This letter documents our completion of the disinterment of 67 graves from the remaining (0.28-acre) portion of the abandoned Union Bethel AME Church Cemetery located in Cemetery Tract 2 of your property. The abandoned cemetery is located west of Forest Park and north of Riverdale, Georgia, and is specifically situated along the south central boundary of Land Lot 74, in the 13th District of Clayton County, Georgia. Figure I is a street map showing the location of the Stephens Industries, LP property and the Union Bethel AME Church Cemetery. All work was conducted as required under provisions of the Official Code of Georgia, Code Section 36-72-1 through 16, and a permit issued by the Clayton County Commission on January 20, 2017.
The relocation of the 0.93-acre southern portion of the Union Bethel AME Church Cemetery (Cemetery Tract I) on property owned by Stephens MOS, LP (now Stephens Industries, LP) took place between September 21, 2009 and November 21, 2009. A total of343 graves were disinterred from the cemetery and reinterred at the Carver Memorial Gardens in Jonesboro, Georgia (Gardner 2009). Discovery and excavation of 97 additional graves over the number identified and mapped in the 1993 cemetery survey (No. 311) was primarily accounted for by the presence of numerous subadult (infants and small children) burials where adult (e.g., larger) graves were anticipated. This situation is typical when nondestructive survey methods (visual inspection, manual probing) are used to record and define cemeteries (Gardner 2009). Based on previous archaeological investigations and mapping of the entire cemetery that took place in 1993 and 2008, it was estimated that there were approximately 67 graves remaining in
the Union Bethel AME Church Cemetery. These graves were located in the northern 0.28-acre portion of the cemetery (Cemetery Tract 2) which is currently owned by Stephens Industries, LP.
Disinterment of the 67 graves on Cemetery Tract 2 began on February 6,2017 and was completed on March 3,2017. As required under the law and permit, professional archaeologists conducted all excavations and removal of burial remains during disinterment. Of the 67 remaining graves recorded at Union Bethel AME Church Cemetery, only one had an inscribed headstone (Grave No. 94). The inscription reads "D.L. Elliott, Jan 4, 1886, Oct 6, 1908, At Rest." This grave was located in the grassy area at the south end of the remaining portion of cemetery. Locations of all disinterred graves are shown on Figure 2.
The identification of grave shafts was conducted through groundtruthing (mechanical scraping) using an excavator with a smooth bucket. The entire cemetery inside the established cemetery boundary was mechanically scraped to assure that all graves were identified. This included the area along the former property line at the south end of Cemetery Tract 2. Georgia Interment Service employed an experienced excavator operator to conduct the mechanical
excavations. As the groundtruthing progresses, each grave shaft was mapped using a Trimble Unit. The coordinates of each grave shaft were tied into the previously mapped cemetery boundary. The groundtruthing was monitored by a Brockington archaeologist who meets the criteria defined under the Secretary of the Interior's Professional Qualification Standards (36 CFR Part 6 I).
The excavation techniques made use of both an excavator with a smooth blade and traditional methods of archaeological excavation. The human remains and all associated grave items were placed in individual. 31-inch. hard, polystyrene, vault/casket combinations. The excavation process was carefully conducted to ensure that burials and associated cultural items were moved with minimal damage and treated with appropriate respect and dignity.
Burial excavations were conducted by an experienced Brockington archaeologist who meets the criteria defined under the Secretary of the Interior's Professional Qualification Standards (36 CFR Part 61), and archaeological technicians. The disinterment/reinternment process was also supervised by a licensed funeral director from Georgia Interment Service.
Historic graves generally average four to five feet deep and consist of a primary shaft and a secondary shaft. The primary shaft is larger than the coffin, while the secondary shaft is the size and depth of the coffin. Wooden slats were often placed over the secondary shaft to keep the grave from collapsing when filled.
Initially. the excavator operator removed leaf litter, grass, and adequate topsoil to expose the top of each grave shaft. Following initial identification of the grave shafts, the excavator removed overburden from the primary shaft to approximately 7.8 inches (20 centimeters) above the actual burial. The archaeologist carefully monitored this process to ensure that the excavator did not come into contact with any coffin remnants or human remains.
Each grave was metal detected according to Georgia Archaeological Guidelines and Standards to search for coffin hardware and grave goods. After the overburden was removed, the graves were manually excavated, using shovels.
trowels, wooden picks, and dental picks. All burials were documented using the Georgia Council of Professional Archaeologists' Historic Burial Removal Form. Basic descriptive data (length, width, depth, soil description) were recorded for each burial. If the remains were well preserved, basic qualitative information was recorded (e.g. age, sex. any visible pathologies).
Additionally, digital photographs were taken of all aspects of the excavation. Following documentation, burials and associated cultural materials were placed in the vault/caskets, and pertinent information (e.g., burial number) was written on a metal tag and placed in each vault/casket. The burial number was also recorded on the exterior of the vault/casket.
The vault/caskets containing the burial remains from Cemetery Tract 2 were transported by Georgia Interment Service to Carver Memorial Gardens (350 Upper Riverdale Road, Jonesboro, Georgia 30236), where they were reinterred in a dedicated area of the cemetery. Established in 1951, Carver Memorial Gardens was the first African-American perpetual care cemetery in the Atlanta metropolitan area. Reinternment occurred in an area of the cemetery
determined to lack any previous/existing graves. New grave shafts were excavated on an east west axis (as is standard with Judeo-Christian burials), and the vault/caskets were carefully placed in the shafts. The burials were reinterred adjacent to the burials moved from the Union Bethel AME Church Cemetery (Cemetery Tract I) in 2009 and the granite memorial marker documenting the relocation of cemetery which was erected in 2009. In addition, the one
inscribed headstone marking the grave of D.L. Elliott was moved to Carver Memorial Gardens along with several large fieldstone markers. Close coordination between Brockington, Georgia Interment Service, Stephens Industries, LP, and Carver Memorial Gardens allowed for reinternment of all burial remains. All aspects of this work met State law and Clayton County Commission permit requirements.