Cemetery Vandalism – well-intentioned, but still vandalism!

Submitted by: Carol A. Kelly, Gloucester Cemeteries Advisory Committee

On a recent visit to Bayview Cemetery, I stood stunned before four gravestones that had been vandalized. Unfortunately this does sometimes happen– but this time I wasn’t looking at graffiti tags or off-color drawings. Instead, someone had used either a Sharpie or black paint to trace over part of the carved names and dates on the stones. Did they think that they were making the stone more readable? Did they mean well? Sadly, whatever the intention, the ugly stark black now standing out against the beautiful white stone is still vandalism.  

The Cemeteries Advisory Committee of Gloucester and its wonderful volunteers have been working hard for the past several years to restore our cemeteries. This means spending hours cleaning the stones and removing moss and lichen, as well as stains from weathering…. and now we also have to figure out how to get rid of whatever this is.

The four vandalized stones are all markers for a single family, the Joneses. I wonder if the vandal was worried that the inscriptions were fading with time and weather and were at risk of being lost. I wish they had been aware that the Committee (and a lot of volunteers) have worked hard to create an online database of the inscriptions in our cemeteries, making sure that the information is available to the people of Gloucester. Perhaps, if our vandal had known that, they wouldn’t have felt the need to damage these markers.  

That database is actually the culmination of a project that began well over a century ago, in 1890. That was when the City of Gloucester, concerned about losing grave inscriptions to the years and the weather, paid a Civil War veteran named William Dolliver to travel through the Gloucester Cemeteries (and some Rockport ones as well) and record all the inscriptions. Our project, which began five years ago, took his handwritten records from the City Archives, transcribed them and digitized them; they are now available to everyone on the Cemeteries Advisory Committee website: https://gloucester-ma.gov/1073/Dollivers-Cemetery-Inscriptions.  There, our well-intentioned vandal could have read the inscriptions for the Jones family, and perhaps with that reassurance would have left the stones alone.

As we prepare to celebrate Gloucester’s 400th anniversary, our cemeteries offer so many ways to remember our history and the people who made it, even as we continue to work to preserve and restore these places and these markers. We urge anyone concerned about the state of specific gravestones, or about the risks of losing an inscription, to visit the Dolliver online archive and/or contact the committee rather than attempt any kind of DIY restoration– especially with paint or a Sharpie! Good intentions aside, Mary B. Jones, and her family, deserve better.

Leaving a comment rewards the author of this post- add to the discussion here-

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s