100-year-old remains of unknown man put to rest
By Debbie Glover
St. Tammany News
Published on Wednesday, August 13, 2008 9:05 AM CDT
As the hearse drove into Wilson cemetery yesterday morning, the sun ominously disappeared for a few moments.
The gravesite was prepared, waiting for its new resident. But this was not an ordinary funeral; there were no mourners, no clergy offering condolences to the family, and in fact, no family present.
Instead, the mayor’s assistant, Catherine Brown and Robert Celestine from the parks and recreation department awaited the hearse carrying the unusual coffin. Escorting the unknown white male were three archaeologists from Earth Search, Inc.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. A Covington city worker symbolically shovels the dirt signifying those words for an unknown man reburied yesterday in Wilson Cemetery. The remains were discovered in April while the National Guard Armory was being built about 100 yards south of the cemetery. (Staff Photo by Debbie Glover)
On April 1, the original grave was uncovered as Citadel Builders were conducting excavation work for a new sewer line at the National Guard Armory building on North Columbia Street. Located about 100 yards south of Wilson Cemetery, worked stopped for two days at the Armory site while state officials were contacted and archaeologists could reach the scene.
The archaeologists excavated the site and removed the remains, including the coffin, human remains and artifacts. They were then catalogued, examined and tested in hopes of discovering the identity of the deceased, according to archaeologists from Earth Search, Inc.
Michael Godzinski, project manager with Earth Search said that the deceased was a white male, about 5-feet 7-inches tall, about 55 years old with arthritis evident in some of his bones. His hair was about two inches long, brown but graying. No cause of death could be determined.
According to the archaeologists’ report, the coffin itself is thought to date from the late 19th to early 20th centuries. This is evident by the type of coffin with ornate silver handles and the remains of a glass face plate for viewing and an epitaph plate, also of silver. This is typical of the Victorian era when funeral rituals changed to “beautification of death” allowing for ornamentation on coffins.
Archaeologists also found a black sock, a finely woven light colored fabric remnant that could have been a shirt, and dark colored woolen fabric, possibly part of a casket lining.
Godzinski said that although DNA was taken, no one has come forward to claim the body. In the event someone does, DNA from that person can be compared to determine identity, he said.
Although little is know of the man, his discovery affected many in Covington. Brown said that in April she received calls from people thinking it was their loved one, but all the calls were about women, and this is definitely a man.
Adding to the aura of mystery is the old custom of burying people on their property, or their family’s property instead of a formal cemetery. Also, many cemeteries were walled or fenced off after the fact, so some people may not be included in the formal cemetery borders.
City records do not show where everyone in the city was buried, because some were buried before records were kept, some records have been lost, and many records were kept in the family rather than in civil offices.
As the makeshift coffin was placed in the grave, those present did say a few words and short prayers welcoming the man to his new eternal resting place, about 125 yards from his original eternal home. http://www.slidellsentry.com/articles/2008...19333328792.txt