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Restoration of cemeteries I

Restoration of Meacham cemeteries in north Christian County, Kentucky (Part I)

In January 1999, a few days after the death of my father, I travelled to Hopkinsville to arrange for his burial at Riverside cemetery. At this time I also wanted to visit the two small family cemeteries in north Christian where my earlier Meacham ancestors are buried. When I finally found them, after much driving and inquiring, I was shocked to see the state that they were in. In an emotional moment, when I located the beautifully carved white gravestone of my great-great-great-great grandmother Nancy Calvin Meacham, and cleaned away the roots and soil which covered it, I resolved to restore and maintain these two family cemeteries.

A fellow who lives nearby came over on a four-wheeler to see what I was doing. Making his acquaintance proved valuable, as he was willing to do some work on the cemeteries. The first task at hand was to cut and haul away the many trees that had grown up amongst the graves on the Draper land. The other cemetery, at the old Carpenter place, had heavy vegetation which was cut down.

The main challenge was to re-erect the gravestones; most were down and many were broken in half. After much search, I found a highly recommended gravestone restorer -- John Walters of Connersville, Indiana. He and his wife Micki drove down to Hopkinsville in November 2001 and we spent three days working on the cemeteries. They arrived with a pickup truck bulging with equipment, proceeded to set up a veritable workshop among the graves. Within minutes I knew had made the right decision to engage them, and their meticulous work in cleaning, glueing, filling in breaks and getting gravestone bases back to horizontal yielded marvellous results, as the accompanying photographs demonstrate. Ten hours (a bit over budget) were spent on the Draper cemetery, which has the oldest graves; the one on the old Carpenter place took only four hours.

The major problem that arose was a gravestone rather heavier than it appeared. I had previously told John that none would require a hoist to lift. The large stone for Rev. Calvin Meacham served as a monumental piece for the entire cemetery. At several hundred pounds, it was very unwieldy and could not be raised to the level of the base even by four people using long iron bars and straps. It occurred to me that it could be lifted like the ancient megaliths are believed to have been -- a few inches at a time. Pieces of lumber were pushed underneath at each lift, until finally the huge stone was level with its base, the edge of which served as a pivot and the stone successfully pushed to upright.

During the work on the Carpenter place, a gravestone was discovered almost entirely buried next to a large tree. It was excavated and revealed the following inscription:

L.D. son of ED & I.MEACHAM
born Nov. 11, 1845
died Sept. 23, 1871

This burial was not recorded during the survey of the cemetery in the 1950s, and the gravestone apparently was pushed over by the tree long before. The stone was re-erected beside the tree.

The current landowners very graciously provide access to anyone with ancestors in these two cemeteries. The one on Draper land is however extremely difficult to visit from May to September, when heavy vegetation and a thick field of corn make it hard to reach. The one on the old Carpenter place has cattle grazing in pastures around it, but is easily accesssible from the road.

[Cemetery on the Draper place at first visit] Cemetery on the Draper land in January 1999 when first visited.

[Cemetery on the Draper place after trees cut] Cemetery on the Draper land in March 2001, after clearance of trees had been carried out.

[Beginning of restoration work]
Beginning of restoration work on the cemetery on the Draper land.

[Restoration work in progress]
Restoration work in full swing.

[Lifting the large stone marker]
Lifting the large gravestone a little at a time.

[Grave of Edmond
Sr in 1999] [Grave of Edmond Sr after restoration]
The grave of Edmond Meacham Sr before and after restoration

gravemarker restored]
The grave of Nancy Calvin Meacham before and after restoration.

[Draper cemetery after restoration]
The cemetery after restoration.

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