Massachusetts town pulls together to preserve historic graves before it’s too late
Laurel Hill Cemetery, is the largest historical cemetery in the Town of Deerfield, Massachusetts. Burials span from the 1800’s to present day. Famous artists such as George Fuller, Augustus Vincent Tack, and Stephen Maniatty are some of the notable residents who lie here. The cemetery and community views the property as an important link to Deerfield’s 350-year-old history.
To help keep this history intact the cemetery has begun a $95,000 restoration project which would include the repair, stabilization and cleaning of nearly 400 historical gravestones at Laurel Hill Cemetery on Pine Nook Road.
In March, the Deerfield Community Preservation Committee unanimously approved the cemetery association’s application for Community Preservation Act (CPA) funding. It will be the city’s first historical gravestone project that is funded half by private investors and half from public funds.
The $47,500 of private funding was achieved through support of local organizations, such as the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association (PVMA), Eaglebrook School, Historic Deerfield, and individual contributions.
Restoration work at Laurel Hill Cemetery should take about 12 weeks, and will ideally be done between June and September, to avoid winter freeze and rain. The renovation committee doesn´t think the coronavirus will delay plans. Cemetery representative Chris Harris said: “The problem with pushing it off another year is there’s unstable stones and they’re bound to fall over” “We’re trying to get at this now because it’s critical.”
To upkeep the restoration work the cemetery association is planning on training local volunteers in upkeep of the historic stones. So that the cemetery can be protected.
The Cemetery is a precious historical resource that affords unique genealogical research and educational opportunities for today’s visitors and for future generations. The carved gravestones, both in terms of epitaphs and drawings, are considered significant by gravestone scholars