Clean gravestones with water, elbow grease, gentle brushes

By Roxanne Moore Saucier, BDN Columnist
Posted Sept. 25, 2011, at 3:32 p.m.

Never bleach a gravestone. Never use a wire brush.

Plain water will do a pretty good job with some elbow grease and a brush that has natural or plastic bristles. There is a biological cleaner called D/2, and that’s OK, but other cleaners are best left under your sink or in the garage.

If the main problem is that auntie’s gravestone is covered in lichen, wet it, then use a credit card to scrape off the lichen and it will look a lot better.

That’s the short version of what Bill and Jane Macomber of Blanchard shared during their presentation on “Cemeteries” before a packed house last week at the Penobscot County Genealogical Society meeting at Bangor Public Library.

The Macombers have trained with the Association of Gravestone Studies and worked on projects such as last year’s cemetery work in Oxbow. When I hear them talk about their travels — a newly discovered cemetery in Mercer, a historical society meeting in Hope — all I can think of is a pinball machine pinging them around Maine’s graveyards in need.

Bill’s slide presentation took us along as they and a variety of volunteers washed, scrubbed, detailed, picked up, repaired and put back monuments of all sizes using equipment such as a come-along, a tripod and — the one Bill would really like to own “if I could justify it” — a gantry.

I wouldn’t advise everyone to jump into moving stones around, but those who are structurally minded like Bill — a lifelong electrician — may have a gift for it.

Just cleaning a stone can make such a difference. Betsy Gray, who died in the 1800s in Mercer, was honored with a beautiful slate stone that was so covered with lichen and grime. When Bill displayed the “after” photo, the audience murmured “wow.”

Here’s another “wow.” The Maine Old Cemetery Association, during the past 42 years, has recorded more than 1 million gravestone inscriptions in the MOCA Inscription Project. MIP chairman Roland Jordan will speak during the fall meeting of MOCA on Saturday, Oct. 1, in the new Newport Cultural Center, 154 Main Street, Newport. There is an elevator to the second floor. The schedule is:

• 8:30-9:15 a.m. Registration, $3 at the door.

• 9:30 a.m. Leigh Hallett, director of the Newport Cultural Center, “154 Main St.”

• 9:45 a.m. “Overview of MOCA Inscription Project,” Roland Jordan, MIP chairman.

• 10:30 a.m. “Some Newport Cemeteries,” Leigh Hallett.

• 11 a.m. MOCA business meeting, election of officers. All welcome.

• Noon. It’s too late to reserve lunch, so take along a sandwich. For information, email cwpatten@tds.net.

• 1 p.m. Tour of North Newport Cemetery and Hearse House, then visit other Newport cemeteries on your own.

• 2 p.m. Door prize drawing, must be present to win.

Information on Maine Old Cemetery Association records in books, on microfilm and on CD are available in some libraries. Check ursus.maine.edu for information on Bangor Public Library, Maine State Library and the University of Maine campuses.

Membership in MOCA is $5 a year, $20 five years, or $100 lifetime membership, sent to MOCA, PO Box 641, Augusta 04332-0641.

• Kevin Johnson, photo-archivist for the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport, will give a program on “Waldo County Through Eastern’s Eye” at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, at the Searsmont Community Building. The program is sponsored by the Searsmont Historical Society in conjunction with the Searsmont Town Library. On display at the library is a collection of large photographs selected from the archives of the Eastern Illustrating & Publishing Co. of Belfast, founded in 1909. Eastern Illustrating produced postcards based on photographs of small towns and rural areas, depicting common scenes and events in Maine during the early decades of the 20th century.

• The Stockton Springs Historical Society will meet at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2, in its rooms at the Colcord House in Stockton Springs. Dawn Staples Knox will give a presentation on the old Gilmore Street Chapel, also known as the gun club or the bowling alley. The society welcomes information from anyone who knows about the history of this building. The building dates to 1911 and disappeared from the Stockton landscape sometime after 1957. All are welcome.

• “Researching Rednecks, Rebels and Red Men: The Genealogy and History of the Cherokee-Scottish Experience” will be presented by Dianne Bergstedt, for the Greater Portland Chapter of Maine Genealogical Society at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1, at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 29 Ocean House Rd., Cape Elizabeth.

Bergstedt is a professional genealogist and owner of The Scots in America, a genealogical research organization. More information can be found at http://scotsinamerica.wordpress.com/.

All are welcome. For information, call Deb at 329-6438.

• For more information on researching family history in Maine, see Genealogy Resources under Family Ties at bangordailynews.com/browse/family-ties. New this week: dates of World War II Pages in the Bangor Daily News. If your town had a page, you can look it up on microfilm of the BDN in Bangor, Orono, Presque Isle and Augusta.

Send queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04401; or email familyti@bangordailynews.com.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/09/25/living/family-ties/clean-gravestones-with-water-elbow-grease-gentle-brushes/ printed on August 23, 2014