Grave Cleaning — Evergreen Baptist Cemetery
On February 15 I headed east from Natchitoches and drove out to Evergreen Missionary Baptist Church near St. Maurice in Winn Parish. The cemetery is beyond the church and sits on uneven and sometimes even hilly ground. I was there to clean the grave of Mrs. Josephine Small, a flat concrete tablet with a vertical headstone. The front face of the headstone has an angel’s head and wings carved in relief at the top and an inscription below that reads:
ASLEEP IN JESUS
Atop the headstone is a carving of a lamb. Around the neck of the lamb is a sort of casing or brace of a different material that I believe is there to protect this area, possibly due to previous damage.
Both the flat tablet and headstone were covered with a large amount of dirt and grime. Some biological growth was at the headstone end of the tablet, and much more was on the front, back and carving of the headstone.
I wet down the stone and realized that two environmental factors were working in my favor. The first was that despite the uneven terrain of the cemetery, this particular grave was remarkably level. Water poured on the stone did not run off the side. The second was that the weather that day was mostly cloudy, though it did not rain. Almost no direct sunlight struck the grave during my time at the cemetery. These two factors meant that the stone would not dry out took quickly while I was working, a big advantage for work that requires the stone be kept wet during the cleaning process.
During cleaning and immediately after, it was apparent that most of the staining on the tablet was dirt and grime that had built up to such a degree as to turn the stone almost black in some places. This came off in large amounts after two cleaning cycles. The grime on the headstone also came off to a large degree, along with some of the biological growth.
I returned a week later on February 22 to take some “after photos” and was very pleased with the overall results. The headstone showed less biological growth despite the fact that I do not think that it rained at the site during the interval, which would have washed off some of the dying growth. The bracing material looked significantly cleaner as well. The weather report says that it will rain quite a bit at the site tonight, so the grave may look even cleaner over the next few days.
NOTE: As always, I should mention that I do not clean to make things look pretty, but as a preservation procedure that extends the life of the resource. An improved appearance is an added bonus.
Here are some before and after photographs of the grave:
See more photos of this cemetery on my flickr page.