Historical Cemetery Care

Listed below are guidelines for caring for historical cemeteries.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Seek permission from abutting property owner to pass through their land.  Ask where to park your car to be out of the way.  Your consideration on their behalf may net you some cooperation (and maybe even some help) from them.  Respect their land and their wishes.  Leave no refuse on the property.  If you pass through closed gates, re-close them.  Always leave everything on abutting property as you find it.

Do not move gravestones.  If they appear to be out of place, draw a map showing the location of the stone.  Indicate by arrow where the stones should be (if known).  List the names and dates.  Slate and marble stones that are broken off and out of place are in jeopardy of theft.  Please list ALL information that appears on the stone.  Photograph if possible and notify the Burrillville Historical & Preservation Society.

To avoid hitting stones with the edge of the lawnmower, DO NOT mow too close to the stone.  Finish cutting the grass by lightly weed whacking to the stone.  Intense weed whacking damages stone by cutting into it.  This is especially a problem with marble, limestone and brownstone.

DO NOT cut large trees in burial grounds, even when they are engulfing a stone.  In such a case, the best method is to photograph and record all visible information on the stone.   Felling large trees endangers gravestones, stonewalls and fences.  It also opens the area to sunlight, which encourages rapid second growth, such as briars, brush and poison ivy.  The large trees provide shade and thereby inhibit undesirable growth from overrunning the cemetery.

DO NOT drag large trees across gravestones.  Get help to carefully lift away from the stones.  Large branches should be cut into sections and carried away.  A chain saw may be necessary to remove very large fallen trees.

Rake lightly as soil in old burial grounds may contain rare and endangered wildflowers.  Heavy raking may scratch up and kill sensitive growth that may be desirable.  Rake gently around the grave markers.  In some cemeteries, leaves and brush may be thrown outside the boundaries of the cemetery.  Seek permission from the landowner before depositing any leaves and brush.  In some cemeteries it will be necessary to bag up leaves and brush and transport them to the Whipple Compost Facility.

Cut brush with clippers at ground level so as not to leave a stubble of brush to trip over.  Never try to kill grass, weeds and brush by burning.  Fire is detrimental to gravestones.

It may be necessary to spray poison ivy in a cemetery.  When spraying near a gravestone, be careful not to get the spray on the stone, as any chemical sprays are harmful to gravestones.

WALLS, FENCES and GATES.  Treat with care and respect.

Gravestone rubbing is not recommended except under expert supervision.

Take “before and after” photos.  Record the date, cemetery location and direction photo was taken.

You should NOT attempt to repair any gravestones.  This should only be done by a trained conservator or by individuals with special training in gravestone conservation.  Please report any stones in need of repair to the Burrillville Historical & Preservation Society.  We have a specially trained team to do this work.

CLEANING STONES.  Do NOT attempt to clean gravestones.   This should only be done by a trained conservator or by individuals with special training in gravestone conservation.  Contact the Burrillville Historical & Preservation Society for info.

LITTER.  Bring a litter bag and pick up any trash.

Wear gloves; preferably leather ones when handling vines and roots.  Be aware that ALL parts of poison ivy, oak and sumac are poisonous even in their dormant period.  Watch for uneven ground and stumps within the graveyard.  Beware of where footstones are to avoid tripping on them.  Wear safety glasses when using power equipment.  Never sit on or lean on gravestones.  Always have a first aid kit ready.

Frequency of Care.  Some cemeteries need cleaning once a year with a follow up visit later in the season to check for any problems especially after a major storm.  Cemeteries in grassy areas may need mowing and/or weed whacking 3-5 times a season.  It all depends on where the cemetery is located and what type of growth is being controlled.  Seek advice from the Burrillville Historical & Preservation Society.

Please report any acts of vandalism, animal damage, storm damage or other threats to the cemetery to the Burrillville Historical & Preservation Society immediately.