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POLISHING THE TOMBSTONES: History enthusiasts revive family cemetery

April 15, 2013

The Leaman Cemetery is being restored by individuals who want to preserve its history. Pictured cleaning the tombstones is Chuck Farris (left) and Sherm Keirn. Post & Mail photo / Christie Barkley

COLUMBIA CITY — Preserving history made for cold, wet work Saturday as individuals gathered at the Crooked Lake Nature Preserve to restore tombstones.

The Leaman Cemetery, tucked back in the woods along a hiking trail, had been overgrown and forgotten, until Gene Heckman, Thorncreek Township trustee, was told about the cemetery by his son, Dan.

“He asked me if I knew about the place,” Heckman said. “I had really forgotten about it being back here. We decided this was something we couldn’t let disappear. I called on those who might be interested to help restore the stones and clean the location.”

An ammonia concoction was used to clean the grave markers. Sherm Keirn, a restoration enthusiast, was leading the clean-up crew.

“We dug most of these stones out of the ground,” Keirn said. “They were caked with dirt and needed a good cleaning.”

As the years of soil washed off the stones, one very important marker was uncovered. Agnes Leaman, who’s marker shows a death date from 1838, was part of the family that owned what is now part of the nature preserve.

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