North Adams Cemetery Volunteers Get Help for Heavy Lifting
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A volunteer group has been doing some heavy lifting at Hill Side Cemetery for nearly three years.
A new tripod lift built by Deerfield Machine & Tool will aid members of Hill Side Restoration as they continue their work in resetting and repairing the hundreds of old gravestones in the historic cemetery.
"It takes time but you can't lift those big ones just by manpower," said Roger Eurbin, who spearheaded the restoration project. "The base probably goes 300-400 pounds and the stone, probably the same amount. This I think will lift easily up 700 pounds.
"We've got some big ones to do."
It's a monumental task to straighten up the hundreds of gravestones dating back to about 1800. Eurbin and his crew of six or eight have gotten to know the denizens of the city's oldest cemetery over the years as they've dug up and leveled bases and carefully reconstructed shattered stones.
"There are more than 400 veterans buried here, but this is the only woman veteran," said Eurbin on Wednesday morning, pointing to World War II Army veteran Maj. Eleanor Furst Roberts, who died in 1999 at age 85. A member of the Hardman family, the auditorium at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts is named in her honor.
Along with Roberts, the cemetery is the final resting place of educator Sarah T. Haskins, for whom the school is named; archaeologist John Henry Haynes; a number of the city's industrial leaders and John E. Atwood, a Civil War soldier who was Gettysburg for President Lincoln's address.
Despite the distinguished figures, the cemetery had fallen into disrepair by the time Eurbin returned to his hometown in retirement several years ago. Most of those buried here have no family left to take care of their graves and nature began to take its course, toppling monuments and encroaching on its edges. The results are obvious along the north side of Route 2: fallen and tipping stones now stand tall. Veterans graves have flags and markers.
The volunteer group that Eurbin put together has been meeting on Wednesday mornings and every other Saturday to reclaim the cemetery's history and restore its dignity. They've been helped by students from MCLA and Williams College on community service days; the Berkshire House of Corrections community program has been working on cleaning the stones as well.
Larry Burdick has been carefully noting how many stones have been repaired and leveled: 486 on this Wednesday morning. Eurbin figures another 600 or more to go to complete both sides of the bifurcated graveyard.
The lift will go a good ways in helping that happen. The City Council authorized some $8,000 from the Tinker Fund, set up by the Tinker family to keep up its mausoleum and the cemetery, for the $4,000 lift and materials toward cemetery restoration. Eurbin figures about $12,000 has already been spent from donations and matching city funds.
"It's just another big step forward for this huge project that Roger and his crew have taken on," said Mayor Richard Alcombright. "None of these guys are spring chickens and the idea of them lifting these stones, and these stones weigh hundreds and hundreds of pounds, it's really a great piece of equipment."
Michael Denault, owner of Deerfield Machine on Walden Street, said the portable tripod required engineering and about three weeks to build.
"What I love about the whole project is that the city used a local business," said the McCann Technical School graduate who was on hand to ensure everything went smoothly.
"We're in a much better position and these guys can work that much quicker and that much safer thanks to Mike," Alcombright said.
Volunteers are always welcome; look for the red shirts every Wednesday morning beginning at 9 and every other Saturday beginning July 30. For more on the history of Hill Side, see Paul W. Marino's website or his column on iBerkshires.
Tags: hillside cemetery, historic preservation,
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