of fallen soldiers
had endured years of neglect
(March 2010) When Steve Leach sits down to fit
together the pieces of his latest puzzle, he isnt whiling away
the hours on a casual game. Rather, he is working to re-assemble the
tombstones of former Madison, Ind., residents whose markers have been
broken through time and the elements.
by Lela Jane Bradshaw
help Heritage Restoration
clean up Madisons Underwood
Cemetery, the burial site of six U.S.
veterans, including Civil War and
Revolutionary War soldiers. From
left they are Charlie Stiver, Nick
Schultz, Steve Leach and
Leach, 37, of Madison, owns Heritage Restoration, a company
dedicated to making certain the final resting places of long-ago area
residents are preserved and treated with proper respect. His work combines
a stone workers artistic skill with a historians attention
Leachs latest project has been working alongside the members of
the Madison group, Veterans of the Vietnam War Inc. Post 11, to clean
up the Underwood Cemetery.
Its neat to work in it, you bring it back to life. It feels
good, Leach says of the historic grounds.
The Underwood Cemetery, located on the Madison Hilltop, was in use between
1825 and 1888. So far, research has uncovered 55 tombstones, and there
are plans to further explore the site to see if there are more graves
in need of conservation. The cemetery houses the graves of six U.S.
veterans, including two Civil War soldiers and four men who served in
the Revolutionary War. The veterans group recently completed a plot
map of the cemetery. The map will be posted to allow relatives and researchers
to find specific grave sites.
While there is still work to be done in preserving the site, Leach said,
All in all, weve got the worst of it.
Leach is now working to get a few final stones restored before the weather
turns bad, since the limestone and sandstone markers turn dangerously
brittle in the cold. Once you get into October, its getting
late in the season, he explains.
Charlie Stiver, Commander for the Vietnam veterans group, recalls the
condition of the cemetery before the group began its restoration work;
It was sad, something that we didnt like.
by Lela Jane Bradshaw
old marker lies
on the ground ready
to be repaired
He explains that the grounds were overgrown with vines
and trees had fallen across the plots. Nick Schultz, treasurer and former
commander for the veterans group, described the overwhelming task
that faced the group when it began the cleanup. The only thing
we could see were the tops of the stones. I thought, Boy, is this
a waste of time!
The veterans group started work in the cemetery about 11 years
ago. The members began by spending an entire summer removing trees and
undergrowth that had taken over the area. The group supplies flags for
the veterans graves and three years ago began the work of restoring
the broken markers.
The Underwood Cemetery is one of four preservation projects in which
Heritage Restoration has taken part. Steve Leach and his father, Bob,
founded the company three years ago after attending a seminar on stone
repair. Leach has already restored at least 12 of the damaged Underwood
stones at a specially designed workshop.
Preservation workers begin by taking a series of cell phone photos of
the area to record the original location of the tombstones so that they
may be returned to their proper places. Then the process of collecting
the broken pieces begins. Large pieces will be fit back together, while
tiny fragments too small to be reassembled will be ground up and mixed
with the epoxy adhesives used to repair the breaks. This addition of
this original stone helps keep the repaired seam from being noticeable.
Over time, the break will weather and age, and soon only a close inspection
will reveal the damage.
Leach said he hopes his work will inspire others to become active in
cemetery restoration and preservation. Maybe one day we can get
more people interested in cemeteries.
Leach estimates that there are close to 40 cemeteries in the area that
are currently inactive. He said every cemetery has an old section.
These aging and neglected plots require maintenance. We would
like to see someone to serve as a go between for interested volunteers
and the cemetery board.
Leach says that Heritage Restoration would be willing to help train
others in the art of restoring the tombstones. You hear about
the historic buildings in Madison, he says. These are the
people who built those buildings.
Heritage Restoration may be reached at
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