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Gravestone Restoration Preserve 150 Years of African American History

"It covers the whole gambit of African American history as American history. So it's important to us that it be preserved," said Edie Wallace, President of Friends of Tolson's Chapel.

SHARPSBURG, Md. - Fifty-six gravestones are the historic roots of Tolson's Chapel, preserving more than 150 years of African American history in Sharpsburg. And thanks to Friends of Tolson's Chapel and the African American Heritage Preservation fund, the gravestones are being cleaned and restored.

"Tells you a lot of things, a lot of history and history that may not be anywhere else," said TaMara Conde, stone conservator with Historic Gravestone Services.

"It covers the whole gambit of African American history as American history. So it's important to us that it be preserved," said Eddie Wallace, President of Friends of Tolson's Chapel.

All the gravestones in Tolson's Chapel cemetery are being cleaned, restored and reset.

"But also the stories of the people themselves, really the cemetery is a great place to get the sense of that," said Wallace.

Stories of those buried here include slaves who lived in Sharpsburg and were eyewitnesses to the battle, people who had a personal interest in the outcome of the war.....Because it meant their freedom.

Wallace says the community is happy for this restoration project but it'll take fundraising to continue proper maintenance .

"That is the only way we're going to be able to maintain this level of preservation. Is to continue to bring in private funds," said Wallace. "I mean there's only so far you can go with state grants."

The restoration process takes a couple of months but once the project is complete, these gravestones will be preserved for the next 50 to 100 years.

Edie wallace// friends of tolson's chapel president

"It's their stories, the important stories that make the important story of Tolson's Chapel so don't want them to be forgotten, want them to be remembered and respected and this is the place to do that," said Wallace.

Preserving history written in stone, for generations to come

There are several unmarked graves in the cemetery and the Friends of Tolson's Chapel nonprofit is working to identify those graves. If you think your family could buried there, contact the group at tolsons.chapel@gmail.com. or check out their website at: http://www.tolsonschapel.org/

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