Green Lawn Cemetery was vandalized for the second in five months.
Photograph courtesy of Scott Andersen
With Spring upon us and Summer on the horizon, we are reading about hands-on cemetery preservation (or cemetery restoration) workshops to be presented in Ohio and in neighboring states.
Please keep in mind that a workshop is only as worthwhile as the quality of the teaching by its instructor.
Gravestone cleaning methods always matter!
Below is a handy sheet to have on hand before attending a cemetery workshop that includes demonstrations and instructions on how to clean gravestones.
Remember that not every gravestone really needs to be cleaned in order to read its inscription!
Less is always more when it comes to gravestones.
***It is never appropriate or acceptable to use power tools on gravestones to clean them!**
“NCPTT does not advocate the use of power tools to clean headstones. The use of such tools can abrade and remove granules from weathered marble and limestone. We do not advocate grinding, re-lettering, or polishing headstones as this alters the original surface of the grave marker.
The company that makes Nyalox brushes compares their performance to wire brushes, which are much too harsh for a stone surface. Would you use a Nyalox brush on a power drill to clean the surface of your automobile? If not, then you would not use it to clean a grave marker.”
These abrasive brushes shown below are harmful to gravestone surfaces and have no place at a cemetery workshop no matter who the instructor is!
**Click Below to view and listen to the Youtube video**:
Listen to how this man is treated by Bluffton, Ohio Village councilman Warren at time 2:50 minutes in this excerpt of the Bluffton City Council meeting of March 21, 2016.
Ray was trying to get to the bottom of the runaround The Save Shannon Cemetery group has received for the last year by the Village of Bluffton Ohio, concerning the destruction of a cemetery his ancestors are buried in. After the village appointed a handpicked cemetery commission that unanimously voted to put the cemetery back as it was & in a state of preservation. The village is now playing political games of tabling & not tabling the recommendation & parts of it.
Tell Bluffton, Ohio’s elected officials what you think of their BS, lies, intimidation, & destructiveness.
Current Term Expires Dec. 31, 2017
2016 Committees: Utilities
Bronze Grave Markers:
Dennis Montagna, Historian at the National Park Service:
For those who have questions on the subject of bronze grave markers and memorials, please contact Mr. Dennis Montagna, Historian at the National Park Service at his email address below to ask questions for one-on-one guidance for their care and restoration:
Statements from Dennis Montagna:
January 27, 2016:
“Most commercially produced bronze plaques for the last 40 or 50 years have a painted surface–usually a brownish background (letters and other high points burnished bright) and then the whole thing gets a clear topcoat.
At some point, the coatings need to be removed and reapplied. Mild gel paint strippers usually work well, although folks who work fast and dirty will uses abrasives.
If you’re just doing a washing, I’d use a very small amount of any of the conservation soaps you’re used to using…Orvus, Igepal, Triton-X…and the apply a cold paste wax that is free of abrasives. Sort of treat it like your car, but don’t use car wax. Use the wax sparingly and buff it out. I like using shoe shine brushes. This may not make a big difference in appearance, but waxes will likely make the lacquer coating last somewhat longer.
From what I’ve seen, some foundries, like Matthews Bronze, apply long-lived coatings. They use a proprietary coating called Diamond Shield, and I don’t know how it should be removed. It might be best to send it back to them for refinishing.
Other producers seem to have less durable coatings, but they may be more easy to remove.
When coatings begin to fail, they usually do it at the edges of things, where it is thinner. Lacquer coatings want to pull away from edges and collect in recesses. Coatings on ground-mounted plaques fail faster because they get beat upon by weather and other things far more than do vertical ones.
If you have a chance to influence placement, always push for vertical! Also, if you can maintain them from the beginning, that’s best, if unlikely.”
January 28, 2016:
“The methods used to produce a bronze plaque are not necessarily ones you would choose to conserve them. Always strive for a light touch.
Just because power grinding and sanding tools were used to make a plaque, it doesn’t mean they’re a good idea in the preservation area.
Aggressive cleaning means loss of surface…just like we see in misguided efforts to clean stone.”
Quoted from the “Columbus Dispatch” article titled: “Ancient Ohio sites lack state protection from archaeology scavengers” – Monday, January 11, 2016
By Author: Earl Rinehart:
“Ohio law does not specifically protect graves at abandoned cemeteries, those on private land or unmarked burials older than 125 years, including Native American artifacts and remains thousands of years old. “
I was puzzled about the “older than 125 years” portion of that statement so I contacted the author and Mr. Bradley Lepper, Curator of Archaeology at the Ohio History Connection, who is mentioned in the news story.
Afterward, I heard from Mr. Lepper who so kindly referred me to Mr. Dave Snyder, Archaeology Reviews Manager, State Historic Preservation Office, who provided me with a wonderfully detailed answer with an attachment that I wish to share.
But first, here was my question:
“I was wondering if the 125 years in the story’s statement should be 25 years? If not, do you happen to know what the source is for the story’s statement?”
I based my question on the following:
Ohio Revised Codes:
OHIO REVISED CODE – Selected Cemetery Law 155.04 Veteran’s Headstones (A) No trustee, association, corporation, or person in control of any cemetery or a public …
(C) Sections 4767.02 to 4767.04 of the Revised Code do not apply to or affect a family cemetery or a cemetery in which there have been no interments during the previous twenty-five calendar years. As used in this division, “family cemetery” means a cemetery containing the human remains of persons, at least three-fourths of whom have a common ancestor or who are the spouse or adopted child of that common ancestor.
My answer from Dave Snyder (January 21, 2016):
“From my understanding of how to apply Ohio laws to protect burials I have found that both 25 years and 125 years are important numbers. That is, both of you are correct.
There are different kinds of protection provided for under state laws with different state agencies having authority under different laws.
For a cemetery that is active there are specific requirements for registration and maintenance. The focal point for these requirements is at Ohio Revised Code Chapter 4747 where responsibility is assigned to the Ohio State Department of Commerce, Division of Real Estate and Professional Licenses. The Ohio Cemetery Law Task Force recommended a number of changes that I believe take a constructive step to strengthen the Division’s authority to ensure appropriate care of graves in active cemeteries (including markers of veterans graves). There is much more to do in Ohio to protect graves in active cemeteries, but from where I sit, I see this as a positive step forward.
Protecting graves in cemeteries that are not active is quite a different matter. As you have noted in your blogs there is very much for Ohio to do to make sure that graves in abandoned cemeteries are protected. Cemetery registration requirements convey the standard that after 25 years without an interment a cemetery is to be considered abandoned.
And in addition, there are many unmarked graves in Ohio, and most of these are places where American Indians were buried. And here is where the law in Ohio brings in the 125 year standard. Attached is a pdf of one of the court cases that upheld and strengthened this 125 year standard. Although the 125 year standard applies to almost all unmarked American Indian burials, it also applies to all graves that are older than 125 years, even in active cemeteries. The cemetery registration requirements provide for some protection of cemeteries and their markers, but do not provide much protection for the remains of the deceased.
Most people find grave robbing and grave desecration deplorable and repulsive. Ohio’s law basically states that you have to be able to recognize the remains as the deceased in order to apply the laws prohibiting grave desecration. That is, the laws protect the corpse of a recent burial, but after some time, when the corpse is no longer recognizable it is no longer a corpse and cannot be protected under Ohio laws. Don’t get me wrong, I want to see the laws strengthened to better protect human remains and prevent the abuse of a corpse, but I also want to extend the laws in Ohio to protect human remains regardless of whether the remains can be defined under law as a corpse.
So, Ohio law does not protect American Indian burials – they are not corpses as defined under Ohio law, and they are not in marked graves in active or abandoned cemeteries as defined under Ohio law. Ohio law prohibits trespass and vandalism – thus it isn’t a violation of the law to dig up American Indian burials, but it might be a minor violation if you trespass on property where you didn’t have permission to go and you vandalize a place where you didn’t have permission to dig.
In the latter 19th century the Ohio courts were asked to define and clarify when a recent burial had so decomposed that it was no longer a corpse, and the courts came back with the 125 year standard.
But the problem is not just that this leaves graves of American Indians without protection, now this applies to graves of many, almost all, veterans of the Civil War.
It is now OK under Ohio law to dig up graves of Civil War veterans to take buttons and such as long as you don’t trespass or vandalize. Putting all of this together, this is why so many of us are very much concerned by the 125 year standard and are working to get this changed and fixed. But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t also concerned about caring for abandoned cemeteries and the problems that the 25 year standard brings to these issues.
I hope this is helpful in answering your question.
I very much appreciate your blogs and your advocacy for the protection of cemeteries.”
David Snyder, Ph.D. | Archaeology Reviews Manager, State Historic Preservation Office
Ohio History Connection | 800 E. 17th Ave. Columbus, Ohio 43211
p. 614.298.2000 | f. 614.298.2037 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanking Dave Snyder for answering my question and providing informative details that hopefully will help others also to better understand how these “25 year and 125 year rules” apply and affect Ohio’s cemeteries and gravesites.
Below are the pages from the pdf document referenced in Mr. Snyder’s reply: