Percy Cemetery Restoration
headstone buried just under the topsoil. Many of the stones were broken and had to be bonded back together.
By the end of 1986, we finally felt we had made significant progress. The cemetery was beginning to look like a cemetery. There was more work to do but the worst was over.
During the spring, summer and fall of 1987, we spent most of our time re-setting headstones. In most cases, we re-set the stones at the place where they had fallen or as close as could reasonably be expected. In other cases, we judiciously moved stones to another location so that they formed rows or clusters. We had no idea where the stones had been placed in the past. We just did the best we could.
One of our constant concerns in resetting the stones was to place them in such a way that mowing and maintenance would be least difficult. I do not suppose many people think about it, but mowing around headstones is a tedious chore at best and with two acres to mow regularly and with nearly three hundred headstones to mow around, we wanted to make our task a little easier.
We made another significant change in the topography of the cemetery as we reset the stones. In retrospect, it was an expedient decision and by no means the best one. Long time community residents will remember that wrought iron fencing enclosed many of the family plots. Sam and I decided that for the sake of maintenance, the thing to do was remove this fencing. Many of the enclosures were small and there was no reasonable way to work inside to keep the grass and weeds cut. Even in the larger plots, the fencing made it difficult to work around the headstones. Today, there is no fencing except for the Miller family plot on the north end of the cemetery. This is a concrete and block plot where the fencing is not a problem. We sold the fencing at ridiculously low prices and deposited the proceeds in what was to become a perpetual care fund for the cemetery.
In resetting the stones, Sam and I tried to insure that they were really “planted.” Once they were up, we didn’t want them falling down again. We dug out around most stones, then mixed and poured concrete around the base so that they were both stable and straight when we finished (some did not turn out to be very straight, however).
For many of the larger monuments, we had to use pry bars to straighten them first, then stabilized them by inserting rocks under the base. For a handful of monuments, we again used the services of the city’s backhoe to lift and place them.
Quite a large number of headstones were broken over the course of time and needed to be repaired. The Sowers family, owners of the local funeral home and memorial business, supplied us with special epoxy glue that is used to mend broken stones. Thus, we spent a considerable amount of time in making these repairs. Sometimes it was relatively easy because the break was clean and the pieces fitted nicely together. Some of the older and less durable stones, however, proved to be a more difficult task because the breaking points were eroded and the pieces didn’t fit well together. Again, we did the best we could. After gluing, the seams were filled with mortar to strengthen them and improve their appearance. Sometimes this worked and sometimes it didn’t.
We had a little fun piecing some of the stones together. When we found a broken stone, we would lay it on the ground and try to fit the pieces together like a puzzle. Quite often there were missing pieces. There were a large number of pieces strewn throughout the cemetery. Sometimes we would be working in one part of the cemetery and would find a piece just laying there or simply look at a piece that had been laying about for awhile. All of a sudden one of us (most often Sam, who was a mathematician) would think that it looked like the right size or shape to fill in a gap in another stone. So we would drop what we were doing and “test our theory.” We took the piece to the headstone we thought it belonged with to see if it would fit. It was amazing the number of times we turned out to be right. A piece of stone we found on the south end of the cemetery fit a headstone on the north end. Of course, we were wrong quite a lot. At the northwest corner of the cemetery is a pile of pieces of headstones that do not seem to belong anywhere. We don’t know what to do with them.
Anthony E. Crosby and Michael R. Olson
28 x 22 cms
Cemeteries, Maryland, Frostburg; Obituaries, Maryland, Frostburg. .
Frostburg (Md.), 1800-1972