Gamaliel cemetery project underway

A light dusting of snow-covered Gamaliel Cemetery recently, but brushing it away one could read the freshly carved names in several new stones gracing the lawn.
The added stones are an ongoing project being conducted by volunteers with the Friends of Gamaliel Cemetery. The project was started by the late Judy Downing in the early 1990s.
The Gamaliel Cemetery is managed by five trustees.
Trustee Chad Comer started the Friends group in 2009. Volunteers handle many tasks, including flagging graves for Memorial Day, maintaining the flowers at the entrance to the cemetery and maintaining the Old Union Church Graveyard.
The trustees also oversaw the Gamaliel Historical Roadside Marker Project and had a flagpole installed at the graveyard, with help from Modern Woodmen.
The group also maintains a Facebook page to keep the community informed.
The graveyard is the largest in Monroe County, having 2,088 graves, with only four unknown.
All of these graves are recorded in a book, which has been kept since the opening in 1844. Comer proudly displays the antique archive book, noting the excellence of its documentation over the last 176 years.
He noted the original rocks marking graves from the 1870-1880s, “are called field rocks. They are limestone rocks you see in most cemeteries—older graves—some have words but most don’t. You could see the names on some of them if they were smoothed down, but the majority are blank.”
He waved his hand across the center section of the lawn at several new stones which have been added, all having orange flags temporarily marking them. “This is where most of the unmarked graves are. During that time there were a lot of epidemics and so many were killed so quickly that they didn’t have time to mark the graves. A lot are infants as well, so you will only see a last name.”
He steps over to a monument marking the names of nine of 11 children in the same family who were lost and explains that rather than add nine stones (at a greater expense), that a monument was placed in the center of the graves, naming the children. Two of the survivors have descendants that are now trustees of the cemetery.
While the group accepts donations for the upkeep of the cemetery, Comer noted that the money for the field rock restoration project does not come from those donations.
“All of the money for this project comes from earmarked donations, usually raised on the Facebook page and through sales of books and calendars related to the cemetery. These items are available online, at Old Mulkey State Park gift shop and sold at events such as the Watermelon Festival. Comer said that the calendars are $15 each and make great gifts,” he added.
Comer noted that in the past, the 5X10 granite stones, which are placed below the field rocks rather than replacing them, cost $35 each but will increase to $48 each next year. They are supplied by Dale Cherry of the Lafayette Monument Company, who has helped with the project and kept costs affordable.
As the original stones were placed by the families approximately 100 years ago, they are left as is out of respect. However, by that same token, the committee wants every name to be written in stone. The names and dates are sandblasted into each one and then placed into a hole dug in the earth close to the original rock and then set in cement.
Comer said that, so far, over 400 graves have been marked with around 300 more to go. This is normally done in the fall, but the committee is considering doing some in the spring, should donations allow. This most recent project, was the biggest endeavor so far with 52 graves marked due to generous donors.
In the past, he added,, they have only been able to do 20 to 30 at a time.
Comer is proud of the project. “Other people talk about doing things like this, but I think, if you’re gonna do it, then do it.”
He continued, “I try to promote it as much as I can. It is something for families to be proud of. They want their families to be recognized by name, not just a rock, so a lot of people with descendants buried here have donated toward this cause. One lady paid for 10 stones, not knowing specifically the stones added, just wanting to help.”
The Friends group hopes to complete the project within the next few years and encourages anyone who would like to help toward next year’s project, or for upkeep in general, to specifically mark what the donation is for and mail it to P.O. Box 99, Gamaliel, Ky., 42140, or drop it in the drive-thru donation box located at the cemetery.

1 Comment

  1. CONNIE J.Phelps PHELPS on January 7, 2020 at 4:01 pm

    I thank that is great thing.. God Bless .

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