MOCA News

<< First  < Prev   1   2   Next >  Last >> 
  • 20 Nov 2020 2:04 PM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    Legislative Update and Cemetery Laws
    Helen A. Shaw
    October 15, 2020 

    With autumn comes the urge to clean up cemeteries and gravestones before winter sets in. It is great that so many people are willing and able to do the work, but before starting such projects, please make sure to obtain permission from the cemetery’s owner.

    Who owns the cemetery and who can give permission can be difficult to determine and sometimes no one knows who owns a particular cemetery. In the case of Ancient Burying Grounds, it is often the municipality where it is located that can give permission, simply because descendants of the family(ies) that established the cemetery are no longer in the area or cannot be identified or located. Under Title 30‐A, Section 3104, these Ancient Burying Grounds are considered Abandoned Cemeteries: “a cemetery in which no burial has been made in the previous 40 years and the lots or grave sites of which have not been maintained within the previous 10 years, except for maintenance rendered by the municipality in which the cemetery is located.” Under this statute an abandoned cemetery may be formally acquired by a municipality, but many are reluctant to do this due to legal and financial obligations.

    Regarding Ancient Burying Grounds, municipalities are only obligated by state law (Title 13, Section 1101) to care for veterans’ graves and that care only extends to mowing the grass and keeping the graves free of debris, weeds, vines, and fallen trees and branches. Flags must also be placed on veterans’ graves for Memorial Day. Under the same statute municipalities MAY also care for non‐veteran graves, again only mowing and trimming brush and weeds and only from May 1 to September 30.

    Under Title 13, Section 1101, a municipality may appoint a caretaker to take care of both veterans’ and non‐veterans’ graves. The best way to make sure you can take care of an Ancient Burying Ground is to have a municipality appoint you the caretaker for one or more specified burying grounds. A person who owns land surrounding an Ancient Burying Ground may refuse the municipality or designated caretaker access to the burying ground to care for veterans’ graves. In that case, the property owner is obligated to care for any veterans’ graves in the burying ground, but must allow the municipality or designated caretaker access to the Burying Ground to determine if the veterans’ graves are being cared for properly (Title 13, Section 1101‐B, part 2). Access to Ancient Burying Grounds surrounded by private property continues to be a problem and is being worked on. 

    A bill passed by the state legislature in January 2020 and signed in to law by the governor in February amended sections of Title 13, clarifying the definition of, and documentation for the existence of, Ancient Burying Grounds. It also requires a municipality to designate caretakers in writing. A very important part of the revised law addresses the issue of boundaries of an Ancient Burying Ground, which has come up when property owners claim there is no burying ground because there are no fences or gravestones.

    Click to read the new law [PDF]

    NOTE: The revised statute is not yet in the online published statutes so those who want to become a designated caretaker may need to take a copy of the pdf to the municipality when applying.

    Gravestones belong to the family of the person(s) commemorated on them. Unless the stones are modern, it can be difficult to identify living family members to obtain permission to work on the gravestone(s). However, this may not be possible regarding stones in Ancient Burying Grounds. Title 13, Section 1371 outlines who may repair, maintain, or remove “...any tomb, monument, gravestone, marker, or other structure placed or designated as a memorial to the dead, or any portion or fragment of any such memorial or any fence, curb or other enclosure for the burial of the dead...” 

    Click to read Title 13 Section 1371

    When family members or descendants cannot be located, permission for repairs and maintenance is the responsibility of the municipality in which the burying ground is located.

    While it does not explicitly address the issue, Title 13 Section 1371 also protects memorials to Confederate soldiers buried in Maine cemeteries. This would include any version of a Confederate flag placed on the grave of a Confederate soldier. Such flags would be protected just as the United States flag is protected when placed on the grave of a U.S. or Revolutionary War veteran. 

  • 26 Mar 2020 7:12 AM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    The cancellation of the spring program in Lubec has left us with space to fill in the MOCA Spring 2020 newsletter. I am encouraging all members and interested parties to submit essays, articles, poems, photos, illustrations, and any other information related to MOCA activities, old cemeteries, local history, burial and funeral rites and rituals, etc. for consideration to be included in the upcoming newsletter. If we get a lot of submissions, we will hold them to use in future issues.

    Please send written items as Word documents and photos/illustrations in the highest resolution jpg format, and make sure the author of the writing is clear and include identifying captions for photos/illustrations. The deadline for submissions is Tuesday, March 31, and items should be sent to me via my online contact form.

    Our members always send fascinating items so I am excited to see what we get this time!

    Thank you,
    Perri Black, MOCA newsletter editor   

  • 05 Oct 2017 3:58 PM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    The History Press has just released Ron Romano’s second book, entitled Portland’s Historic Eastern Cemetery: A Field of Ancient Graves. This book celebrates Portland’s 350-year-old burial ground, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.  

    Many MOCA members visited the cemetery in July when the cemetery’s friends group, Spirits Alive, hosted the MOCA summer meeting.  Chapters include “Lost at Sea,” “The Dead House,” and “Five Men Hanged for Murder.”  The book also examines how the minority populations of African Americans, Quakers, and Catholics were treated by the town.  

    Romano is offering MOCA members free shipping on autographed copies of the book.  Contact him at roroman@maine.rr.com for further details.

  • 07 Aug 2017 1:59 PM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    From Friday, September 8 through Monday, September 11 cemetery conservator Joe Ferrannni of Grave Stone Matters, based in Hoosick Falls, New York, will be working with the Ridge Association and a group of pre-registered participants at a workshop to preserve some of the stones in Ridge (aka South Parish) Cemetery in Martinsville.

    Ferranni will demonstrate a specific technique and then under his tutelage those participating in the workshop will have the opportunity to practice the technique as they work to preserve some of the gravestones in this cemetery.

    Depending on the condition of the stone various techniques may be required. Among the skills covered will be using correct materials and techniques to clean stones, straightening leaning stones, resetting stones in their current bases, making new bases as necessary, replacing rusted pins, repairing using epoxy and infill, and other preservation tasks as the workshop continues and specific needs are discovered.

    Documented direct descendants of any of the persons buried in Ridge (aka South Parish) Cemetery in Martinsville (St. George) Maine who do not want their ancestor’s stone preserved by this group should contact Joyce Davies by August 31, 2016. 

    The Ridge Association, which cares for this cemetery, has already authorized the work.

    Posted in the Knox Village Soup, 2 Aug 2017

    Also: The Courier Gazette, published by Courier Publications LLC, 91 Camden St., Rockland, ME 04841, page D3, Thursday, August 3, 2017

    Workshop Registration Opens 9 August 2017

  • 28 May 2017 9:41 AM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    Jonathon Flaherty, a student at Cascade Brook School, discovered a potential error on a stone he was cleaning at Academy Corner Cemetery in Wilton. Deb Probert, right, a member of the Maine Old Cemetery Association, guided the stone-cleaning work.

    WILTON — Fifth-graders from Academy Hill School in Wilton and Cascade Brook School in Farmington cleaned stones in the Academy Corner Cemetery on Wednesday.

    But, it was more than just a lesson in cleaning.

    The project, called Stones with Stories, challenged their language arts, math and history skills. Their work will culminate in a map of the cemetery that plan to give to the town, teacher Sarah Reynolds said.

    The project resulted from the Maine Old Cemetery Association workshop at the Weld Road cemetery last summer, Deb Probert, association member, said.

    Town Manager Rhonda Irish thought it would be good to involve schoolchildren in cleaning the stones.

    Students previously visited the cemetery on the opposite corner of Main and Depot streets.

    After cleaning each stone, they compiled information, including names, dates and inscriptions. Jonathon Flaherty, a student at Cascade Brook School, discovered a potential error on a stone. Prior to cleaning, the name appeared to be John Hay but the clean stone indicated the name was John Day who died in the 1800s.

    Probert assured him the name would be researched.

    The students' history, literacy and writing skills were stretched as they researched the person or family whose names were on the stones and wrote about them and the period in which they lived, Reynolds said.

    Lucinda Carroll, a student at Academy Hill, relished the research task and is creating a snapshot of the Morse family, Reynolds said.

    Four members of the family died within four months from typhoid fever, the result of contaminated water, Carroll said.

    Maxine Brown of the Wilton Historical Society said there was an outbreak of typhoid fever in 1816 followed by another in 1830.

    The cemetery dates back to 1816, maybe 1810, she said. The are 38 stones that are visible and some may be buried. The cemetery sign says Academy Hill Cemetery but it is actually Academy Corner Cemetery, she said.

    The school across the street was originally the Academy Freewill Baptist Church which was built in the mid-1800s. Many buried within the cemetery were likely members, she said.

    The large, open barn-type building later became Wilton Academy, which burned in 1980, she said. A photo of the original church is on display at the society's museum.

    There are three veterans buried in the cemetery, she said. Two are veterans from the War of 1812 and one is from the Revolutionary War.

    The Maine Old Cemetery Association wants to "foster interest in the discovery, restoration and maintenance of Maine cemeteries and to preserve records and historical information which relates to them," according to its website.

    Reprinted by permission of author, Ann Bryant Sun Journal
    Franklin | Saturday, May 20, 2017

    See original article/additional photos


  • 15 Aug 2016 1:57 PM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    VALERIE TUCKER PHOTO
    Each summer, the Maine Old Cemetery Association hires Joe Ferrannini, owner of Grave Stone Matters, to teach attendees the basics of stone cleaning and repair. The cemetery restoration expert hauls his business-on-wheels to Maine from upstate New York, carrying everything from rinse water to a tripod and chain haul to raise and lower stones weighing hundreds of pounds. The two cemetery workshops this year are in the Franklin County towns of Industry and Wilton. At the West Mills workshop in Industry, workshop leader Joe Ferrannini guided participant Albert Stehle, of Bowdoinham, in proper techniques to straighten veterans' stones after repairing damaged bases.

    Valerie Tucker, Special to the Sun Journal

    INDUSTRY — The rural West Mills cemetery has very few visitors, although it serves as the final resting place for many of the area's founding families.

    Each summer, the Maine Old Cemetery Association hires Joe Ferrannini, owner of Grave Stone Matters, to teach attendees the basics of stone cleaning and repair. The cemetery restoration expert hauls his business-on-wheels to Maine from upstate New York, carrying everything from rinse water to a tripod and chain haul to raise and lower stones weighing hundreds of pounds. The two cemetery workshops this year are in the Franklin County towns of Industry and Wilton. At the West Mills workshop in Industry, workshop leader Joe Ferrannini guided participant Albert Stehle, of Bowdoinham, in proper techniques to straighten veterans' stones after repairing damaged bases.

    For four days in August, all of that changed as their headstones were scrubbed and their bases straightened and repaired. The Maine Old Cemetery Association scheduled two cemetery restoration workshops in the state this year, both in Franklin County.

    The first group of two dozen attendees gathered on Friday morning at the Industry Fire Station for an orientation. Before getting to the historic West Mills cemetery on the Shaw Road, the downpour soaked them and their buckets of tools.

    Make a Donation to support future workshops

    Undeterred, MOCA representatives Cheryl Willis-Patten and Jessica Couture, along with restoration specialist Joe Ferrannini, owner of Grave Stone Matters, carried on with their plans. Participants learned how to clean the acid-rain darkened stones, repair a few of the damaged stones, and, as instructor Joe Ferrannini cautioned, "Do no harm."

    Joe, who lives in Hoosick Falls, New York, loves to come to Maine to teach these workshops. He considers this work a second career that suits his passion for history, genealogy and old cemeteries. With a college degree in mathematics and history, he spent 20 years with trucking companies, but decided to take a chance.

    "In the worst economy we've had for years, I decided to start my own business," he said with a laugh.

    He hasn't regretted that decision and has been able to travel the region and work with eager volunteers and municipalities who want to preserve their town's history.

    He suggested methods researched, tested and used by the experts in care of veterans' stones and markers. The National Park Service and the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration oversee thousands of veterans' gravestones and markers and they offer helpful directions for those who care for gravestones. 

    Why would anyone want to clean a gravestone? The simple answer is to preserve the artifacts of the past. Many of those gravestones and monuments belong to veterans who fought and often died for their country over the past four centuries. 

    A headstone is intended to honor the deceased and should be treated with respect, Willis-Patten said. Over time, it takes on different meanings for those who visit, and reminds citizens of the many veteran's who have served their country.

    Ferrannini told attendees he adheres to a few strict rules for cleaning.

    "Never power wash, and never, ever use wire brushes, sanders or grinders to clean a stone's surface," he said.

    Marble, for example, is very porous, and when the surface is cleaned with abrasive tools and chemicals, the patina is damaged permanently. Grains start to loosen and wash away, and the surface develops a sugary coating and discolors more easily. Inscriptions will erode, making the headstone harder to read. Headstones in shady and damp areas may need to be cleaned more frequently than headstones in sunny areas.

    Stone cleaners should take a picture, if possible, to document the before-and-after cleaning results, and keep a record of the dates, locations and the information carved on each stone. Ferrannini also showed how to use a mirror to reflect the light across the face of the stone to make lettering easier to read.

    Albert Stehle, a mason from Bowdoinham, said he has gone to other MOCA workshops and said he's becoming more interested in following in Ferrannini's footsteps.

    "My Ridge Restoration business includes repairing old houses and chimneys, and I really like doing this," he said, as he dug the old mortar from a broken headstone base. "It's important to take care of these old stones."

    Ferrannini says he uses D/2 Biological Solution, the preferred cleaner for the National Park Service and Department of Veterans Affairs. In Maine, the cleaner is carried by A. H. Harris & Sons in their Augusta, Portland and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, locations.

    "Marble cleaned with biocides can continue to lighten over the next few months, so be patient," he advised. "Don't expect stones to look new, since they are, in some cases, hundreds of years old."

    Attendees were advised to use gloves and eye protection and avoid splashing the cleaner during spray applications. A three-person team can clean many stones quickly and efficiently, with one wetting the stone and spraying the cleaner, one brushing or scrubbing the stone, and one rinsing the stone. The process requires a lot of clean water. If the cemetery does not have clean running water, bring plenty of extra water to the site.

    Ferrannini refers beginners to "A Graveyard Preservation Primer," written by Lynette Strangstad. The book is a valuable resource for methods of protection and preservation of historic graveyards. Much information found in the first 1980 publication has been updated to include technology and digital tools.

    See MOCA's Workshops for more information about cemetery education opportunities.

    Make a Donation to support future workshops

    *reprinted with permission

  • 10 Jul 2016 12:44 PM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    Now Available!

    Early Gravestones in Southern Maine: The Genius of Bartlett Adams

    by Ron Romano

    Maine native, historian and MOCA member Ron Romano is pleased to present his new book on stone-cutter Bartlett Adams (1776 - 1828), whose shop produced nearly 2000 gravestones found today in 135 ancient cemeteries across southern Maine. This well-illustrated book includes many examples of Adams’ artistic flair, and highlights the other skilled carvers who worked in his Portland shop. Discover the grief that Adams poured into the stone markers for his own children, read the heart-wrenching story of the 16 souls lost on the wreck of the schooner Charles, and learn about the national recognition Bartlett achieved for his work on the memorial for a hero of the War of 1812.

    The book is available in bookstores, on-line at popular book-selling websites such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, from the publisher (The History Press), and directly from Ron.

    SPECIAL OFFER for MOCA members

    Buy your copy directly from Ron (at $21.99), and he will autograph it and ship your book for free!  To take advantage of this special offer, email Ron at roroman@maine.rr.com for an order form.


  • 16 Jun 2016 6:29 AM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    If you are a quick learner on computer-based projects and interested in learning more about how the MOCA website works, our MOCA Website 101 Apprenticeship might be for you. We are looking to provide backup website support and enhanced content by bringing an additional perspective to our website management team. Our current Web Steward, Debi Curry, will be your mentor as you learn how to:

    • Add community events of interest to MOCA members to our events calendar;
    • Post MOCA board and membership meeting minutes;
    • Publish new "Stones with Stories" an cemetery "Descriptions & Histories" articles; and
    • Much, much, more!

    The website is published using the Wild Apricot member management platform. This product has many unique features but the new skills you learn will also apply to websites built on similar platforms such as Drupal, WordPress, etc.

    For additional information contact Debi Curry, MOCA Web Steward.


  • 11 Jun 2016 7:34 PM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    Scheduled walking tours of Portland’s historic Eastern Cemetery, founded in 1668, will begin again on Saturday, July 9 and continue each Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday at 11 am through October 16. These tours, which last up to an hour, are led by trained volunteers, who cover the cemetery’s history, prominent historical figures, and early gravestone art. 

    Ticket info: $10 adults, $5 students and seniors (65+), kids under 12 are free. 

    Tickets are available at the gate at 224 Congress Street on the day/time of the tour, or anytime in advance on the Spirits Alive website or at EventBrite. 

    Off-schedule private tours are also available through the website, at no extra charge. Proceeds are used to conserve Eastern Cemetery's historic gravestones. 

    Visit SpiritsAlive.org/tours for more information.

  • 31 May 2016 6:14 AM | Debi Curry (Administrator)


    Jessica Lowell of the Portland Press Herald relates the tale of 48 unknown souls buried in the hilly south end of Riverside Cemetery, Pittston, in her story,

    Cemetery association honors those long ago buried anonymously in Pittston

<< First  < Prev   1   2   Next >  Last >> 

Dedicated to the Preservation of Maine's Neglected Cemeteries since 1968.

Maine Old Cemetery Association, PO Box 641, Augusta, ME 04332-0641

MOCA is a non-profit Maine corporation and is tax exempt under the provisions
of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. 

MY MOCA PROFILE ~ MOCA on FACEBOOK ~ CONTACT US ~ MEMBERS ONLY

Copyright 2020 Maine Old Cemetery Association

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software