I recently heard from James and Barbara Brodhead, who are cousins of mine—James and I share the same great grandparents, Andrew Douglas Brodhead and Margaret Lewis Martin. It was only a few years ago that we made initial contact, quite by chance, on the Internet. This post is part one of two posts on this blog being devoted to their efforts to tidy up and restore some Brodhead family headstones, and with so many old headstones crumbling all across America, perhaps their work will inspire you just as much as it has me! I asked them whether they required permission to undertake this work, and they were advised that since they were family, they were welcome to do what they could. So here, without further ado, is Part I of their project, in James’ own words. Enjoy!
Cornelia Dingman Brodhead was born on October 3, 1797, in Dingmans Ferry, Pennsylvania. Her father was Judge Daniel W. Dingman and her mother was Mary Westbrook. Cornelia is buried next to her husband, Garret Brodhead, whom she married at age 16 on November 25, 1813. They are both buried in the Upper Mauch Chunk Cemetery in Jim Thorpe, PA. I am the third great-grandson of Cornelia and Garret.
As I have a great interest in my family history, in the fall of 2011, my wife, Barbara, and I went to Pennsylvania in search of family history information. We visited the cemetery in Jim Thorpe and located the family plot owned by the Hon. Albert Gallatin Brodhead, Garret and Cornelia’s oldest son. It is situated on the edge of the hill next to the Asa Packer Family Plot. Sadly, we found Cornelia’s headstone had been knocked/fallen over, the center stone was missing, and the base had been moved about 6 feet from its original location. Cornelia’s headstone was laying face up but was about 2/3 buried in the ground.
During our travels, as a way to show respect for our ancestors, we determined to clean the moss and dirt from any family headstones we had found. We carried a kit with a bucket, jugs of water, Simple Green, brushes, plastic putty knives, etc. We knew that Cornelia’s headstone was going to take a lot more effort to fix, so we began planning to make the necessary repairs the next time we would visit.
In August of 2013, we were able to return to Pennsylvania; the repair of Cornelia’s headstone a priority on this trip. We were staying in Milford, and we took the 70 mile drive to Jim Thorpe. I began by digging around her headstone and standing it up. (The estimated weight for the base and headstone was approximately 250 lbs each.) A neighbor boy loaned us a shovel. The base, I skidded on wood strips that we had brought, until I returned it to its original location. The base was then leveled. I walked, (tipped back and forth); her headstone over next to the base, then tipped it on to its back onto the base.
Because of the limited space and the weight, and after several attempts, I was unable to stand the headstone up onto the base. I began to say a silent prayer, asking for help. As I finished and looked up, I could see that Barbara was also praying. It was late, and so we drove back to our motel.
The next morning we went for a walk and found that our planned route was unsafe, (no sidewalks), and so we took a different route. As we were going down a side street I saw a bridge crane and said, “That’s what we need to lift the headstone up!” We realized that we were looking at a shop where they engraved headstones. The foreman, after listening to our dilemma, told us that we would have to slide the stone off the base and stand it up. Then using wood blocks, (cribbing), the stone is tilted side to side and front to back and the blocks are inserted under it. Thus the stone is walked up to the required height and slid into position. He also gave us four small plastic squares to place under each corner and then told us to use 50-year silicone to seal the stone to the base. It worked just as he said.
This project has helped us feel closer to Garret and Cornelia.