Tuesday, Dec 10, 2013
Unmarked Graves Found in Sold Lots in Herrin City Cemetery
HERRIN -- Crews have uncovered major problems as they excavate parts of the Herrin City Cemetery. Several people have been sold burial plots that are already occupied by unmarked graves.
This is the third official dig by a group of historians, geologists, and anthropologists. By the end of the day Friday, they had found six previous interments in sold lots. That raises the question of what will city officials and family members do about it.
The thought of digging up burial plots is not an easy one, but for Cheryl Stewart, the possibility of someone already in her mother's sold lot, right next to her father, is far more disturbing.
"We don't want to go through what others have had to go through on the day of her funeral and find out that we can't bury her," says Stewart. "And then, what are we going to do if there is somebody, because we want to the two to stay together."
The remains of a child were found in a sold lot, one row away from Stewart's family plot. An empty vault, possibly one of the five 1922 Herrin massacre victims whose remains were moved by family, was also discovered. Right next to the vault were the remains of an infant where a mercury head dime necklace had been found.
By late Friday afternoon, the remains of two more children and an adult had been discovered.
"These people are unknown and will be 'til the end of time. But the problem is their lots have been sold to unsuspecting local citizens," says historian Scott Doody.
Doody and his excavation team began this exploration looking for victims of the Herrin Massacre, but what they found was a mess of record-keeping that left people buried on top of each other. It is families like Stewart's that will have to decide what to do next.
"I'm inclined to say the person who was here first deserves to rest in peace where they're at and we would have to move, which is okay, but at whose expense?" asks Stewart.
Doody and his team will present their findings to the Herrin City Council Monday night. The city will track down the lot owners where the remains were found. Doody says, legally, the poor who were buried in the old pauper's field do not have rights to their lots. The new owners can move them if they choose.
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