Gravestone restoration workshop set

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Roachdale resident Jessica Felix has, over time, become something of an expert on restoring old cemeteries. She has been involved in refurbishing headstones in several local cemeteries including the Spring Friends Cemetery in Amo and the West Branch Friends Cemetery in Coatesville.

She will be conducting a workshop on basic gravestone restoration at the Hixon Cemetery in Wabash Township in Parke County just west of Mecca on Saturday, June 7.

Sponsored by the Hixon Cemetery Association, the workshop is open to the public.

One of Felix's past projects was working with students from Cascade to restore gravestones in the West Branch Friends Cemetery in Coatesville.

Through her research, Felix has discovered that there were 140 people buried in the cemetery and that many of them are marked as unknown graves. She said there are at least 22 veterans from the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War II, and the Korean War buried in the cemetery.

She and her students used online resources such as where they could look at original census images and access family trees to identify names.

Once they completed their research they began the process of cleaning stones using diluted ammonia and a drill fitted with a nylon wheel to clean them.

"We had to be very gentle when cleaning the stone," Felix said. "

The brown bag workshop scheduled for Saturday, June 7 is from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Parke County Learning Center in Rockville (an extension of Ivy Tech) and at the Hixon Cemetery location east of Mecca. Workshop enrollment is limited to 25 participants who are expected to participate in both the classroom and field portions of the program.

Cost per person is $15 for Hixon Association members and $20 for non-members.

Those interested in registering for the class should send their name, address, phone number and registration fee to the Hixon Cemetery Association Ltd., Box 525, and Montezuma, IN 47862. Registration deadline is Friday, May 30.

great, great grandfather donated land in 1853 to incorporate the cemetery.

"We have over 65 veterans buried here beginning with the Revolutionary war and going up through Viet Nam," said Lewman

The Revolutionary solder Joseph Ghomerly was buried before the site was even a cemetery. Lewman has done a great deal of research on the families and persons buried in the cemetery.

"There are 110 families with members in the Hixon Cemetery," said Lewman, who hopes to be able to obtain grants to work on some of the more difficult restoration.

"We can do a lot ourselves. That is one reason we want to have the seminar with Jennifer, so we can learn what to do. For the more difficult things we will have to elicit some experts, and we hope to get some grant money for that," he added.

Lewman has been working on a project to re-plot the cemetery and bring the registry up to date. That will qualify it to possibly receive grant money.

"We're really excited to have Jennifer come talk to us. We already have 13 people signed up for the seminar and hope to fill all 25 slots. There are so many township cemeteries that need repair we hope this will encourage people to pitch in and help," said Lewman.

Felix has already compiled information into a website at for local residents to use for research purposes. And she's asking residents to send information they have on cemeteries in the area to her e-mail address at

Felix said she had also researched the correct way to restore gravestones. The link for the Indiana Pioneer Cemeteries Restoration Project is on her website.

"It has information on correct restoration techniques," she said. "Anyone who wants to work in a cemetery should make sure they know how to do so correctly."

Felix is also looking for volunteers who would like to work on cemetery restoration.

"Most of our pioneer cemeteries are badly neglected or destroyed," she said. "They need to be saved soon before they are gone completely."

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