Personal endeavor

Bedford’s Kruer tackles stone
restoration project on her own

Monument will be unveiled
on April 6, National Tartan Day

By Erin Lehman
Contributing Writer

(April 2008) – It all started with a stone. A year ago, Autumn Kruer of Bedford, Ky., noticed a broken monument in Madison’s Springdale Cemetery. The monument, comprised of a base and a spire, was snapped in half. The base was dirty and leaning, and the 5-foot tall spire was lying on the ground. As Kruer inspected the markings on the stone, she realized it was a Scottish monument.
“I saw a thistle and I knew what it was,” said Kruer, 47. “I said to myself, ‘That’s a Scot, and that’s pathetic.’ ”

Mark Davis and Autumn Kruer

Photos by Erin Lehman

Professional stone restorer Mark
Davis and Autumn Kruer (above) tour
the site at Springdale Cemetery in
Madison, Ind. The stone (below)
appears to be a memorial for
people buried but not marked.

Stone Monument

The stone monument was engraved with a thistle, the words “Scotch Thistle Society” in a semicircle around the year 1857, and the phrase, “In Memory of Our Deceased Countrymen.” Kruer, who has a Scottish ancestry herself, felt compelled to do something about the broken Scotch Thistle Society stones. She researched the society, enlisted the help of professional stone restorers, and invested her own money in the cause.
A year after Kruer discovered the monument in pieces, she is unveiling the restored Scotch Thistle Society stone to the public on April 6, which is National Tartan Day.
Kruer researched the Scotch Thistle Society but didn’t find much. Her best guess is that the society was a benevolent group that aided Scottish immigrants.
“That stone appears to be a memorial stone for people buried but not marked,” she said.
Kruer was moved to restore this particular monument because it “struck” her, she said.
“Those Scots came to America with the American dream, and now they’re buried in unmarked graves,” she said. “Something needs to be done to this. Their story needs to be told.”
To help the stones tell their story, Kruer contacted professional stone restorers Mark Davis and Helen Wildermuth. Davis and Wildermuth, who have been restoring stones for seven years, and a crew of four finished the restoration in one day.
“We started from the ground up,” said Davis, 50. The crew lifted the stone base with a tripod and dug and leveled the ground for the base. They cleaned both pieces of the monument with water and plastic bristle brushes – their “secret ingredient,” Davis joked. Then the crew used homemade mortar to stack the spire onto its original base.
Unlike the granite stones that are used for modern monuments, the Scotch Thistle stone is limestone, locally quarried and composed of seashell and other fossils. Because of its softer composition, the stone restorers use a blend of cement, sand and lime as mortar. If they used only cement, which is too hard a mortar for the soft limestone, the monument could crack again.
Davis and Wildermuth did the work at “a very big discount” because Kruer paid for the entire project, said Wildermuth, 49.
Kruer, a medical transcriptionist by day and historical tour guide by night, promised to do something for each of the Madison cemeteries when she started her tour business in downtown Madison in May 2007. After gaining permission from the city and cemetery administrators and coordinating her efforts with Davis and Wildermuth, Kruer is fulfilling that promise within her first year of tour-giving.
“It’s not every day that a citizen takes it upon herself to do something like this,” Davis said.
This first project cost her $225, and Kruer is resolved to further her work “one stone at a time.”
Kruer is determined, because she is intrigued by history.
“It just interests me where people come from. America is made of different people, and it’s important to tell their stories,” she said. “People put up stones for a reason – to be read. It’s our responsibility to keep them up.”
Davis, who became involved in stone restoration when he saw Civil War soldier markers broken and falling over, agrees with Kruer.
“All stones that don’t get fixed are going to be gone forever,” he said. “Sometimes the only indication that people lived is that tombstone.”
The unveiling of the Scotch Thistle Society stone will take place in the Springdale Cemetery followed by an informal reception at the Thomas Family Winery, 218 E. Second St. Kruer has arranged bagpipes and a Kirkin’ O’ the Tartan ceremony, which celebrates the plaid Scottish cloth, for the event. The celebration is open to the public, and Kruer invites all people to attend.
“Even if you’re not Scottish, you should come because we’re clannish people and we let everybody in,” Kruer said.

• For more information on Autumn Kruer’s stones or tours, visit her website at www.astepbackintime.net. For more information about Helen Wildermuth’s stone restoration business, visit www.stonehugger.com.

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