Chillin’ With Buried Revolutionary War Heroes (Or, How We Cleaned a Cemetery)

My better half, voluntarily mowing a graveyard on a hot August afternoon.

During our weekend adventures upstate, we often drive by a very old cemetery, the kind that immediately makes you think of Ichabod Crane, Paul Revere and the Salem witch trials (or maybe that’s just me). This summer, with each passing week, the cemetery appeared increasingly devoured by Mother Nature, the weeds wrapping their tendrils over the headstones, obscuring many of them from passers-by. It was spooky, and a little sad.

As it turns out, the cemetery used to receive tender loving care from state prisoners, who would mow back the overgrowth. But then the guvnah cut funding for prison workers, and the cemetery was left to fend for itself. We found this out from members of our local historical society,  who were looking for volunteers to restore the cemetery. Long story short: We, along with a family who had grown heartsick over the unkempt conditions, spent a recent Sunday happily volunteering. One nice bit of randomness: The family had shown up on their own to mow, unaware of the historical society’s plan to mow, too — on the same day, at the same time! It was definitely nice to have extra hands, and they were experienced with machines like weed whackers, while I was mostly just afraid of them.

On to the cemetery: The first thing you notice? It’s old, folks, old. Many of the dearly departed died before the Civil War, and quite a few fought in the Revolutionary War. Then you notice its size: It’s large, with more than 450 graves in various states of decay and disrepair. And there are snakes — a copperhead made a grand entrance. While one may be tempted to comment on the eerie presence of a snake in a graveyard, the snakes are presumably there to 1) bask on the warm gravestones and 2) chase down the many mice living under the headstones. It was a good reminder to wear jeans and boots when mowing an overgrown cemetery (something I hadn’t really known how to plan for, and that’s probably a good thing. Also bring water, sunscreen and more water).

And ….what it all looks like:

"In memory of Hester Simpson, wife of John Libolt, who died April the third day of 1863."

You can really see the before-and-after here, as Brendan shoves the "brush hog" (a weed wacker shaped like a mower) up a hill.

What many of the graves looked like before grooming.

Another grave, post haircut. When a headstone breaks, historians try their best to keep the pieces near each other, as shown here.

After they’ve been chewed and spit up by a weed whacker, the weeds become hay, and I spent a lot of time raking, brushing and yanking hay/debris away, so that the bottom of the graves weren’t sitting in a rotting mess. It sounds easy, but try it over, and over, and over again, until your hamstrings are practically hollering at you.

It’s a killer workout. Pun intended.

3 thoughts on “Chillin’ With Buried Revolutionary War Heroes (Or, How We Cleaned a Cemetery)

  1. Betty Victory says:

    That was a very nice thing for you and Brendan to do!! It looks like you learned some things while doing it. The old headstones are very interesting and spur ones imagination.

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