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Graves found under Jeffersonville softball field


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#1 HoundDog

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 07:50 PM

Graves found under Jeffersonville softball field
Louisville Courier-Journal
12/01/2011

http://www.courier-j...pnews|text|Home

Since the 1920s, the swatch of green near the intersection of Chestnut and Mulberry streets in Jeffersonville has been a city park, a place where hundreds of people have played softball.

On Thursday, officials disclosed that those games apparently were taking place on long-forgotten graves, including some that may have dated to the Civil War.

“It’s kind of disheartening,” said Dan Fleshman, a Parkview Middle School teacher who played softball at Colston Park, also known as Playsquare, in the 1990s.

“You find out you’re playing on something that shouldn’t have been there in the first place, it makes you feel uneasy,” he said.

Remnants of the cemetery were discovered Thursday as archaeologist Mindi Wetzel investigated the area because the city is considering building a convention center on the site, which is just west of the planned route of a ramp from the Big Four pedestrian bridge.

In center field, Wetzel showed a reporter a mostly buried leg bone and arm bone she found Thursday morning. She also pointed out the darker coloring of the soil, in the shape of an elongated hexagon, made by the disintegration of a wooden casket.

Such a distinctive shape, and the rusted fragments of old, square nails at the corners of the hexagon suggest the casket was made in the early to mid-19th century and possibly earlier, said Wetzel, who works for Louisville-based Corn Island Archaeology.

Later in the day, another burial was found in the same area, said Anne Bader, principal owner of Corn Island Archaeology.

A fragment of a bone toothbrush, also likely to date from the 19th century, also was found in the outfield, Bader said. And a tiny ivory end-piece of a household item — perhaps a quill pen — a pig’s tooth and broken white ceramics were found in the infield area, she said.

Clark County Historian Jeanne Burke said she believes as many as 300 people could have been buried at the site at one time. She said that she had long believed the Old Town Cemetery had been located in the area but had no proof, even after earlier excavations.

“I’m pleased to have it confirmed,” she said.

Jeffersonville Mayor Tom Galligan said the discovery will not have any effect on development in the area. As outgoing mayor, he does not know if the convention center plan will proceed but he said the graves could be relocated or protected if necessary.

“This won’t affect anything,” he said.

He added earlier excavations on the east and west sides of the park found nothing that would disrupt plans for the Big Four ramp or for the approach to a planned vehicle bridge over the Ohio River near its west side, Galligan said.

Burke said that documents she’s seen indicate that remains from the city’s oldest cemetery, which was near the Ohio River and dated to the 1780s, were moved to the Old Town Cemetery early in the 1800s because the site of the older cemetery was needed for another purpose, Burke said.

She thinks the Old Town Cemetery was in use until 1862 and at one time may have contained Civil War burials that the army may have moved after the war. There are even are suggestions the remains of a man who fought in the Revolutionary War were in the Old Town Cemetery, she said.

Burke said the cemetery was closed, apparently because it was full, in 1862 and later became overgrown. It became a city park in the 1920s, she said.

Cathy Draeger-Williams, an archaeologist with the state’s Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, said the discoveries could illuminate “important history for the city.”

She added that state law requires a 100-foot buffer of undisturbed ground to be maintained around such a site — or the remains can be moved to another location with proper oversight.

At the ballfield, the archaeologists filled in their outfield excavation Thursday afternoon to protect it. Corn Island archaeologists Nicole Coomer and Dave Schatz said they will continue to make a series of smaller, shovel excavations every 50 feet across the field to determine the cemetery’s boundaries.

The work is likely to take several weeks, she said.

Bader said nothing of monetary value has been found and she hopes the public will respect the burials and the history of the site and leave it alone.

City employees fenced in the area in which the archaeologists were working Thursday, and police will be watching it, Galligan said.

If anyone is found in the area, he said, “they will be arrested” because it’s a felony to disturb such a site.

Galligan said it is too early to decide what will be done with the site other than to protect it.

“It was always a fun place to play,” Fleshman said.

Edited by HoundDog, 01 December 2011 - 07:52 PM.

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#2 RiverFox

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 07:55 PM

Cool! :thumbsup:

#3 HoundDog

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 11:03 PM

Wow! 130+ views and one 1-word response. I'm surprised. I thought there'd be at least some conversation about this.

#4 HoundDog

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 11:07 PM

I was involved in the relocation of FOUR graves from a local burial site a few years ago. The whole process took a week and cost about $25,000, including the reinterment of the remains. If Jeanne's right and there are 300 people buried here, what's that add up to?

I hope the Clark County Cemetery Commission is all over this situation like a duck on a junebug.

#5 Crusenin

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 11:16 PM

Is there a reason to still disturb the graves? It'd make a good green leisure park...maybe with some shelter houses...and maybe a good location for the farmer's market.

#6 Allucrybabies

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 11:26 PM

Wow! 130+ views and one 1-word response. I'm surprised. I thought there'd be at least some conversation about this.

What more would you expect? It doesn't have anything to do with MM or TG. The only responses I see coming are in regards to comments from Gallugan. Just wait!

#7 18shortcreek

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Posted 02 December 2011 - 12:04 AM

As I said in an earlier message, I've been told many times that there were burials at Playsquare dating from the late 1700s. Since we lost records at the court house in the l937, possibly any records of a reburial from the cemetery near Ft. Steuben were lost.

Possibly there some other old folks like my husband and I who would have heard of this or even have relatives who could be buried there. We do have some families in this area whose forebearers go back that far. Could the News & Tribune write a piece on this?

As the gentleman said, it costs so much to move the bodies(or skeletons)that perhaps a nice monument would be appropriate and leave them there in peace. I rather expect there might be a lot of burials all over this area going back to the time of the early grants, if we want to dig up the whole town. I mean no disrespect to those people buried there. I guess it all comes down to proof.

#8 Crusenin

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Posted 02 December 2011 - 12:14 AM

Never saw your earlier post...but makes sense. Obviously something was there. Why not leave it and make something there. A million spent there for some type of memorial there would be much better spent than on a million dollar welcome sign.

Edited by Crusenin, 02 December 2011 - 12:15 AM.

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#9 Teresa Fisher

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Posted 02 December 2011 - 02:53 AM

I lived across the street from that field for nearly 19 years, and I always knew about the bodies. There is a large granite marker at the corner of Mulberry and the alley that tells the story. I believe it specifically says that no bodies were moved when it changed from a cemetery to a park. And now everyone is shocked?

Edited by Teresa Fisher, 02 December 2011 - 09:31 AM.


#10 Random Thoughts

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Posted 02 December 2011 - 07:05 AM

I am surprised there seems to be any confusion about IF the old City Cemetery was on that site. I thought that had been established a long time ago, and was fairly common knowledge.
It was established at that location when the original grave yard (closer to the river) was relocated there. To build a levee around 1830. Some of those graves dated back prior to the 1780's when Ft. Finney existed.
And were reputed to contain at least one grave, of a soldier that died in the French and Indian War. Some who died from Indian attacks....And many of the earliest settlers of Jeffersonville.

The City Cemetery was ordered closed in 1862. And did ( according to the Army Quartermaster General's office) contain 126 Union soldier graves. Most of these soldiers were not from Indiana. Mostly Ohio, and other states. Which were identified from the existing marker boards in good condition. Immediately after the Civil War. And a " muster roll" of them recorded.

I have looked at a copy of that report which is available online ( Many thanks to River Fox for the link). And I found it interesting that although the graveyard was order closed in 1862... Judging by the death dates recorded..Most of the soldier burials would have taken place after that date.

Those graves were ordered moved to the cemetery in New Albany. Along with the 500 + graves at the Soldier Burial Plot at the current location of old Memorial Park and Meijer fields.

(All these were hospital burials from Army's Jefferson General Hospital that was located at Port Fulton.)

If the removal order was actually ever executed..Still is debated.
I would think since the soldiers were identified by Name, Rank, Unit, etc... They should be able to determine if there are records, or grave markers, there in New Albany that would verify if they were indeed moved.
The park was established there in the early 1900's because the cemetery had deteriorated, and become overgrown. Few of the original markers still existed.
So the city leaders, decided to utilize the ground as a park, and playground. Which was deemed a fitting use for it.

There is a lot of this city's history apparently buried under the ball fields. I personally think it should be preserved.
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#11 Cracker Jack

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Posted 02 December 2011 - 07:06 AM

Is there a reason to still disturb the graves? It'd make a good green leisure park...maybe with some shelter houses...and maybe a good location for the farmer's market.

And historical markers that would tell them civil war people were buried there, probably came from the Jefferson Hospital that used to be at the end of Crestview Ct. share the history!

#12 Cracker Jack

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Posted 02 December 2011 - 07:07 AM

I lived next door to that field for nearly 19 years, and I always knew about the bodies. There is a large granite marker at the corner of Mulberry and the alley that tells the story. I believe it specifically says that no bodies were moved when it changed from a cemetery to a park. And now everyone is shocked?

Not shocked, just glad they finally found the proof of the cemetery.

#13 HoundDog

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Posted 02 December 2011 - 07:35 AM

Oh, I'm not shocked that we now have proof the remains are still there. I've been convinced about this for ages and I have tremendous respect for Jeanne Burke's research.

There have been a number of people though who sincerely believed everything was moved to Walnut Ridge. The veracity of the marker at Playsquare Park has been disputed for decades. But I knew in my heart of hearts that all they did was move any visible markers. I am glad that we have proof now and that DNR has been alerted to the situation.

I guess I should not have been surprised, however, with Galligan's comments:

Jeffersonville Mayor Tom Galligan said the discovery will not have any effect on development in the area. As outgoing mayor, he does not know if the convention center plan will proceed but he said the graves could be relocated or protected if necessary.

“This won’t affect anything,” he said.



#14 cindiloohoo

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Posted 02 December 2011 - 07:48 AM

Never saw your earlier post...but makes sense. Obviously something was there. Why not leave it and make something there. A million spent there for some type of memorial there would be much better spent than on a million dollar welcome sign.

:goodpost:

And thanks, HoundDog, for posting about this. I'm sure a lot of people had no idea.

#15 hoosiermom

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Posted 02 December 2011 - 08:34 AM

I lived next door to that field for nearly 19 years, and I always knew about the bodies. There is a large granite marker at the corner of Mulberry and the alley that tells the story. I believe it specifica
lly says that no bodies were moved when it changed from a cemetery to a park. And now everyone is shocked?


Exactly...how can u be suprised when it has a memorial on site. I asked about this when Vissing park story started and was told the bodys had been moved to another place.

#16 Random Thoughts

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Posted 02 December 2011 - 09:28 AM

The war graves were "ordered" moved. As part of a very large Army undertaking to identify the dead soldiers and to consolidate the scattered small graveyards.

But that order was for the war graves only.. I personally haven't come across anything that says the civilian graves aren't still there. And obviously from what they are finding... they are. I think I read, there was one stone marker still there when the park was created. And it was moved to Walnut Ridge cemetery.

It has been contended for years, that the soldiers graves were never actually moved. And the reasons for the soldiers graves becoming "lost".. Was due to the fact most of the soldiers , buried there, were from other states.
And their families just couldn't make the long trips with any consistency. And typical for the time, it was the families responsibility to maintain the grave sites.

Also the military graves had wooden markers. So obviously after years of neglect.. they just disappeared into the overgrown condition described at the time the park was created.

#17 Teresa Fisher

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Posted 02 December 2011 - 09:39 AM

I think I read, there was one stone marker still there when the park was created. And it was moved to Walnut Ridge cemetery.


I went to Walnut Ridge years ago to see that one stone marker. It's huge, and was created with raised stone letters as was typical of that time. The marker is on its back with its lettering facing the sky. You can no longer read the words on it.

#18 RiverFox

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Posted 02 December 2011 - 03:15 PM

I threw together a simple timeline.
It's a lot more complicated than this.

From various sources:

"The first general burying-ground known [in Jeffersonville] was located on the river front, between
Spring and Pearl Streets. It was between Front Street and the [Ohio] river, for, strange as it may seem
to the people of to-day, there were reserved between Front Street and the river a row of lots fronting
nearly the entire original plat of the town. Next adjoining the river, and on the bank, was Water Street,
which is still accessible would be not far from the present ferry wharf-boat at low water.

The city’s first “official” cemetery, laid out in 1802, contains several hundred burials.
No records were kept of the burials and no abstract of stones was ever done and
there have been no stones for at least one hundred years.

One can reasonably conclude that those buried here were the early residents of Fort Finney/Steuben
and of Jeffersonville who died between 1787 and 1838, the year Walnut Ridge Cemetery was
established north of the city. In 1849, Chestnut Grove Cemetery [later known as "Eastern Cemetery"]
was opened east of Jeffersonville on Graham Street.

The river encroached so rapidly on the bank at this point that it was thought best to grade down the bluff
and pave a levee. The contract for this grading was let to Mr. J. H. McCampbell, who prosecuted the work
to completion. Many bodies were found buried during the grading, the hard walnut cases having withstood
the action of the soil through some forty years. The remains were carefully gathered together and moved
to the old cemetery, between Market and Maple Streets, west of Mulberry, where they were again buried,
the city procuring an appropriate monument, which was placed on the spot.

"The old cemetery between Chestnut and Market Streets has been used so many years
that no one can now tell when the first burial took place in it.


As far as Civil War burials ... pay close attention to the dates.

The Civil War began on April 12, 1861.

A recruiting camp named Camp Joe Holt was opened just west of Jeffersonville,
Indiana, in July 1861 by Col. Lovell H. Rousseau. By September 1861, the camp
had recruited over two thousand local citizens for the Union army.
Camp Joe Holt would serve as a hospital in 1862 until Jefferson General Hospital
was opened in Port Fulton. (February 21, 1864)

This ground has not been used since 1862, an ordinance passed in May of that year
forbidding its further use. (Old Grave Yard / Playsquare)

City Cemetery at Jeffersonville, Indiana (1868)
The burial of Union soldiers in this cemetery, 126 in number,
like those in the soldiers' burying ground, were all hospital burials.
The whole number are identified by headboards at the graves in
good condition. The numbers have been placed on them to agree
with this list. They are all to be removed to New Albany.


Edited by RiverFox, 02 December 2011 - 06:56 PM.


#19 Random Thoughts

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Posted 02 December 2011 - 07:35 PM

I am quite a history buff. And especially the Civil War. As such,I pay tend to pay very close attention to dates.

And cant help but notice something that didn't quite add up.

The Mayor of Jeffersonville ordered the City Cemetery closed to further use in 1862.
Ok... got that.

What doesnt seem to make sense to me, is the report compiled by Brevet Lt. Colonel E.B. Whitman , (Asst.Quartermaster, Dept. of the Cumberland). On May 19,1868.. Submitted to the Quartermaster General of the Army's office.

This would be approximately 3 years and 1 month after General Lee's surrender on April 9, 1865...

That clearly shows the majority of the "identified" 126 Union Army burials at the City Cemetery, Jeffersonville ,IN... were in 1864.

For example :

W.M. Thompson , Alabama. Company G, 15th Infantry. Died May 19th , 1864
F. Coon, Illinois, Pvt. Company K, 107th Infantry. Died July 4th, 1864
John Axe, Ohio, Pvt. 41st Infantry. Died July 17th, 1864

Seems possibly that the Mayor may have had one idea in 1862..... But the Army may have had another in 1863-64.
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#20 RiverFox

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Posted 02 December 2011 - 08:35 PM

I am quite a history buff. And especially the Civil War. As such,I pay tend to pay very close attention to dates.

And cant help but notice something that didn't quite add up.

The Mayor of Jeffersonville ordered the City Cemetery closed to further use in 1862.
Ok... got that.


No ... it was a city ordinance not a mayoral order. And it was always referred to as
the Old Grave Yard, never City Cemetery.

What doesnt seem to make sense to me, is the report compiled by Brevet Lt. Colonel E.B. Whitman , (Asst.Quartermaster, Dept. of the Cumberland). On May 19,1868.. Submitted to the Quartermaster General of the Army's office.

This would be approximately 3 years and 1 month after General Lee's surrender on April 9, 1865...

That clearly shows the majority of the "identified" 126 Union Army burials at the City Cemetery, Jeffersonville ,IN... were in 1864.

For example :

W.M. Thompson , Alabama. Company G, 15th Infantry. Died May 19th , 1864
F. Coon, Illinois, Pvt. Company K, 107th Infantry. Died July 4th, 1864
John Axe, Ohio, Pvt. 41st Infantry. Died July 17th, 1864

Seems possibly that the Mayor may have had one idea in 1862..... But the Army may have had another in 1863-64.


That's possible. I probably shouldn't have included the last source.
I have never found a correspondence between "City Cemetery" or "Soldiers' Burial Lot"
and any other existing cemeteries at the time.
I have an 1873 map that shows a "United States Cemetery" west of Missouri Avenue
between 13th & 14th but have never found any conformation of it.

Edited by RiverFox, 02 December 2011 - 08:36 PM.





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