Thursday, October 5, 2023

Martinsville Cemetery renovations under way

The restoration work and upgrades at Martinsville Cemetery in Sumpter Township was the topic of a comprehensive report to the members of the board of trustees during their regular meeting last month.

Township Finance Director Scott Holtz and Deputy Clerk Karen Armatis spoke to the trustees regarding the progress at the historic site. In July, trustees approved the use of up to $250,000 in American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) funding to upgrade the deteriorating cemetery which includes graves from 1866. Many prominent historic figures and founders of the area which became Sumpter Township are interred at the cemetery located on Willis Court. 

The trustees had previously learned that accessibility to the graves was complicated by the current entry road, which has only one egress and ends at a cul-de-sac. Visitors to the cemetery were often forced to use driveways of private homes to turn around to exit the road if the cemetery was closed. A more convenient entrance and exit from the cemetery was among the factors considered in the upgrades.

As part of renovation of the cemetery, ground penetrating radar has been used to locate historic gravesites that have been overtaken by weather and vegetation. Following a trial use of the device, bids for a ground penetrating radar apparatus have been received, Holtz and Armatis said, and are now being evaluated. Bids for the purchase of a lawn mower sized to maneuver around the gravestones have also been received, they said.

Holtz and Armatis told the board that during the current work at the cemetery, the graves of descendants of a passenger on the Mayflower had been discovered. One of the main concerns of the preservation and renovation effort was the recognition and identification of veterans’ graves. Armatis said that all the identified veterans' graves at the cemetery now have flag holders installed at the site. Flags can now be placed at the graves in a convenient manner.

They reminded the board members of the importance of identifying and marking the interment sites at the cemetery as most of the historic burial records were destroyed in a fire about 40 years ago.  

Original costs for the upgrades and preservation efforts were estimated at $150,000 to $180,000 by Township Manager Anthony Burdick. The trustees opted to allocate more funding to the project “in light of rising costs.” Burdick told the board members in July that should the renovations cost less than the allocated amount, the balance can be transferred to another township project which meets the federal ARPA requirements.