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The premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and announcements in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Aug 02, 2022

48 State Gravestone Preservation Visits New Jersey

By Lori Draz

A Revolutionary War soldier’s grave was marked by a broken stone.

On a sunny Saturday in July, a group of dedicated people joined the Middletown Chapter of the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) at the historic Old Brick Reformed Church in Marlboro to attend a most unique workshop: the 48 State Gravestone Preservation Tour. These hardworking attendees took a masterclass in historic graveyard preservation and restoration.  

Michele Donnelly, Middletown DAR

The 48 State Gravestone Preservation Tour is hosted by Atlas Preservation and led by Jonathan Appell, a nationally recognized gravestone and monument conservator with numerous credits including reconstructing and resetting the Knight’s Tomb in Jamestown, Virginia – arguably the oldest gravestone in the country.

Jonathan Appell instructs the class.

48 State Tour was created in 2020 when Appell embarked on a mission to travel the country performing “48 Gravestone Preservation Workshops in 48 States in 48 Days,” and this was its only stop in New Jersey. 

Appell led the hands-on workshop which taught the attendees common gravestone and monument conservation techniques, repairs and preservation so they can carry on the work in other cemeteries. He explored the effects of terrain, materials, cleaning, repair and maintenance.

Jonathan Appell resets the tombstone.

He demonstrated methods for safe cleaning fragile, historic gravestones using the example of a Revolutionary War soldier’s monument. He showed the group how to apply bonding materials and affix the upper element into the base stone. He performed a resetting of the badly leaning, sunken tablet-stone, disassembling and then reconstructing the structure.

The gravestone was fully reset and cemented.

The six-hour workshop was a fascinating and informative session, and all who attended really enjoyed this rare opportunity to watch a master at work. 

In the spirit of carrying the knowledge forward, the Middletown Chapter NSDAR is planning numerous restoration projects, starting with two events in September. On Saturday, Sept. 17, there will be a restoration at Luyster Burial Ground on Williams Way in Holmdel from 9 am to 1 pm. The second project will be held on Saturday, Sept. 24 from 9 am to 1 pm at Old Holmdel Yard on Middletown Road, near Bayonet Farm in Holmdel.

They would love to have you as a member or to volunteer, so if you can lend some time and work to clean up these historic sites and honor the forgotten, email for more information.