1 Chichester Cemetery is one of at least 30 cemeteries in the town of Bedford. The first interment here was in 1838, but the town took this one over in 1883.
2 These old burial grounds are owned by local churches, the town, or private landowners and unfortunately, many of them have fallen into serious disrepair.
3 For many people, walking through old cemeteries is like walking through an outdoor museum, finding them quiet, restful, and very educational.
4 Bedford is lucky to have a dedicated group of volunteers that call themselves the Friends of Bedford Burying Grounds (FBBG), working to preserve and restore the cemeteries and gravestones.
5 Some of that group - Betsy Perreten - my stable manager, Jenny Weisburger - President of FBBG, Ray Hinkley, Dick Schmidt - Vice President of FBBG, John Stockbridge - Town Historian of Bedford, and Gray Williams - Town Historian of New Castle
6 That day, the group cleaned several of the head stones, which become discolored over time with mold, mildew, lichen, moss, and acid rain.
7 The stones are sprayed with water and scrubbed with a stiff, natural bristle brush. Cleaning takes good old elbow grease.
8 To facilitate reading the inscriptions, baking soda is rubbed over the words, making them quite visible. Jesper C. Brundace died on Oct. 23, 1877 and his wife stated - Dearest husband thou hast left me and thy loss I deeply feel. But tis God that hath bereft me, he can all my sorrows heal.
9 Baking soda revealed that Ella M. - Daughter of Oiver & Myra Miller - died on March 6, 1875 at 19 years 1 Mo. & 1 Day.
10 Today, most headstones are made out of granite, but for a time, marble was the stone of choice. However, unbeknownst back then, marble is damaged by acid rain, wearing shapes and images away.
11 Lichen is a common problem. Although it doesn't appear to damage the stone, it can certainly make reading inscriptions very difficult.
12 Jenny demonstrated how they go about removing lichen, using a simple wooden shim.
13 The lichen comes right off the surface and then the letters can be picked clean. It's important to use forgiving tools that won't scratch or damage the stone in any way.
14 This is a little girl's grave who died in 1883 at the age of 4. Sadly, old cemeteries serve as a reminder at how much infant and childhood mortality there was, as vaccines and antibiotics were non-existent and getting ill was all-too-often the kiss of death.
15 The girl's name was Clara May Miller.
16 The group finds certain historical records to be very helpful. This volume lists all those buried in the town of Bedford cemeteries from 1681 to 1975, although it doesn't specify which burial grounds.
17 There are several Revolutionary War soldiers buried at Buxton Cemetery.
18 Several cemetery maps were found which have also proven very helpful.
19 This three-volume work by Patrick Raftery is a wealth of information about churchyards, family graveyards, and public cemeteries of Westchester County.
20 This comprehensive work combines thorough research and wonderful photography.
21 This important reference provides detailed information about cemeteries that still exist, as well as those that have disappeared.
22 The group uses a local monument repair person to fix simple breaks with epoxy.
23 Sometimes that repair person will craft a new base for an old stone.
24 For more complex repairs, the group plans to hire a gravestone conservator, who uses special mortars, epoxies, and injectable fillers. This type of restoration is costly and donations are greatly appreciated.
25 Quite often, footstones, or other "found" objects were used to shore up a fallen headstone.
26 This stone is somewhat of a mystery. It belongs to a farmer, William Shephard, who died in 1882 at the ripe old age of 90 years!
27 Someone found the stone in the woods, away from the main part of the cemetery and carried it there to be near the other graves. However, a volunteer of the group poked around in the woods and found that the deceased was, indeed, buried apart from the others!
28 With a little digging, the rest of the headstone was uncovered.
29 And so was the footstone! Footstones were used to mark where the deceased person's feet were located, clearly indicating exactly where the body was buried, so as not to dig there again.
30 Now they just have to figure out why William Shepherd was buried so far away from everyone else. Was he a social menace?
31 The grave of an infant girl just 12 days old
32 The top of the stone is badly blackened by acid rain.
33 Dick explained that the black will eventually come off with persistent gentle scrubbing.
34 Another young death at 6 months and 24 days - Darling May, she has left us. Left us, yes, for evermore.
35 Nancy Scofield, who died on March 6, 1866 lived a relatively long life at 79 years, 8 months, and 13 days. She is buried next to her husband Daniel who passed away on March 28, 1872 at 85 years, 6 months, and 15 days.
36 Two great stones in desperate need of TLC
37 Another baby
38 And another
39 Sabrina, the wife of Enoch Sniffin, outlived her husband by 20 years, dying in 1891 in the 91 year of her age. Sabrina's headstone, like Enoch's, has been broken and repaired and also needs a new base.
40 Her footstone also needs to be repositioned. Footstones are often toppled by landscaping crews.