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Police arrested a man who they say damaged about 70 tombstones dating back to the 1700s in a Hawkins County cemetery.

The man told police that people asked him online to find their deceased relatives buried in the New Providence Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Surgoinsville. He said he used a wire brush to scrape years of wear and tear off the tombstones to make the names more visible in the pictures.

BACK STORY: About 70 tombstones damaged in historic cemetery

But Surgoinsville Police Chief James Hammonds said the man's gesture caused more than $5,000 dollars worth of damage to the headstones. Many of those grave markers mark the final resting places of Civil War soldiers and veterans.

The board in charge of the cemetery said no one gave permission to the man to scrub the headstones.

Officials charged the man with trespassing and damaging cemetery property.

Editor's note: Officials told WBIR 10News that the man didn't damage the headstones on purpose. For that reason, we aren't reporting the man's name.

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