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A race against time as erosion threatens historic graveyard

Published: Jul. 15, 2020 at 6:18 PM EDT
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WEYBRIDGE, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont cemeteries are time capsules from the past. But in Addison County one graveyard is slipping away. Our Joe Carroll shows you.

At first glance a cemetery seems frozen in time. The death date of the departed is chiseled in stone. But time shows no mercy, the elements wear at the stone and sometimes soften the soil.

"There has been several stones that have washed over the bank," said Tom Giffin, the president of the Vermont Old Cemetery Association.

The Stow Cemetery in Weybridge has been called Vermont's Most Endangered Cemetery. Sitting on the banks of the Otter Creek, the graveyard is eroding away. Giffin is an expert on Vermont cemeteries.

"To have somebody's remains wash over the bank and not having it taken care of and not having it removed is wrong for the state of Vermont side and is wrong for the history of the state," he said.

Though small, the cemetery is the final resting place of the names of some of the first white settlers in Vermont, including men like Josiah Clark. Clark was 19 when he fought at the famous Battle of Bunker Hill in Massachusetts.

Don Mason is taking the project on for the town.

"The British got a very bloody nose. The causalities was far higher than that of the colonists," he said.

Clark lived to the ripe old age of 79. But his grave recently gave way.

"You can see essentially three sides of his grave shaft," Mason said.

It was a battle against time. Archaeologists removed his remains last year which now are in the town's vault awaiting reburial. His wife, Lucy, wasn't so fortunate. It's believed her remains have fallen and now are buried in the chasm below.

It's not the first time that WCAX News has visited this cemetery. Giffin has sounded the alarm about the problem for years, but there is now a new effort to bring much needed cash to fix the problem.

"I have heard through the grapevine what people donating a thousand dollars here, five hundred dollars here. So I'm assuming we will get there," Giffin said.

At the very least, they will need $30,000 to move all of the remains to another cemetery in town.

“I think we owe it to them to make sure their history is preserved for generations to come,” Giffin said.

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