1. Welcome to NikonCafe.com—a friendly Nikon camera & photography discussion forum!

    If you are thinking of buying a camera or need help with your photos, you will find our forum members full of advice! Click here to join for free!

Solving a Mystery-Update #4.6

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Larry Gleason, Jun 15, 2005.

  1. Larry Gleason

    Larry Gleason

    Jan 26, 2005
    I'm headed to Georgia in a couple of hours. I got a phone call late last night from a historian, Gene Hough from PA. Seems that a mystery stone in an old cemetery is slow to give up its markings. A digital photo taken a few months ago has so far promised the best way to shake loose the hidden messages. Odd thing is, the stone is not a headstone. At any rate, I found a newspaper article from earlier this year that gave me better clues as to what I'm looking at today.

    This is new territory for me so I'll be trying to figure out things as I go along. Let me know if anyone wants updates as I stumble along on this adventure. A local TV news crew is expected on site sometime today. The mystery stone is getting more and wider attention. The beast (D2X) is now in on the action!
  2. Chris101


    Feb 2, 2005
    Sorry Larry, the link won't let me read the article (it asks too many personal questions) but the project sounds fascinating!

    From your description, I'm thinking that you are going to try to enhance a digital photo tobring out information etched on the stone that is now illegible?

    What do you plan on doing? (My first thoughts are color, ir and uv filtering, light angle, ... what else?)
  3. This sounds intriguing. And fascinating.

    Please post a picture of the stone if one becomes available.
  4. Larry Gleason

    Larry Gleason

    Jan 26, 2005
    Bummer, I bet I can read article since I'm signed up to the newspaper. Here is the text of the article minus the photo-

    Project helps preserve cemetery markers
    Feb 2005

    Mysteries are unfolding in the timeworn cemetery at St. Paul's Episcopal Church.
    In a southwest corner of Augusta's first church, a Pennsylvania man examined a rectangular stone Tuesday. The stone, 5 feet tall by 3 feet wide, had long ago settled into the ground just below the lawn's surface.
    Vivid blue chalk helped to flush out a circle carved in the dense granite.
    Historian and preservationist Eugene Hough said he sometimes stands on a ladder to examine the intricate designs hidden in the circle at a different angle.
    Or he'll wait until the sun has shifted in the sky to scan the stone for an epitaph.
    But so far, the stone's purpose and its message are unknown.
    "It's a mystery," Mr. Hough said. "And this is just the beginning of the project."
    Mr. Hough, the president of Heritage Guild Works in Bryn Mawr, Pa., is the white-collar historian and the blue-collar laborer behind St. Paul's efforts to restore the church's cemetery.
    The Oglethorpe Foundation, an organization dedicated to the preservation of St. Paul's historic property, contracted Mr. Hough to document, clean and stabilize the cemetery's deteriorating gravestones, said Monty Osteen, the president of the foundation.
    The foundation is paying the $30,000 cost for the project, he said.
    First constructed in the mid-18th century amid Fort Augusta, St. Paul's has several prominent Georgians and South Carolinians, including Col. William Few, a signer of the U.S. Constitution, buried in its graveyard.
    An assessment of the cemetery in 2001 showed critical deterioration of many of the gravestones, but restoration efforts didn't fully materialize until now, Mr. Osteen said.
    One written report and two presentations to the church parish later, Mr. Hough was hired.
    Last week, Mr. Hough began researching, documenting and cleaning the centuries-old grave markers, some which date back to the 1760s.
    There are between 60 and 70 known grave markers at the cemetery, but Mr. Hough already has discovered a few small, hidden stones that floodwater might have sunk into the ground.
    Tools such as cotton swabs, binoculars and magnifying glasses come in handy for delicate cleaning and examination. A nylon brush and a microbial solution cleans lichen off the markers.
    The project's second phase includes stabilizing the gravestones and preventing future deterioration, Mr. Hough said.
    He said he hopes the restored gravestones will increase the public's interest in Augusta history.
    Already, passers-by have expressed interest in his restoration work, Mr. Hough said.
    And although the purpose of the cemetery's mysterious stone has him perplexed for now, Mr. Hough has a month to figure it out, and he is seeking forensic help in identifying the stone's hidden carvings.
    Each time he enters a cemetery, he says a prayer.
    Respect is important in this line of work, after all.
    "I'm an old soul," Mr. Hough said.

    Right now I'm looking at c. polz filter, lighting (natural & off camera flash), under exposing, whatever it takes. I'll combine my old police investigations work with photography on this one.
  5. Larry Gleason

    Larry Gleason

    Jan 26, 2005
    Good timing. Here is a photo from the newspaper article for starters.

    That would be the historian taking a film camera photo of the stone.
  6. The size and shape of the stone resembles celtic (or more specifically early Irish & Scottish) grave markers. Obviously it can't be one since it's here in the states, but perhaps it's of that tradition.

  7. MontyDog


    Jan 30, 2005
    #1064 - You have an error in your SQL syntax;
  8. Here is a graveyard in Kilmartin Scotland, close to Dun AD, the first settlement of the Scota (actually Irish) of the Dal Riata tribe from norther Ireland.

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

  9. Larry Gleason

    Larry Gleason

    Jan 26, 2005
    Update #1

    First job to see if the mystery stone still fits the model for a Celtic/Gaelic headstone. As indicated previously, it was found in prone position under a layer of dirt. Uncertain if it was supposed to be prone or was standing erect at one time.

    A ground penetrating radar was used today under where the stone was positioned. The "shaft" is 15 feet deep with a vault at the bottom. The vault appears to be made of a layer brick-type material. Seems really deep for a grave. One old skeleton key and two square head nails have been found in the first few inches. I guess it would be fun to follow the "dig" with photos.

    These photos are a first run to figure out what I'm doing (Plan C - trial & error with luck. The surface is badly worn. These are web sized photos so won't be as good as large print photos.


    Still Celtic/Gaelic ? Comments?
  10. What if the rest is missing?

    I am by no means an expert in either early American or Ancient Gaelic or Celtic history so any opinions I spout come from a position of profound ignorance. That said, I have a few questions/ideas:

    Has anyone searched for archival photos of the site? This is an old site and presumable a local landmark. One would think that there would be an historical photographic record. Perhaps the area where this object was found has been photographed in the past, and information could be gleaned from said photographs.

    The circle looks a little weird to me. The rings are of varying widths, and it doesn't look like a spiral, but rather a set of concentric rings. Could the stone have served as a base stone for a larger, now missing monument? Could there have been something placed upon the stone that turned, either as a function of time or in its intended capacity? That might create very shallow, concentric rings of varying widths.

    Just some thoughts. I love a good mystery. I'll be checking in on this thread regularly.

  11. Larry Gleason

    Larry Gleason

    Jan 26, 2005
    Re: What if the rest is missing?

    Yes, the stone is listed in a 1914 archival documents. Unlike other stones, this one is listed as "Unknown" and then forgotten about until now. It is getting high local media attention (hey, me and the beast at work on TV news tonight again). Two pro historians came out from California and they believe it might be an old Indian map carved in stone as this was an major trading route in the 1700s. I like our guys thinking on it and it has been added to the list of "what is it". Nothing is excluded at this time until there is confirmed data. Just part of the process.

    Yes, those are concentric rings. I like your thinking and will pass it on. However, within each ring it does appear that there are letters or numbers or symbols or drawings or intricate art or a combination of any.
  12. Very interesting. I didn't spot those, but the images you've posted so far are, as you said, a little small right now. I can't wait to get a look at the full size images, or at least some representative 100% crops. This is very interesting stuff. I'm glad you posted about it here.

  13. Greg


    Apr 5, 2005
    Fayetteville, TN
    Larry, sounds like a great project. I've worked on several stones over the years but nothing as interesting or challenging as this.

    I've even tried very sharp angled artificial light from different angles working for the shadows then create masks from each and combine. Sometimes worked and sometimes not.

    Good luck and keep us up to date.
  14. For what it's worth most, if not all, of the celtic burial mound circles are spirals, not concentric circles.

    The shaft sounds fascinating. Hurry up and see what's under it!

  15. Larry,

    Are authorities exuming the grave to see what is it it? I don't want it to sound like it's okay to disturb a grave because I think respect is order, however, the grave could tell a lot more if exhumed.
  16. Larry Gleason

    Larry Gleason

    Jan 26, 2005
    Update #2

    Maybe we are getting somewhere. I say "we" because the authorities over this project are aware of the contributions being made by NC members.

    Manizco writes- The circle looks a little weird to me. The rings are of varying widths, and it doesn't look like a spiral, but rather a set of concentric rings. Could the stone have served as a base stone for a larger, now missing monument? Could there have been something placed upon the stone that turned, either as a function of time or in its intended capacity? That might create very shallow, concentric rings of varying widths.

    Rich writes- For what it's worth most, if not all, of the Celtic burial mound circles are spirals, not concentric circles.

    Now I'm thinking out of the box (for a graveyard, that is). Did some basic research of the site this morning.


    From the site of the mystery stone, I can see the Fort site marker about 50 yards away.

    General information- During the Revolution, the British on this spot erected Fort Cornwallis, which was captured by the Americans by surprise September 14, 1780, but soon abandoned to the British. In May, 1781, an attack under General Andrew Pickens and Lieutenant Colonel "Light Horse Harry" Lee, and the use of a Mayham tower, forced surrender by the British Commander, lieutenant colonel Thomas Brown, capitulation taking place on June 5, 1781. In 1786 fortifications removed and a new church built by the Trustees of Richmond Academy for use by all denominations. In 1818 the site conveyed to the Trustees of the Episcopal Church, who constructed a new St. Paul's Church, which was destroyed in the 1916 fire and replaced by the present structure."

    Now I find a little time line of information-
    • 1780. Lt. Col. Thomas Brown leads loyalist troops back into Augusta, and Mr. Seymour resumes divine services in his "ruinous church." Seymour gave up the Rectory for use as a hospital for sick soldiers.
    • 1780. The Mackay House is besieged unsuccessfully by patriots under the command of Elijah Clark. Fort Cornwallis is built and Brown takes over the church and graveyard as part of his defensive works.
    • 1780. Seymour utilizes the large house belonging to McCartan Campbell.
    • 1781. Final surrender of Fort Cornwallis to American forces under Col. Henry Lee. The church building is destroyed in the process. Seymour flees to Savannah, and later to Saint Augustine.

    We know that the British had cannons. The mystery stone is made/hewn from local rock and weighs (est. 1,200 pounds).

    What I'm thinking, what if the mystery stone was actually made and used as a firing base for one of the cannons? That would account for Manizco's idea and pull away from the Celtic gravestone thought since Rich says gravestone circles were spiral and not concentric. The stone is right at the doorsteps to the old fort and at one time the graveyard was used for defensive positions. Mystery stone could have been moved to the graveyard for that purpose.

    So to run this concept out, cannons and cannon bases. The shaft and vault below the stone. More to do.

    Melissa Writes- Are authorities exhuming the grave to see what is it it? I don't want it to sound like it's okay to disturb a grave because I think respect is order, however, the grave could tell a lot more if exhumed.

    This is a commissioned project run by professionals to restore the graveyard. The shaft will be dug and the vault examined. Each step is evaluated. Because of the depth of the shaft, I recommended that GA DHEC be consulted. The shaft could well be part of the military defense instead of a grave. I noted in other readings that powder storage was underground in other states during this period.

    The saga continues. I'm going back to the site this morning and get more photos of the stone showing the sides and back and will include a broader look at the site location. Hey, maybe they did some digging in the shaft after I left yesterday. Will include photos of that too if so.
  17. Larry Gleason

    Larry Gleason

    Jan 26, 2005
    Update #2.5

    I'm not getting local support for cannon base theory. There is a history museum across the street from the graveyard. I talked to the curator this morning and he gave all kinds of reasons why the stone was not a foundation slab for a cannon. But theory remains on the table.

    New photos added starting photo #5798. Captions included.

  18. Larry -

    This is absolutely fascinating. Please keep us updated!
  19. Larry Gleason

    Larry Gleason

    Jan 26, 2005
    Will do. I got recruited this morning as part of the team in addition to photography. Like I know anything about this business or history. One thing for sure, I'm not trading in my beast for a shovel.

    This mystery stone is driving everyone here crazy. And the shaft with the vault at the bottom, whew. The museum curator didn't know about it until I told him about it. Of course it wasn't known until yesterday when the GPR was used. That is one curator whose eyes got big much less the wheels spinning behind the eyes.

    Keep the ideas on the stone coming. Been some great thoughts already and the table is never too small to place some more on it.
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.