On a recent trip to St. Patrick’s Catholic Cemetery in Askeaton, Wisconsin, we created a crayon rubbing of the headstone of family patriarch Daniel Mulqueen, and did a thorough cleaning of the lichen-infested monument. Both are important efforts to document and preserve family history.
Daniel Mulqueen (listed as McQueen on the stone) died on March 30, 1893. In the nearly 125 years since, his cemetery marker has become badly weathered by countless storms, wind, rain, snow, temperature extremes and environmental pollutants. And of course lichens, black mold and other biological growths that eat away at the surface.
Back in May, I traveled to Brown County, Wisconsin, with my mother’s sister, my Aunt Ruth (Mulqueen) McShane. One of our goals for the trip was to document the monument. So before we slopped everything up with water and anti-biologic chemicals, we decided to make a rubbing of the stone face. This process involves placing special paper over a section of the monument, then rubbing a hockey-puck-shape crayon over the surface, The result is a negative image of the writing on the monument. It read:
March 30, 1893
Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him
Once the rubbing paper was safely rolled up and placed in its protective tube, we set to cleaning the stone. It had a heavy covering of growths. Many people don’t realize that lichens and other growths are very destructive. Their roots penetrate into porous surfaces, causing cracks, pitting and other damage. Great care must be taken in cleaning, however, so as not to inflict more damage.
We used a special chemical agent called D/2, available from cemetery supply companies. It is a safe chemical; in fact the only one approved for use at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. We spent more than an hour spraying, gently scrubbing with a brush and scraping with a plastic blade.
The chemical reaction with the growths caused the stone to turn orange. It is best to use a garden hose to rinse stones being treated, but we had no access to water. We had to settle for large spray bottles filled across the road at the church. The chemicals continue to work on the growths for weeks and months after treatment. We will have to wait for a return visit to fully gauge our efforts. A second treatment might be needed to make Daniel’s monument white and growth-free.
We repeated our two-stage effort on the nearby marker of Patrick McQueen (Mulqueen), which had moderate lichen growth that made the face very had to read. I suspect Patrick (1815-1874) is the older brother of Daniel Mulqueen, but so far I have no documentary evidence of it. Both men were among the settlers who founded St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Askeaton.
Aunt Ruth made a rubbing of the Patrick McQueen stone, which had beautiful shamrock carvings at the upper corners. Treating the stone face with D/2 removed all the growths and made the lettering much easier to read. We discovered a cracked headstone laying flat on the ground, just behind the Patrick McQueen marker. We cleaned the mud and debris from the surface. It appeared this was a marker for one of Patrick and Margaret (Hart) Mulqueen’s children. More research is needed to determine to whom the stone belongs and if he/she is buried behind the family marker.