozub said they would like to continue restoring the stones, but it all depends on what grants are available in the coming years.

In any event, the work done will not last forever.

“They are all going to deteriorate again,” Kozub said.

Caitlin Ashworth can be reached at cashworth@gazettenet.com.




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