No physical evidence of graves downtown

By Lindsey Connell - bio | email

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -  Archaeologists say they could not find any evidence of graves at the Old Black Cemetery at 6th Avenue and 6th Street in Downtown Columbus.

But it's still possible remains are there. The site was designated as the city's original black cemetery from 1828-1836 but soon after that, it disappeared from city plats. It was abandoned and later sold for railroad expansion. After all these years, the city wanted to find out what was really below the surface.

Crews used ground penetrating radar that sent electromagnetic waves to locate objects below the ground. The railroad owns the land and agreed to let them study one acre on the four acre site. But what they found didn't match up with other historical evidence.

"We did analysis of those readings and determined that the area had been extensively disturbed previously sometime after the cemetery use probably by railroad development. In this case, unfortunately, we have to rely on circumstantial evidence but it's strong circumstantial evidence from historical record and from oral history," said Jeff Gardner, Vice President of Brockington & Associates, the archaeological group that did the study.

The results aren't deterring city officials from calling it a graveyard.

They say black residents had to be buried somewhere during that time period and they believe that it's right here where archaeologists did their testing.

"This site was and probably still is a cemetery site for colored people dating back to 1828 and it's our recommendation that we honor and respect that and preserve this site," said Deputy City Manager David Arrington.

To do that, officials are proposing a memorial garden with a walking trail and benches.

If the Columbus Mayor and council decide to move forward with the memorial garden, it's estimated to cost $180, 000

That money will come from 1999 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds.

The city plans to negotiate with the railroad company to lease one acre of land to put it on.

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