Cemetery restoration project planned in Galveston

Volunteers are needed to help clean and care for cemetery headstones and statues at the Broadway Cemetery in Galveston

October 28, 2011 3:16:02 PM PDT
They'll be busy in Galveston this weekend protecting the past. The focus is the Broadway Cemetery, which has decades and decades of history. But it needs care and attention, or that history could be lost.

The first burial took place here 171 years ago. Time is taking its toll, so concerned citizens are stepping in to lend a helping hand.

It is impossible to miss as you drive down Galveston's Broadway Boulevard, a silent city where at least 2,000 of those who've passed on now rest.

Galveston's Broadway Cemetery is actually four of the city's oldest graveyards that date back to the years when Texas was a newly formed republic. Among the residents is the doctor who tended to Sam Houston at San Jacinto, and the list goes on.

"People who fought in the Civil War, people who fought in the War of 1812," said Linda McBee with the Galveston Historical Foundation.

After more than a 170 years though, the headstones are showing the effect of storms and salt air. Once-white marble monuments are now weathered, and in some cases there is algae. But in recent years, Galveston's Historical Foundation organized a headstone cleanup project, asking the public to pitch in and volunteer and clean a tombstone. A class is offered.

"Make it as gentle as possible," cautioned Mat Farragher with the Galveston Historical Foundation. "You don't want to use metal scrapers or make it as white and clean as possible, because it will do irreversible damage to the stones."

And the stones are important. The names and dates all tell a story of a city's beginning, of wars, epidemics and hurricanes. That's why they're treasured and why that tie to history is being passed on to a new generation. A class from Bonnett Junior High in Deer Park visited on Friday to make headstone rubbings.

Seventh grader Michael Petesch said, "You sort of feel what it was like back then and feel what they had to go through."

At 9am Saturday, Galveston Historical Foundation staff will train individuals on how to properly clean cemetery headstones and statues. Pricing is $10 for GHF members; $12 for non-members. This course is part of the Foundation's ongoing Fall Demonstration Classes. Advance registration is available online at www.galvestonhistory.org or call 409-765-3424. Cleaning supplies and materials will be provided for participants.

At 10am, volunteers will meet at the eastern entrance to the cemetery at Broadway and 40th Street. Individuals and groups will pick up litter and debris as well as pull overgrown vegetation and weeds until 12PM. Participants are asked to bring any gardening tools and gloves. Water and trash bags will be provided. No advance registration is required for this session.

For more information about the cemetery clean up please visit www.cityofgalveston.org or call 409-797-3546. Galveston Historical Foundation can be contacted at www.galvestonhistory.org or call 409-765-3424.

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