‘Cemeteries Are Your Local History,' Beyond The Gravestone Completing Repairs At Cold Spring Cemetery
Henry Botsford, date of death, July 5, 1902; George W. Botsford, date of death August 12, 1894; Elizabeth Botsford, date of death May 29, 1907 — those are just a few of the people who are buried in the historic Cold Spring Cemetery, at 41 Botsford Hill Road.
Over the years, many of the gravestones have fallen into disrepair. Some are nearly illegible from grime coating the front, others have begun falling over as the earth shifts beneath them, and in the most unfortunate circumstances, a handful have snapped completely in half, laying in the dirt and succumbing to the elements.
So when the Town of Newtown received the Neglected Cemetery Grant, officials decided to dispatch Beyond the Gravestone personnel to Cold Spring Cemetery to do what they do best: reset, repair, and restore gravestone markers and monuments.
Beyond the Gravestone is a Storrs-based organization founded by Will and Lisa Cornell. The couple and their team travel all around New England to help with cemetery preservation.
“It’s a passion,” Will told The Newtown Bee. “My wife started this business in 2012. She’s always been into history and iconography.”
Their mission is not only to physically transform gravestones to their former glory but also to honor those who have passed in a respectful manner.
As their website states, “We can repair various kinds of stones, reset all types of markers or monuments, and we can restore historic grave sites. But, giving peace of mind to those left behind, by preserving the memory of a loved one, will be the most gratifying service we will provide.”
The couple had done a variety of repairs at the historic Sandy Hook Cemetery, at 7 Riverside Road, back in March 2019. On Wednesday, July 7, the Beyond the Gravestone team began working at Cold Spring Cemetery in sweltering 90-degree weather.
Will explained that the team would focus on 13 or 14 historic gravestones in need of repair, which mainly included leveling them to prevent them from falling over.
“For resetting the stones and leveling them out, we use mostly hand labor. It’s a lot of digging, because what’s happening underneath the ground is there may be stones leaning against it. The ground is always moving… there may even be roots that are wrapped around it,” Will said.
They carefully dig underneath the gravestone and reset it with gravel, which is better to keep the stone upright over the course of time.
They sprayed some of the stones gently with a cleaning solution as they prepped them for work.
“The [stone] material that is here, we mostly have a mix of marble, a few granite, and we have one zinc. Mostly it is all done by hand; you don’t pressure-wash any historic stones, because of the soft material,” Will explained.
While almost all the work being done by Beyond the Gravestone is manual, Will said they did have to bring “the jaws of life” to help them reset one particularly heavy stone. Will, fortunately, also has experience using the heavy-duty equipment in his day job as a fire captain.
Overall, Will has seen through his work that repairing gravestones makes a positive difference not only for the cemetery itself, but also for the community it is in.
“Cemeteries are your local history… a lot of historical figures are buried here,” he said.
Not only that, but he has found that well maintained cemeteries are less likely to be vandalized, helping preserve the site for generations to come.
Reporter Alissa Silber can be contacted at email@example.com.