The Beaufort Old Burying Ground Undergoing Month Long Restoration-BHA Press Release:
The combination of time and the elements over the years have taken their toll on the tablets, headstones and gravesites of the Beaufort Old Burying Ground. The winds and rain of Hurricane Fran of 1996 perhaps help speed the deterioration process along so repairs are now vital. All cannot be blamed on the weather, as possible vandalism of the grounds could also be a factor. Whatever the reason, about 22 gravesite are in need of repair.
Through the efforts of the Beaufort Historical Association, the Town of Beaufort and the Old Burying Ground committee members, the company of Ruedrich Restorations of Bunn, NC was hired to conduct a condition assessment and restoration proposal. The 30-page proposal outlined the preservation and repair recommendations for the masonry restoration, wooden markers and individual resources such as the toppled urns and vases.
Each of the 22 sites inspected has been photographed with present condition noted along with the repair recommendation. Some recommendations appear simple with hairline cracks having to be glued with epoxy. More involved procedures are necessary to reset bases and markers with epoxy and long stainless steel pins for proper alignment and stability. Several headstone sections will have to be recast using a special mortar compound. This is the most labor intensive of the restoration procedures. Several pieces thought to have been missing were recently discovered in storage.
Repairs to the masonry are even more detailed as the preservation procedures need to follow the Secretary of Interior Standards for mortar composition and specific repointing techniques. Whatever the repair, the work is labor intensive, exacting, and one that should be conducted by highly skilled restoration specialists.
Dean Ruedrich owner of Ruedrich Restorations of Bunn, NC. along with his three professional restoration specialists have been involved in on-going restoration projects in the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery, the Cedar Grove Cemetery in New Bern and the Old Town Cemetery in Hillsboro. Now they will begin working in the Old Burying Ground.
Mr. Ruedrich comments, "The concept for a cemetery restoration is to do as little as needed using the kindest and most gentle techniques." He continues, "The object of a perfect restoration is not to produce gleaming white headstones but to perform one that will retain the character and heritage of the site while maintaining the integrity of the grave."
Along with specific recommendations, the Ruedrich proposal suggests a "widespread cleaning program be established" to keep in check the growth of lichen on the gravestones. Lichen is a type of fungus that is found in damp, humid conditions and can slowly damage sensitive stones such as marble and limestone. Bennett Moss and the volunteer committee members are working on a viable plan to keep the lichen under control once the markers have been professionally cleaned. The use of water misting and spraying with gentle scrubbing is usually adequate to remove dirt and lichen growth ensuring the legibility of the inscriptions on the headstones.
Another recommendation was made to prune back the azaleas bushes to prevent further take-over of the grounds. Root systems and shedding organic material aid in deterioration of the ground supporting the headstones causing them to topple or to lean at destructive angles.
The wooded fences and wooden markers may look as if they have stood the test of time but like anything else, wood is susceptible to rotting. To curtail this deteriorating process, a solution of hot linseed oil and turpentine painted on the markers is recommended as well as treating the ground around the wooden markers to stop insect damage.
Deeded to the Town of Beaufort in 1731 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, itself an honor and a rare occurrence for a cemetery, the Beaufort Old Burying Ground has become a town treasure.
There are over 200 stones dating from pre-Civil War. The earliest legible date on a marker is 1765 although it is estimated there are more as old that are not legible. Some markers simply have no dates. It is known there are 45 from the Civil War period, 150 from the 1865-1890 years and a few from early 1900's.
Under the custodial care of the Beaufort Historical Association in partnership with the Town of Beaufort, devoted volunteers from the Old Burying Ground Committee have been looking after its upkeep and well-being. Guided tours are available through the BHA for a small fee and led by docent volunteers highlighting some of the many notable gravesites. The grounds may also be enjoyed with a self-guided tour brochure or simply as a quiet refuge from the heat of the day and the hustle of the season. The gates are open from early morning until dusk.
Restorations are always on-going but with the use of improved materials and techniques, along with preventative measures, the forces of time can be slowed to prevent further damage. "A lot of Beaufort and Carteret County history is buried there. We cannot afford to lose any more graves to deterioration, " says Bennett Moss, chairperson of the BHA Old Burying Ground Committee.
For further information on the Old Burying Ground, interest in serving on the OBG Committee or contributing to the restoration efforts, contact the Beaufort Historical Association (252) 728-5225.