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J. S. Clark cemetery - Ouachita Parish 200 unmarked graves found

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  • Louisiana Cemeteries
          Radar finds 200 unmarked graves at J.S. Clark Cemetery   By Robbie Evans • revans@thenewsstar.com• January 19, 2011
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 19, 2011

      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
      drainage control.

      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
      long process."

      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
      cemetery. [photo]


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