The history of Atlanta is buried at Oakland. Restoration Manager, Dustin Hornsby, knows it’s not the only thing, “Many of the tombstones have sunk and have become buried and forgotten over the years; some buried as deep as 18 inches.”
The reasons for sinking vary from plot to plot. It may be the grave beneath the stone has sunk or shifted causing the stone to sink. Sometimes it’s not that the tombstones have sunk, but that changes in the landscaping for the site cause dirt and debris to build up, and over time the stone becomes buried. Other times it is a mystery; there is no clear reason why the stone has dropped. If the marker is broken, Dustin and the restoration team probe the area around the stone to find the missing piece or pieces. Sometimes they are lucky.
The restoration team removes the marker from the ground using straps and pulleys. Depending on its size and weight, it may just be lifted out by members of the team. Once Dustin and his crew unearth the stone he must determine how it was originally placed. “If the base of the tombstone is tooled and decorative, it most likely was meant to be above ground. I also take into account the style of the other stones on the plot,” says Dustin.
Before the tombstone can be reset, the team has to secure the ground where it is going to placed. They probe into the opening to make sure there are no more voids. Then they pack in fill dirt, and to top it off they use granite sand. The granite sand allows Dustin to fine tune the placement of the stone, making it level, and in line with the others markers on the plot. More soil is used to secure its final placement.
Tombstones are the representative of the deceased; raising them, finding their missing pieces, honors the people buried there. “I don’t know these people,” says Dustin, “I know their stones. These stones tell their stories.” The stories are the true treasure buried at Oakland.