The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

April 24, 2013

Iowa's Pioneer cemeteries getting some much-needed help

(Continued)

One of the tedious parts of cemetery restoration is working with headstones, Dickey says. Only certain products can be used so there is no additional damage to the stones. Learning which ones are safe is imperative before tackling a project, she said, and added that those who have been doing this for a while can share what works and what doesn’t.

The stone restoration itself is more complicated and more labor intensive. Again, most epoxies are not recommended because they change colors and do more harm than good. Some people have put headstone pieces in concrete or mortar, which is a huge problem, Dickey said.

“If that stone gets hit by a lawn mower, it will snap off right where the stone meats the mortar,” she said. “And some people have used metal or bolts to put them back together, but that just promotes rust.”

Dickey has written three books on area pioneer cemeteries, including two on the community of Buxton. What began with a love of family has turned into a passion for history.

“I started out doing my own family research, and now I do it for other people, too,” she said. “I’m very family-oriented, and I like history and the research involved.”

She is now working in the old part of Eddyville Cemetery, which has about 900 burials in that section alone. She’s already worked on 200 broken stones, many of which are made of sandstone, the most difficult type to repair. Shifting sand caused many of the headstones to sink straight down into the ground, where they can be damaged or covered with grass over time.

One of the most interesting parts of the restoration work Dickey is doing has been witching for graves. While some people don’t believe that it really works, Dickey says she has had great success with it.

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