J. S. Clark cemetery - Ouachita Parish 200 unmarked graves found
Radar finds 200 unmarked
graves at J.S. Clark Cemetery
By Robbie Evans • revans@...•
January 19, 2011
A preliminary review of ground penetrating radar
scans at J.S. Clark Cemetery has found nearly 200
unmarked graves at the cemetery.
The scans were conducted over a 6-acre area of the
cemetery off Reddix Lane in southeastern Ouachita
Parish last week in preparation for planned drainage
work at the site by the Ouachita Parish Police Jury.
Police Jury consulting engineer Tom Holtzclaw said
Tuesday that while parish officials were expecting a
high number of unmarked graves to be found in the
interior of the cemetery, none were found in the area
planned for construction.
"We knew the number of unmarked graves was going
to be a considerable amount," Holtzclaw said. "We
had no idea it would be that many.
"Most were located in the interior of the cemetery, so
one of the comforting things is that there were no
graves found in the perimeter where we were
planning to do the drainage work. So it should not
hamper us in going forward with that work."
The cemetery was started in the late 1950s and had
fallen into disrepair over the last two decades.
District D Police Juror Dr. Ollibeth Reddix has been
leading an effort to rehabilitate the cemetery and
make needed improvements to its appearance and
A company specializing in the use of ground
penetrating radar spent three days at the cemetery
last week mapping sections of the cemetery to
determine whether graves are under roads or
drainage ditches scheduled for repairs. The survey
was funded through state and local funds of
$108,000 set aside by the Police Jury last year for
improvements at the cemetery.
While there are many unmarked graves in the
cemetery, most are not unknown, according to
Police Jury attorney Jay Mitchell. The Police Jury
already had information on the names and locations
of graves at the cemetery but were unable to
precisely pinpoint where a particular grave in a
small area may have been.
The parish took over the 60-year-old cemetery
about a decade ago after the company that operated
the cemetery went out of business. When the
transition was made, the Police Jury took possession
of burial records at the cemetery.
Since the unmarked graves were identified with GPS
coordinates by the radar survey, Mitchell said the
burial records could now be cross-referenced with
the GPS coordinates to match up burial
documentation with the actual location in the
"We've got a pretty good handle on who is buried
where," Mitchell said. "We've got the records, which
is two old index card files, and we also have plats of
the cemetery that identify how the graves are laid
"The big value of having the survey done is we know
what's not there for purposes of doing the drainage
improvements and we will be able to fill in the gaps
in the records so we know what graves are occupied
and which ones are not."
Holtzclaw expects to receive the complete data from
the radar surveys within the next week. Once that
information is received, he said some matching of
the unmarked gravesites to names could likely
"The GPS locations will give us a good idea (of grave
site locations) and we could start the process of
trying to identify who is in the unmarked graves,"
Holtzclaw said. "It's probably going to be a pretty
Scott Clay and Dr. Ollibeth Reddix examine the results
of a recent ground penetrating radar scan conducted
last week at J.S. Clark Cemetery. A preliminary review
of the scan found nearly 200 unmarked graves at the