Conference on Preserving Historic Cemeteries a Success
Monday, June 5, 2017
Hillsborough hosted a regional workshop on Saturday, June 3, to help other North Carolina communities learn best practices for cemetery preservation and maintenance.
With a grant from the State Historic Preservation Office, the Town of Hillsborough — through its volunteer advisory boards the Historic District Commission and the Cemetery Committee — engaged speakers knowledgeable about repairing, cleaning, and restoring gravestones, as well as finding unmarked gravesites.
About 50 people participated in the conference, with visitors from as far away as Goldsboro and Edenton gathering with guests from the Triangle, Triad, and Hillsborough to learn from experts, discuss challenges and successes, and enjoy walking through Hillsborough’s historic cemeteries.
Dean Ruedrich of Ruedrich Restorations, who has repaired and cleaned gravestones in Hillsborough’s Old Town Cemetery and around the state, covered topics including cleaning monuments, mower damage, and structural instability.
Archaeological Geophysicist Shawn Patch of New South Associates Inc. explained how ground-penetrating radar works and gave attendees a chance to use the equipment in the Old Town Cemetery.
Workshop participants engaged in small group discussions led by Cemetery Committee members, guest speakers, and town staff during a working lunch. Topics included cemetery recordkeeping, sensitivity and stewardship, maintenance, genealogy, photography, and community engagement. The day wrapped up with viewing the Hillsborough Cemetery Committee display at the Visitors Center and walking tours of downtown Hillsborough, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church Cemetery, the Hillsborough Town Cemetery, and the Margaret Lane Cemetery.
“Hillsborough is a community that truly appreciates its history and historic landscapes, making it the perfect location for a workshop like this,” said workshop organizer and Historic District Commission member Cheri Szcodronski.
“We were able to bring a diverse group of people together to brainstorm challenges, celebrate successes, and go back to our individual communities with new strategies and renewed energy for cemetery preservation,” Szcodronski said.
Ashley Campbell, a Hillsborough resident who serves as vice chairwoman of the Cemetery Committee, contacted the State Historic Preservation Office last year to ask about potential grant opportunities. That office oversees the distribution of Historic Preservation Fund grants made available to certified local governments by the National Park Service. Hillsborough received $2,900 from the State Historic Preservation Office’s matching grant program, which the town matched with $600.
“I was pleasantly surprised to discover that its staff was already keen to fund a workshop in Hillsborough,” Campbell said. “The workshop was designed to not only provide training for Hillsborough Cemetery Committee members but also allowed us to share our work with preservationists from across the state and learn from their experiences as well.”
Hillsborough has three diverse cemeteries. The Margaret Lane Cemetery was a burial ground for slaves from at least 1854 and served as a burial ground for African-American residents after the Civil War. The Old Town Cemetery was established in 1757 and contains nearly 200 marked graves. The Town Cemetery was established in the 1800s, and burials still take place there today. All plots have been sold.
The Cemetery Committee makes recommendations to the Hillsborough Board of Commissioners regarding the maintenance and preservation of the cemeteries. Workdays are occasionally organized for all three cemeteries. For more information on the cemeteries or regarding the workdays, contact Public Space Manager Stephanie Trueblood by email or by phone at 919-296-9481.