Cemeteries and restoration

ARCANUM – To continue preservation engaging the Arcanum Wayne Trail Historical Society offers the following reminders available from various web sites.

Ohio Cemetery Laws

Preserving cemeteries, in Ohio, is indeed the law!  See the following Ohio Revised Code sections:

#517.21 Abandonment; #2909.05 Vandalism; #2927.11 Desecration.  We believe that they are sacred and historic sites to be preserved.  They contain the remains of our earliest settlers – those who came to the “wilderness” that became Ohio – and they are in need of protection for many different reasons.  They are threatened by the weather, by time, and by something even more dangerous – man. Old cemeteries are markers of human history.  They are links to family we never knew, they are sources of history and they tell us a great deal about ourselves culturally and socially.  Sometimes it is the only record we have of an individual-their recording of the birth and death of the individual and sometimes who their parents or spouse were.  So that’s why it is important to educate ourselves and take care to restore these crumbling and illegible stones before it’s too late.

Education:  Read the Cemetery laws.  If you have stones on your property do not remove stones or build over the area.   Do not take stones to use in your garden.  Once the stone is removed the location is gone and a family may never know where their ancestor was buried.

Seek permission of property owner:  It is recommended to check with your township or local government first as to procedures.  If the area and stones cannot be maintained and restored, then check with authorities about the removal of remains to a nearby cemetery as well as the stones.

Document stones:   Before removing or doing any type of cemetery work, stones should be documented by recording the engraving from the stones as well as photographing each stone.  A map of the formations should also be drawn.

Restoration of cemetery and stones:  If the cemetery is abandoned and you wish to restore, contact the property owner or current cemetery caretaker.  Attend restoration of stones classes or workshops and read current and reliable information before beginning.  Set up a plan and decide level of decay of the stones and cemetery.  Determine what jobs are best left to the professionals and which are feasible tasks to perform individually or as a group.  If a large project, enlist a group of people – this can be a big job. Hire reputable companies for replacing or mending broken stones.  Some cemeteries may be overgrown and need brush removed before a plan of action can be made and the situation summarized.  Others may need stone washing to remove moss and lichen growth.  We do not recommend doing this without proper training by the National Parks Service.   The following are issues to be considered.

* Restoring fallen over headstones

* Restoring misplaced headstones

* Mending broken gravestones and statues

* Weeding and replanting

* Moss and lichen removal

* General tidy-up

* Seek government and municipal grants for restorative work.

* Assessment of the costs to do restorative work

 Maintenance:  Have a plan to maintain the cemetery after the restoration project is completed.  Also, publish the documentation or donate copies of the recordings of the stones and cemetery to the local historical society.  This would be a good project for Boy Scots, 4-H Clubs, School, or local civic groups.

Consider having an unveiling ceremony complete with a plaque marking and publicity once work is completed.  Post information online to attract history buffs and link this with the local community’s tourism industry. Heritage tourism is a fast-growing industry and restored cemeteries are a definite part of such touristic activities

Web Sites for Info:


Gravestone Guardians of Ohio:  saveagrave.com


Cemetery Laws:  http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/517




Shown is Beech Grove Cemetery in Butler Township.  The cemetery is well maintained, but stones need re-setting and show black lichen growth.

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