Sunday, December 02, 2012

Resetting sunken headstones within historic Brick Mill Cemetery

One of the hardest things to accomplish while stabilizing an endangered cemetery is to locate sunken headstones. Some are easier to locate then others since parts of the stone may be visible. Other stones, however are much harder to locate because they have sunken so far under the surface that no signs of a grave marker is visible. In either case, stabilizing a sunken headstone is the same.

Sunken grave markers within
Fisher family section of Brick Mill Cemetery


The following is a brief  discussion on how to properly reset a sunken grave headstone:

  There are numerous ways to ensure a sunken headstone can be reset.  My method may seem simple but, it has proven to me at least, this process produces a good outcome.  One that shows respect to the individual who had been laid to rest and to their family.
View of removed headstone that was partially buried.

When dealing with either partially or fully sunken grave makers, one must use extra care while using hand tools.  Sharp edges of metal shovels or, other such hand tools, will cause cuts into the stone.  Over time, the stone will deteriorate due to harsh impact caused by weather that enter these cracks and cuts. 

After clearing dirt from the around the stone, carefully lift it out and away from the actual grave site.  Since you are doing one grave at a time, the need to temporary mark the grave is not required. 

With the stone safely placed to one side, "till" the original grave soil equal to the hole left by the once sunken grave.  With this done, add fresh dirt to bring the entire grave site back to the visible ground surface.  [The upper layer of soil, which consists of the layer of grass could be cut out and set aside.  After the work is completed the layer of grass could be put back in place]

Level dirt throughout entire grave site.Stones are not reset 

With the soil replaced, packed and leveled the next and final step is to set the actual stone.  Some form of stone or, rock should be used to place the grave marker on, to prevent future sinkage.  The extra stone adds addtional weight support and allows rain water to disperse around the headstone without washing away the soil from under the stone.  Treated lumber, like a 4x4 beam, could also be used.  Over time, however, timber may deteriate.  With the support stone in place, reset the headstone and ensure the stone is properly level.

With this method, as with other techniques that may be used, the final outcome will be obvious.  Direct descendents and other visitors will be thankful for the extra effort made in setting a presentable grave marker, that gives proper respect to the individual laid to rest. 

{Author's note:  I always suggest that detailed photographs be taken throughout a cemetery preservation project.  The pictures will help to show and educate the general public on the process and progress of work.}