Volunteers will discover history by cleaning stones at the Old Burying Ground this Sunday

Eco-friendly cleaning supplies will be used during a clean-up day at The Old Burying Ground off Mechanic Street.

WESTFIELD – Volunteers are welcome to join members of the Historical Commission this Sunday, June 9 at 1 p.m. to clean stones and discover history at the Old Burying Ground on Mechanic Street, one of the oldest burying grounds in the country still in its original location, according to Historical Commission Chair Cynthia P. Gaylord.
The oldest remaining stone in the cemetery is from 1683, although the burials most likely began in 1660, Gaylord said, adding that burials largely stopped when Pine Hill cemetery opened in the 1840’s. She said every year, the group tries to clean 40 or 50 new stones of the 1100 standing.
“It’s so magical to see the history of Westfield unfold as you work your way down the stone,” Gaylord said.
Volunteers are asked to bring containers of water and spray bottles to clean the stones, as there is no water source in the Old Burying Ground. All the other materials, including gloves, toothbrushes and very soft brushes will be supplied, and training offered on how to handle the stones, which are very fragile.
“For the age of the stones, they are in remarkable condition,” Gaylord said, adding that some suffer from “sugaring” of the stone from acid rain, which causes rapid deterioration.
Gaylord said requests are coming in from all over the country from people who believe their ancestors are buried there. She said in the last two years, due to a renewed interest in genealogy, they have had “an onslaught of requests,” which adds to the urgency of their task. The Historical Commission has also recently installed a sign on the gate, letting people know they can find the key at the front desk of the Athenaeum.
Gaylord said the Boy Scouts are coming to help on Sunday, but they would “love any help people would like to give us.” She said usually the crew works for about two hours cleaning the stones.

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