Jerry SemprevioLinks Section
Raising Fallen Headstones in East Atlanta
Dennis Taylor and Jerry Semprevio spent two days over the Thanksgiving weekend, 2008 using wedges, ramps, a prybar and lots of muscle as we started our efforts to raise headstones that had fallen off their bases onto the ground over the last hundred years at Sylvester Cemetery. The photos that follow offer documentation of the results of our efforts:
Annie L. Martin's headstone which had fallen over, front side up, is on the left. We lifted the headstone and remortared it to it's base. The Martin plot was subsequently raked and ground heaves were filled (11/28/08).
Bonnielyn Powers' headstone had sunken and and entire granite surround had been pushed aside by a large oak tree which grew for over 100 years adjacent to her grave. The stones were shifted and replaced about one foot north of the tree and the entire plot was subsequently raked and ground heaves were filled (11/28/08).
Elnor Gena Cleveland Phillips' monument had separated into three pieces when it fell onto the ground. The base was still stable so we slid the two top pieces back into place and re-mortared the stones. The entire family plot was subsequently raked and ground heaves were filled (11/28/08).
The Manders Family Plot (Jack B, Stella E. & James Alfred Manders) was unusual in that the entire rear section had sunken over the last 50-60 years and more or less collapsed on itself. We jacked up and leveled the headstones, removed the granite grave surrounds, filled the sunken plot and then re-placed the surrounds. The entire plot has been leveled and we are planning on adding a new concrete-block layer to the top of the wall surrounding the plot and then adding a layer of pea gravel. It was a lot of heavy work but the plot looks so much better and was definitely worth the effort. The work was mostly done on 11/29/08).
Mary A.E. Stephenson's monument had fallen into the sunken area as the casket settled and was mostly covered by years of soil and leaves. All three pieces were off the sub-base so they had to be jacked up and replaced on a new sub-base and re-mortared. The entire plot was subsequently raked and ground heaves were filled (11/28/08).
Mrs. E.A. Fincher's headstone had separated into two pieces and was on it's side. We suspect that this was either knocked over by county crews who reconstructed the collapsed wall supporting the Rogers Plot above the grade of Braeburn Circle many years ago or by vandals. The plot is right on the corner of Braeburn and Nash Ave across from the old Sylvester Baptist Church. We rolled the stones away and re-graded the ground, laid a new sub-base and lifted the pieces of the headstone into place. It looks like there was a statue on top of her headstone at one time which is now missing. A new headstone has been ordered from the VA in Washington for her husband to commemorate his service in the C.S.A. during the Civil War. It will be placed on the family plot in 2009. The entire plot was subsequently raked and ground heaves were filled (11/29/08).
Susie Barnett's headstone and base had fallen forward as the casket settled. The sub-base was restored and the base and headstone were eased back into place next to her husband. The entire plot was subsequently raked and ground heaves were filled (11/28/08).
William Franklin Green's headstone and granite grave surround had settled below ground on the Webb Family Plot. We raised and leveled the headstone and surround, filled the sunken area and the entire plot was subsequently raked and ground heaves were filled (11/29/08).
Repairing Broken Headstones
Over the years, some of the headstones at Sylvester Cemetery have fallen over. During the summer of 2006, we started a project to repair broken headstones, benches, planters and footstones (please visit the Headstone Repairs link on the Home Page). Some of the people who have family members buried at Sylvester Cemetery have asked us to help them stabilize leaning headstones and/or lift fallen stones back onto their bases. We have now started to document the fallen or leaning headstones and implement repairs as needed.
We have added stable footing materials under the bases of some headstones and leveled them. We were able to lift other headstones back on their bases and add mortar to hold them in place. However, some of the headstones are too large and heavy for us to do ourselves for fear of breaking them during the necessary work.
Jan Phillips from Southern Restoration Company recently walked through Sylvester with us and looked at some of the more difficult restoration projects that we are facing. SRC is the company that has worked with Oakland and Decatur Cemeteries to restore some of the deteriorating stone work there. We are hoping that we will be able to work with our cemetery families to keep the cost of the work as low as possible to get these projects done.
The photos that follow are of the work done so far:
Emily Chosewood - This is a tall, thin granite head stone that had fallen out of the slot in the base when the original mortar dried out. The new mortar was applied on both pieces of stone and then was supported by a wooden brace until it was thoroughly dry.
Claudius G. Love - The upper piece of this monument had fallen to the ground when the original mortar failed. The new mortar was applied on both sections of stone and the top piece was lifted back onto the middle section. The sub-base did not need any stabilization.
Ernest Crymes - The headstone had fallen when the base tilted as the ground settled over the years. The base and headstone were mortared onto a new sub-base after the ground was leveled.
J.W. Stanford - This granite head stone had fallen off the base when the original mortar dried out. The new mortar was applied on both sections of stone and they were braced until set. No new sub-base was needed.
Swan H. Lanier - This is a tall, thin granite head stone that had fallen off it's base after the original mortar dried out. The new mortar was applied on both pieces of stone and then they were supported by a wooden brace until thoroughly dry. No work was needed on the base or sub-base.
The Little Sons of Mr. & Mrs. E.L. Roberts - This concrete headstone and cherub was found together in a remote part of the cemetery under layers of brush and leaves. It was returned to a new sub-base on the family plot where the parents are interred.
Sallie L. Hays - Wife of Rev. S.C. Hays- Tree roots had pushed this tall, thin headstone over against the trunk of another tree and the mortar had dried out so the stone was loose in the slotted base. The roots were dug out, the base was leveled and the headstone was remortared into the slot in the base.
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