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Cleaning up history - Eagle Scout takes on John Abbot gravesite project
Abbott Grave photo for Web
Dr. Martella Cunningham, left, Georgia State Regent for the Daughters of American Colonists group, stands with Cookie Deal, chapter chairman for the Historic Landmarks and Memorials Committee, with the grave marker for John Abbot after a group led by Deal's grandson, Michael Deal, cleaned up the gravesite. - photo by Special

    Englishman John Abbot is one of America's most famous wildlife painters. His work was so valued that the famed scientist Charles Darwin studied his paintings in London before setting on his explorations that led to his theory of evolution.
    Abbot died between December 1840 and January 1841 and he is buried in the McElveen cemetery off of Mud Road in Bulloch County.
    Abbot lived with the McElveens while he studied animals in Bulloch County in the 19th Century. There actually is a Georgia Historical Society marker identifying the gravesite located about one mile south of Highway 80 East on the road from Arcola to Pembroke.
    Time, however, has not been kind to the grave, which is no ordinary gravesite. Surrounded by an ornate iron-fence, Abbot's burial site is marked by a four-foot-tall bas-relief bronze marker that sports a likeness of the artist's face. But the site was a mess and in need of repair and cleaning up.
    Bulloch County resident Cookie Deal had tried to get the Daughters of American Colonists or the Daughters of the American Revolution historical groups interested in adopting the cemetery - with no luck.
    So, Eagle Scout Michael Deal heard about his grandmother's quandary and came to the rescue. He decided to focus on repairing the historical marker, the gravesite area, and Abbot's tombstone for his Eagle Scout Project.
    Deal, who lives in Savannah, has been a Scout since third grade. His father, Roscoff Deal, is the assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 12, which meets at the First Presbyterian Church in Statesboro.
    A Boy Scout's Eagle Project is the last step in attaining the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest rank that any scout can achieve. It requires some 16 man-hours of work in order to be considered an appropriate effort.
    Deal is no regular Eagle Scout. He was elected into the Order of The Arrow, which is the National Boy Scouts Honor Society. He also has earned 27 Merit Badges, far more than the 21 required for Eagle Scout rank.
    Deal enlisted the help of some of his friends: Zwei and Birgit Legat, Andy Christensen, Anthony DeVane, Noah and Joel Formby, Richard and Edward LaRossa, Lee Mincey, Henry Pham, Harry Purse, and Lauren Woods.
    Late last year, they set up camp in the McElveen's yard by the gravesite. Waking up early the next morning, they all set to scrubbing the fence, and then applied chemicals to peel off the rust.
    One crew went off to pull the Historical Marker from the ditch in which it was placed, fixed the collar and mounts, and then reset it in concrete making it much more visible from the road. They also put up several new direction markers.
    The other group started cleaning the marble stone of its stains, and then scrubbed the dirt, grime, and staining from the face of the bronze bas-relief sculpture.
    They then set about painting the fence with a black RustOleum outdoor metal paint. By this time, everyone was ready to collapse, so all retired to their tents.
    Arising the next morning, some of the crew returned to Savannah. The rest were packing up when they noticed that the newly painted fence was sporting some rather ugly white splotches.
    Roscoff Deal immediately recognized that this meant the fence would need another coat of paint. Being Boy Scouts, the group had come prepared, and luckily had enough paint to give the fence another coat.
    As they packed up their cars, a man pulled up and rolled down his window.
    Visiting from North Carolina, he said he had looked everywhere for the Abbot gravesite but had had no luck. Then all of a sudden, he noticed the sign right next to the road. He swore that it hadn't been there the day before when he drove by.
    Deal said he was pleased to inform him that the group had indeed relocated the sign. And he said both he and the Eagle Scout crew were very pleased that their efforts were already bearing fruit.


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