TXGILLES-L ArchivesArchiver > TXGILLES > 2006-02 > 1139685844
From: "Sarah" <>
Subject: Texas Historical Commission - Texas Historic Cemetery Guidelines pages 10 thru 14
Date: Sat, 11 Feb 2006 13:24:04 -0600
Once located, historic cemeteries can again become an integral part of the
community. Stage periodic clean-up days or run short columns in the local
paper about the lives of individuals or families buried in the cemeteries.
Encourage students at all levels to explore cemeteries and write essays
about tombstone designs, burial customs or community history, including
infant mortality, local epidemics or catastrophic events.
In all cases, however, balance common sense with practical considerations.
There are times when publicizing the location of a cemetery is detrimental
to its preservation. Vandals can desecrate secluded cemeteries that are
located away from the eyes of the protective community. Keep statistical and
historical information readily available for public use, but be discreet
about the exact location of vulnerable cemeteries.
National, state and local historical markers provide a focal point for
drawing public attention to cemeteries. Historical markers provide an
overview of the individual or institutions associated with a site. For
information on the various options for historical markers through the
Historic Texas Cemetery designation program or the National Register of
Historic Places, contact the Texas Historical Commission's (THC) History
Programs Division at 512/463-5853 or .
Historical markers, cemetery clean-up days and publicity efforts are tools
that will increase public awareness of these important cultural resources.
Such awareness and education are among the best ways to guarantee the
preservation of a cemetery.
Prehistoric grave sites contain fragile, easily destroyed remains that tell
us about our past. Investigation by qualified archeologists is necessary if
the history in these sites is to be properly preserved. Questions about
prehistoric grave sites should be addressed to the THC's Archeology Division
at 512/463-6096 or .
WHAT TO DO IF A CEMETERY IS BEING DESTROYED
Should you see a cemetery being disturbed by vandals, looters or
construction equipment, whether or not it is marked by headstones or a
fence, call local law enforcement authorities at once. State laws protect
cemeteries and provide a legal framework for removing the grave remains in a
dignified manner. All burials must be removed according to legal statutes
before the landowner can use the property for any other purpose. The same
protection applies to isolated burials. However, you may know more about
obscure cemetery statutes than the authorities, so be sure to inform them of
pertinent cemetery laws.
After contacting local law enforcement authorities, notify the county
historical commission, local heritage society, newspaper and the THC about
the destruction of a cemetery. Stay involved. Do not condone the willful
destruction of cemeteries with silence or by turning a blind eye. The memory
of those who have lived before us should not be forsaken for reasons of
expediency or economics.
There are times when criminal action is not appropriate. A civil lawsuit may
be the only means of resolving a conflict involving a cemetery. For
instance, a county historical commissior in Central Texas undertook a survey
of the historic cemeteries in its area. Several years later, the fence and
gravestones surrounding one of the surveyed family cemeteries were removed.
No stones remained to provide evidence of the graveyard; thus, only the
survey proved the cemetery's existence. Since the site was being considered
for development, the records of the county historical commission were
crucial to the future disposition of the land.
Page 11 NIC
Even though the most disturbing threats to any cemetery are the acts of
vandalism and theft that may be directed against grave markers or tombs,
simple neglect of maintenance is perhaps a more common and damaging problem.
To assist in cemetery restoration, the Texas Historical Commission (THC)
makes the following suggestions:
Find out who has legal jurisdiction over the cemetery and get written
permission for restoration. If it is on public land, contact the federal,
state or local government entity with the authority to protect the
property. If the cemetery is on private land, contact the landowner or
his/her representative and negotiate access, in addition to obtaining the
necessary written permission. Cemetery associations govern many Texas
cemeteries. If a cemetery association is involved, become familiar with its
rules and regulations. If a cemetery is not clearly established in the
county deed records, consider recording its existence therein as provided
for in Section 711.011(a)(b) of the Health and Safety Code as described
under Cemetery Laws in this booklet. This may be the single most valuable
act of preservation for any cemetery.
See page 18 in this booklet for information on one process for recording a
historic cemetery in the county deed records, the Historic Texas Cemetery
Before any plans are made for restoration, make the cemetery secure. Contact
law enforcement officials and ask them to add the cemetery to their route
patrols. Request their advice when creating security measures for the
cemetery. Develop a good relationship with the local police department or
sheriff's office. Contact neighbors living near the cemetery. Ask them to
report any suspicious activity to the police. Let the neighbors know that an
effort is underway to restore the cemetery and tell them who to contact if
they notice any problems.
If a historic fence is not in place, erect appropriate fencing that will
keep livestock out of rural cemeteries (livestock can knock down and
trample gravestones) and deter vandals from entering urban cemeteries,
while allowing people to see in (vandals and thieves prefer high, solid
fences that hide their illegal activities). When appropriate, use lights to
illuminate the dark comers of the cemetery.
Do not restrict access to cemeteries, but consider posting rules and
regulations. Post signs at entrances to let visitors know who to contact for
access, and to show that the cemetery is maintained.
Survey and Inventory
In order to fully document a cemetery, grave markers, fences and buildings
must be inventoried. Following is one method to inventory cemeteries.
Create a map of the cemetery grounds that includes the location of trees,
bushes, fences, gates and other landscape features. Note the location and
orientation of each grave marker, mausoleum, crypt and monument. Include the
orientation of all marked and unmarked graves. Assign each physical feature
(headstones, footstones, fences, benches, etc.) a control number that will
tie together the written, photographic and map records. A sample map is
located on page 21.
Make a written record that includes the following information: control
number, date of record, name of cemetery, type of marker (headstone,
footstone, crypt, obelisk, etc.), size of marker, description of material
used to make the marker (limestone, granite, marble, wood, iron, zinc,
etc.), condition of the stone, name of deceased, vital dates, description of
carving, exact inscription and any other identifying characteristics. The
sample survey form is on page 19. Definitions of terms used in the form are
on the back.
Record each headstone in a systematic method. Divide the cemetery into
sections and record the graves down the rows. After completing a section,
spot check it to make sure nothing was missed. Have another person recheck
the recorded information against stones to make sure no errors are in the
In order to read partially obscured inscriptions, try recording information
in the morning. Most grave markers face east. The morning sun may make
inscriptions more legible. When it is not practical to record in the
morning, use a mirror to angle the sun onto the grave marker to illuminate
indistinct letters and numbers. Never use chalk, talc, flour, shaving cream,
etc. as an aid to reading inscriptions on the face of a stone grave marker.
Contrary to popular belief, these treatments do not always wash away and may
contain chemicals, oils, emollients or bacteria that can damage the delicate
If time and money allow, photograph the grave marker, labeling the
photograph with the control number. It is best to use 35mm, black white slow
speed film (about 100 ASA). Black and white photographs do not fade as
quickly as color photos, and the slow speed film usually provides a sharper
image. [Sarah's note: digital images will be printed in black and white.]
If a computer is available, the inventory information can be easily stored
and retrieved using data processing or data base software. Programming may
be available from members of a community computer club or a computer student
needing a challenging project.
Before a blade of grass is cut, before a stone is led, before any work is
done, it is essential
a master plan for the restoration of the cemetery be developed. The master
plan will act as a framework for restoration activities. Once it is
developed, the interrelationships among the different elements of the
cemetery can be examined.
Page 14 NIC