TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA/CNN) - A total of 145 coffins were found on the campus of a Florida high school, part of the forgotten or ignored Ridgewood Cemetery.
The discovery came after weeks of searching in a southern section of property at King High School. They found evidence of coffins buried 3-5 feet deep, using radar to scan the ground.
"We’ve pieced together a bunch of documents, and we kind of anticipated that it would come back this way," said Tamara Shamburger, a school board member. "But I really didn’t anticipate to get a report back this morning that said there were 145 coffins."
Yvette Lewis, president of the Hillsborough County branch of the NAACP, became emotional as she spoke.
"It just deeply saddens me that people can hate you that much," she said.
Historical records show nearly 270 people were buried in Ridgewood, beginning in the 1940s. As many as 77 of them were infants and children.
Rodney Kite-Powell with Tampa Bay History Center said burials started in 1942 with 34 people and continued through 1954 when the last nine people were interred there.
“I don’t know how come the school didn’t know, because I stopped and talked to the construction people,” said resident Mary Talyor Francis.
Francis, 91, said she knew the cemetery was there. She said there had been tombstones or other burial markers on the site.
Planning is underway to memorialize the area. According to Kite-Powell, graves will likely be found at other locations.
"Without a doubt, there will be at least one or two more that will come to light," he said.