Wednesday, Dec 4, 2013
Excavations to Begin at Herrin Cemetery
HERRIN -- A judge gave an archeology team the go-ahead Monday to excavate part of the Herrin city cemetery.
The archaeologists are looking for remains of men killed in the Herrin Massacre and investigating whether new graves have been placed on top of the cemetery's old pauper's field.
On Monday, a Williamson County judge dismissed an injunction holding up their work.
"We uncovered a woman in a sold lot. A family had a death, the family expected their loved one in the grave space. They already had a marker there. They had to move to a different part of the cemetery; it's disturbing," explained historian Scott Doody.
Doody said people have a right to know if someone else is already buried in a sold plot and many agree.
"I'm a union coal miner and I have been for almost 40 years, and I don't want to be stuck down there with a scab coal miner," said plot owner Loyd Switzer.
It's believed 12 men who were killed in the 1922 Herrin Massacre are buried somewhere in the south end of the cemetery.
"I don't have any doubt about it, the photographs prove it, they're overwhelming," said Doody, "The city employee have told folks that he knew where they were buried."
After Monday's court decision, Doody and his team of anthropologists and archaeologists finally got the green light from the judge and the city of Herrin to excavate the cemetery.
"The city has agreed to proceed with the research, and hopefully they'll be able to locate the remains of the Herrin massacre victims and we'll see where that takes us," said Herrin City Attorney John Brewster.
Through research, Doody said his team has narrowed the search to block 15, where they believe many poor people were buried in the early 1900's. He said no graves will be disturbed.
"It is illegal for us to do anything with someone's grave, a modern interment in other words. None of that is going to happen," said Doody.
His team plans to start the excavation this Friday; Doody said he knows a few remains have been destroyed in the past, so it's possible they won't find all 12 Herrin Massacre victims.
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