Estes Cemetery Project:
CEMETERY RESTORATION PROJECT
The Keene Valley Library and Archives, partnering with the Town of Keene Historical Society, has started work on restoring the Estes Cemetery, with the support and encouragement of the Worth family.
A squad of volunteers -- Donna Reed Austin, Tom and Alana Booth, Ann Sayers, along with Margaret Hawthorn (KV Archives) and Peter Slocum (Historical Society) -- first did some cleaning of the grounds last fall, removing tree limbs, raking leaves and straightening the perimeter fence. Then, applying special tombstone cleaning liquid (D-2), volunteers were able to make significant progress in restoring some of the tombstones to a readable condition. As an example, the stones for two children are shown in the accompanying photos. Lester and Alice Martin died in July 1901, four days apart, at age 2 years 6 months, and 5 years, 4 months. Those names and dates were virtually unreadable before the clean-up work. Also, those stones were leaning badly and in danger of falling over. We were able to carefully pull them out of their holes, spread a layer of new gravel, and reseat the stones so they are safe and level.
Next, we plan to tackle the tombstone of Orson (Old Mountain) Phelps, the most famous of Keene Valley's 19th Century Adirondack guides, which is lying on its back and needs to be reset.
Thanks to a grant from the Worth family, who have a house right next to the Estes Cemetery off Beede Lane, we will be purchasing some additional equipment to allow us to work safely with the stones, like Phelps's, that need major work. Town Supervisor Joe Pete Wilson has offered to provide gravel for the secure re-setting of stones.
Keene has 11 old, retired cemeteries, all under Town supervision, in various stages of disrepair. The Town is responsible for yearly mowing and maintaining a fence, but not for general upkeep or care of the stones.
The earliest burial at Estes Cemetery was in 1803. One cemetery has a child's stone dated 1803.
These graveyards mostly started as family farm cemeteries, and they represent some of the earliest components of our town's historical record. They worthy of care and preservation, which is why we aim for this Cemetery Restoriation Project to grow and expand to other cemeteries in the coming years.