Boy Scouts help clean cemetery stones
By Stephanie Taylor Ferriell, Senior Staff Writer, [email protected]
The transformation was incredible, almost magical. After the monuments were sprayed with water, scrubbed, sprayed with a cleaning solution, scrubbed and then rinsed once more with water, the words engraved upon them became visible.
Five Boy Scouts from Troop 161, along with several adult volunteers, spent several hours Sept. 18 in the Marengo Cemetery, cleaning 14 stones, most of them in the oldest section.
The first stone Zenor McClure cleaned was heavily covered with lichens that had built up for more than a century. McClure scrubbed and sprayed and, in less than an hour, discovered this was the grave of Chesterfield Weathers, who died in 1893. Script on the bottom of the monument, completely unreadable before, revealed a hopeful desire: “Each of us hopes to join you at last on that beautiful heavenly shore.”
Doug Stiner, of K & D Cleaning Services, taught the volunteers how to properly clean the stones. Stiner has been cleaning stones in various area cemeteries for more than the past eight years.
Stiner began by explaining first how the stones came to look the way they did.
Stone, explained Stiner, grows little creatures that cling to the surface over time.
“The more they produce, the more they produce,” he said.
Stone is porous and puts off acid as it oxidizes. The acid, said Stiner, is from the iron in the stone and helps bind the lichens.
Stiner said gravestones are made from marble, granite or limestone. Stones that are heavily covered in growth can be damaged if cleaned incorrectly. Stiner warned that some abrasive cleaners can render stones unreadable and using tools that scrape can remove pieces of a monument.
A popular method of obtaining information from old stones — making rubbings using a pencil and paper — is now discouraged, said Stiner, because it pushes growth on stones further into them, making them even more difficult to clean.
Steiner uses a biodegradable alkaline cleaner called D/2. It works in about five to seven minutes. Funding from the Community Foundation of Crawford County paid for the cleaner used by the Scouts.
In addition to the 14 stones cleaned that day, the Scouts helped reset three stones with cement.
Stiner said a total of 47 stones have been restored in Marengo Cemetery since he first worked there last year.
Pam Poe organized the cleaning day, bringing Stiner and the Boy Scouts together. She and her husband, David, are involved in efforts to restore the Marengo Big Springs Old Town Church, which is located just across from the cemetery.
“I hope this plants a seed, and the kids take the knowledge they’ve learned and teach others how to properly clean stones,” Poe said.
The church, erected in 1858, is likely the first church built in the area. Many of its founders and members are buried in the nearby cemetery.
McClure said he was glad to spend a Saturday morning bringing a part of history back to life.
Regarding the deteriorated condition of the stones, he said, “It’s just not right. A lot of them grow old and moss up. It gives me satisfaction to see them cleaned.”
For more information, visit the Marengo Big Spring Old Town Church Facebook page.