If you have noticed there is something at Apalachicola’s historic Chestnut Cemetery, there is, and you can thank the many people who took in the Ghost Walk over the past few years for it.
Drawing on more than $12,000 in the Apalachicola Area Historical Society’s Chestnut Cemetery Fund, monies raised from admission to the historical narratives featuring local people portraying the departed, Eastpoint welder Charles Sorenson, with CW Metal Works, has refurbished the fencing, replacing portions created in his workshop and straightening and repairing others.
“He repaired the entire perimeter fence, but not the corner posts,” said Mark Curenton, the AAHS board member who helped shepherd the project. “Some panels on the exterior fence are too badly corroded or bent to repair. In those cases he built replacement panels. The panels that can be repaired were repaired. He will not be repainting the existing fence.”
A welder who spent several years working at a nuclear plant near Augusta, Georgia, Sorenson’s craftsmanship and dedication to a fence that dates back to 1915 (See sidebar) has been praised by AAHS board members.
Sorenson’s original proposal was estimated to cost about $7,500, but after his time exceeded his original projects, Curenton said he foresees the project will run about $9.000.
The AAHS had initially sought an estimate from the Stewart Iron Works, the Cincinnati, Ohio-area ornamental metal works with whom John Ruge had contracted more than a century ago to build the original fence, (See sidebar)
Stewart had offered to do work for about $7,000, but that was only to provide about seven or eight of the missing caps and balls on the corner posts. It did not include the sort of refurbishing work that Sorenson performed.
As part of the work, Sorenson installed three new gates. “The existing gates were not original, they were built out of rebar,” said Curenton.
In addition, the welder replaced a number of sections of the fence that are probably six or eight feet long, which were in poor shape.
“All the pickets had rusted in half. It was easier to just make a new panel rather than fix the old one,” Curenton said. “Also a lot of the panels had become detached. If a picket was bent or broken, he would repair that, or if a picket above the top rail was bent, he would straighten it.”
He said the earliest marked grave in the cemetery is of a person who died in 1840. “They were burying people there since the mid-1830s,” Curenton said. “One of the early Apalachicola Land Company reports mentions people using this property as a cemetery, so people were already using it as a cemetery.”