METHUEN — Don’t be spooked by footsteps in the city’s cemeteries through the end of summer.
A group of locals are surveying three burying grounds and combing through stingy records to pinpoint Methuen’s founding fathers and their final resting places. So far, they have a list of 40 prominent names and a feeling that they're still within city lines.
The Education and Research Committee, part of the Methuen Historical Society, will use their research to make a comprehensive guide for the public — used to trace personal lineages or as fodder for history buffs.
Participant Bev Brown can rattle off the names of five relatives, roughly nine generations back on her grandfather’s side, buried in the Meetinghouse Hill Cemetery.
“I’m here for history and fun,” she said of retirement, explaining that her interest in the subject was sparked as a Lawrence elementary schooler. In class, a teacher made historic bullet points come to life with detailed stories.
Similarly, she and 20 other volunteers are attempting to paint the city’s history by locating and mapping existing graves in Meetinghouse Hill Cemetery, the Village Burial Ground on Lawrence Street, and the old section of Elmwood Cemetery on North Lowell Street.
“We’re hoping to get this information on the city’s website, so people can see who is in there,” she said. “Maybe their relatives.”
Armed with specialized training and gallons of a gentle cleaning formula used at Arlington National Cemetery — which goes for $62 a pop — the volunteers will lightly wash off years of smoky gray buildup on headstones.
Their last step is to work with a restoration expert to fix noteworthy graves identified along the way. As they are, some are buried, unreadable or battered from the elements.
The supplies are being paid for through a grant from the Festival of Trees intended for the preservation of history.
Despite their best efforts, the history group knows there will be some wildcards: Broken stones with partial dates and no names, with no way to track them definitively to a particular person.
“People reach out to the historic commission asking for information about a house they just bought, or family members they’re trying to learn about,” Brown said. "We can't always give them an answer, but things like this help."
The goal is for most of the work to be finished before snow falls. It will continue next year.
Past work done by the Education and Research Committee includes the "Methuen's Patriots and their Homes" exhibit, a Patriots Day showing of homes still in existence where Minutemen and Revolutionary soldiers from Methuen lived. Then there was the "History of Methuen Schools" in the fall and winter of 2018. That research featured longstanding schoolhouses and documented how Metheun kids were educated from Colonial times to present day.
The group runs the Methuen Museum year-round.