A little forest of tombstones has risen in our Pioneer Graveyard.
Greg Tingley a most faithful volunteer, has spent most of the summer and nice days out at the graveyard, repairing and standing up the old broken tombstones. It is quite amazing. I have handled every tombstone out there, at one point dragging them (they are heavy) to the correct position and matching them to their broken bases which were encased in cement back in the late 1950s. Yet from the supine to the vertical position, I can see so much more. I never noticed the serpentine tops or the one with a graceful peak. The engraving now pops out to be read and they are no longer sad.
True, sad is an unusual description for a tombstone, but it was so sad to see these stones laying down. Many were broken in several pieces, so Greg would take those home to his shop so he could peg, mortar and clamp them until they dried, straight and true. Some are so degraded that when you start to drill them they start to disintegrate, in which case they were epoxied together. They were brought back to the graveyard and attached to their bases. The stones are surprisingly heavy and once mounted on the base had to be weighted down and secured in place while they dried.
For some reason back in 1958, in Section H 1-18, the stones were just laid on the ground. They had no bases to attach them to. Initial ideas to stand them up were quite expensive and in the end we figured they would just lay on top of the pea gravel again. But Greg, having overcome many other challenges, figured out a fairly simple way of erecting these large stones once more so the ravages of acid rain and ice expansion would be diminished. Their resurrection will hopefully allow your grandchildren and great grandchildren a chance of reading them.
From laying on the ground for decades, all of these stone were broken at least in half, so Greg is once again repairing the breaks and standing them up. I know he is hoping to get all that can be erected up before it gets too cold.
After five years working on this project, the now standing stones are the crown jewel of the project and once again the property looks like a graveyard!
We are excited to report that the foundations have been laid for both the wrought iron entrance sign and the large monument with the almost 400 residents laid to rest listed for future generations to find. They should both be up shortly.
To help with the costs of erecting the stones, we are once again offering the chance for you to tour the graveyard and learn about some of the residents. It is the same successful tour, which we filled last June, however these tours will take place in the dark.
Our live ghosts are ready to meet you on Friday, Oct. 23rd and Saturday, Oct. 24th at 7 p.m. We ask the public to bring a flashlight as the ground is uneven and there is little light. Our ghosts have great stories and they have been silent since for over 160 years, so you might want to bring a light stool or chair to rest on, as the tour will be about one-and-a-half hours long.
It is not a scary tour although some people, in graveyards at night, with the shadows of tree limbs looking like writhing snakes on the ground, do tend to be a big jumpy. There is really nothing to be afraid of. I don’t think we have any of the murderers in this graveyard, we just have the victims, who are now resting in peace. I think.
If perchance the weather is too cold or rainy, we will fly the ghosts over to Annandale House and let them tell their stories to you there as it will probably be impossible to find another weekend without rain or snow. It will be cold, so you need to dress very warm.
Numbers on the tour are limited, so you must reserve a spot by calling Annandale National Historic Site at 519-842-2294 an make arrangements to pay the $12 a person. I have been asked if it is appropriate for children, which is a difficult question for me as I don’t have kids, but I think the only thing they would be might be bored, because it isn’t a scary tour. If you have any questions you can ask the girls at the museum or give me a call at 519-842-8416.