Cemetery to be cleaned a significant part of area’s history

Alfred Baker’s grave in the Clanton City Cemetery doesn’t do justice to the man known as the “Duke of Clanton,” who is credited with founding the city and the county that later became Chilton.

The Chilton County Historical Society hopes to change that–and improve the cemetery in general–with a clean-up scheduled for Feb. 9, 2013.

The date was picked, in part, because it is the 117th anniversary of Baker’s death. A second workday has been scheduled for March 16, 2013, the 186th anniversary of Baker’s birth.

“He was kind enough to give us two Saturdays in the next year to work with,” Katherine Reece with the historical society joked about Baker.

Reece asked the Clanton City Council for permission to clean up the cemetery at the council’s meeting Monday.

The council agreed to the project, which Reece considers important because of all the graves in the cemetery, not just the famous ones.

“Sometimes headstones are the only record we have of people’s births and deaths,” she said. “We really need to preserve that.”

Volunteers are needed for the clean-up. The bulk of the work will be cleaning headstones and correcting ones that are leaning or have fallen.

Reece said workers use only water and a soft brush to clean the headstones.

“You’re always supposed to use materials that are softer than the headstones–and never chemicals,” she said. “The marble on these older headstones around here came out of a quarry in Montevallo, and it is really soft. If we go in there with something heavy and abrasive, you’re going to be doing a lot of damage.”

Volunteers need no prior experience to help clean the headstones, and Reece said brushes and water bottles would be provided.

Fallen headstones will be placed back on their mounts, and leaning headstones will be leveled. The group will also determine if any headstones are in need of repair.

“We don’t try to repair headstones because that’s such a specialty job,” Reece said.

There are other ways to help, also. Reece said the Chilton-Clanton Public Library, which sits across Lay Dam Road from the cemetery, has agreed to let the group have coffee, hot chocolate and snacks set up inside. Anyone interested in helping with those items or volunteering for the clean-up should contact Reece at kat@hallofmaat.com or 205-294-2197. The historical society’s website is www.chiltoncountyhistoricalsociety.org.

The society has held clean-ups at several other cemeteries. Reece said the Clanton cemetery was targeted because of its size, significance and central location. The hope is that the clean-up will springboard people to joining the society.

“We’re looking for exposure,” she said. “We need more members in this historical society. We need people who are willing to volunteer their time and learn.”

The next meeting will be held at 2 p.m. on Jan. 13 at the library.

Reece said that if the cemetery could be completely cleaned on the first scheduled date, the second date would be used to survey the graves, another county-wide project that needs to be completed.

“There was a book put together, ‘Cemeteries of Chilton,’ a survey that covered almost every cemetery in the county,” Reece said. “That book is about 40 years old now, and while it’s a wonderful resource, we need to update it.”

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