The Lichen Guy

I did not know him well but I did know him for a long time.  He first comes into my memory when I was a young teenager at the MMA.  He was some sort of scientist associated with Nantucket’s UMASS Field Station.  He had an English accent.  He was funny and gregarious.  He was about quite a bit because of the work he was doing with students in the summer at the Field Station and because he was friendly and worked in conjunction with people who either worked for the MMA or had close ties to the MMA for a myriad of reasons.

I got to know him a bit better – as an adult – when I hosted a stone conservation workshop probably a dozen or so years ago.  It was the first time I did it.  I had written part of a grant to the Community Preservation Act to fund a workshop with a stone and paint conservator who I had been working with at the Mitchell House.  We had a dozen people show up – including the Prospect Hill Cemetery Historian who I now continue to do this workshop with – and Doug Eveleigh came too.  He came a little late and I was sort of surprised.  I knew a bit about what he did – and I am WAY oversimplifying it here – he studied fungi, moss, and lichens and had been using the stone monuments on Nantucket for some of his work.  Stone monument is another word for gravestone.  And, given the climate here –damp, fog, pure and reflective sun, few trees – the moss and lichens that grow on the stones is very unusual.  For a scientist working in such an area, a boon likely.  For the stones and a preservationist like me, a nightmare of destruction.

So, we taught people how to properly remove the lichen and moss without harming the historic stone monument.  And Professor Eveleigh sighed and sat and then began to regale us with all the amazingly different types of lichens and moss that we were in fact killing.  I offered him some gloves, a brush, some of the cleaner but he politely refused and said he would watch.  We learned a lot from him – it was an added bonus – and while I felt good about helping the stones I started to feel guiltier about killing the lichen and moss (still do to this day) and its little ecosystem.

In the end, with maybe ten minutes to go out of a two-hour program, he actually decided to remove some lichen and moss.  I was surprised – we all were – not sure what changed his mind.  But, ever since that day, I often remark about him joining us and his struggle to remove the moss and lichen when I lead such a workshop.  But, I also note how much he shared with us.  I know it was just scratching the surface (pun intended).

Over the years, I would occasionally hear from him or see him if he was back on island.  Always jovial and always mentioning the moss and lichen.

Sadly, Professor Eveleigh passed away at the end of December.  But, I will always remember his attendance at the stone workshop – and continue to tell the story.  I encourage you to look him  up – my blog here doesn’t do his life’s work justice.  I am, after all, a historian and preservationist not a scientist – though working for a science organization, I do try!


Honoring Our Veterans

Work begins.

On May 16, 2017 from 6-8PM, I had the honor of working with Nantucket Girl Scout Troops 80978 and 81174.  For over a decade, I have been working to clean the stones of not just the Mitchells, but other Nantucketers buried at Prospect Hill Cemetery with the Prospect Hill Cemetery historian, Paula Levy.  She and I first crossed paths when I offered a stone cleaning workshop via the Mitchell House and she was one of the attendees.  Since then, we have cleaned roughly twenty or so stones and worked on a restoration project to restore the fences at two family plots, one of them being the Mitchell family plot.

Work continues.

Our work together brought about a discussion of Memorial Day services.  The Sons of the American Legion and the island Scouts all come together to put flags and red geraniums at the graves of island veterans.  The Memorial Day Parade ends with a service at the Soldiers’ Lot burial site.  We thought it would be nice for the Scouts to play a larger role in attending to the veterans and also to provide them with some background on them and a sense of ownership.  So, I reached out to some scout leaders and the Girl Scout troops noted above joined in.  The Legion provided the funds for the supplies and Paula came and spoke to them briefly about the Soldiers’ Lot and the men buried there.  And then, I gave them another brief overview of how to clean – this time hands-on rather than explaining it at a meeting.  Then, we got to work – Scouts, Scout leaders, mothers.  We managed to clean the stones of all the men interred there – Civil War veterans, WWI veterans, VietNam veterans and more.  About eighteen monuments were cleaned of their lichen and mosses and protected from further damage.  The stones will lighten some – the point is not to make them pristine or bright white.  And the lichen has been removed thus stopping further damage from it.  You will note a few that are whiter than others – several are newer stones and others may have been cleaned in the past by others though it looks like they were done with harsh chemicals unfortunately.  Remember, never clean stones without permission from the cemetery sexton.  DO not clean stones of people other than your family. And most importantly, make sure you have been trained first and have the right tools, specifically a cleaner that is appropriate for the work (bleach is a BIG no-no).

Thank you to the Scout and the Legion, as well as troop leaders and parents!


Work completed.

Cleaning Historic Gravestones and Author’s Tent at the Nantucket Book Festival: A Busy Saturday

Lot 106 MMA PHC Historic Preservation Workshop

On Saturday, June 18th, I may feel, by the end of the day, that I need several of myself to accomplish everything. As a mother of a two-year-old with a fulltime job and the business of sitting on several boards, it would be nice to have three – or four! – of me; or me, myself, and I.

In all seriousness, this is a little promotion for our Stone Cleaning Workshop from 10-Noon on June 18th. I will again be joining forces with Paula Levy, Prospect Hill Cemetery historian, to demonstrate the proper way to conserve stone monuments – aka gravestones. We have been doing this for about ten years now and it’s an interesting way to learn about Prospect Hill and how to conserve these beautiful stones, while at the same time helping to preserve them! I just ask that you call the Mitchell House to reserve a spot – 508.228.2896. It is $10 for MMA Members and $15 for Non-Members which helps to defray the cost of supplies. Just wear clothes that can get dirty.

And on another note, I have been asked to be one of the local authors at the Nantucket Book Festival’s Local Author’s Tent this year and I am very honored to do so. It runs from 9-12 and 12:30 – 3:30. Since I will be cleaning stone monuments in the morning, I will be at the tent for the afternoon session. Lots of interesting authors will be there at the different sessions so come check it out. I will be representing my book, The Daring Daughters of Nantucket Island: How Island Women from the Seventeenth through the Nineteenth Centuries Lived a Life Contrary to Other American Women. So please stop by and say hello!