25 burial sites and bones found beneath historic Austin landmark
AUSTIN, Texas —
The city of Austin announced a grim and historic discovery. Twenty-five graves were found underneath an Austin landmark. Construction is halted at the historic Oakwood Cemetery chapel. In November, archeologists found bone fragments in a racially segregated part of the cemetery which immediately put the renovation on hold.
"My heart stopped when I heard that in 1914 a chapel was built on top of graves," said Austin City Council Member Ora Houston.
On Tuesday, the city revealed twenty-five burial sites and small bone fragments were discovered four feet underneath the historic Oakwood Cemetery Chapel in East Austin.
"The minute. The minute those discoveries were made, construction work stopped and the archeological team proceeded to analyze the scale of the discovery," said Houston.
The chapel was built more than a hundred years ago in a racially segregated part of the cemetery, Houston says, without value to the African Americans buried beneath it.
"The lack of humanity hit me at that point," said Houston.
In 2012 a bond provided the funds for a full rehabilitation of the chapel including foundation repair, electrical and plumbing work. Construction began in October 2016.
It may be another month or more before construction can restart. The community is asked for input before any decisions are made.
"To move forward without engaging the public would be a mistake," said Kim McKnight with the city of Austin.
It is unlikely that the bones will be identified but Houston says she is sure, who they belong to.
"What I know in my heart is that they contributed to the foundation of the community through their toil and their labor," said Houston.
A community meeting is scheduled at the Delores Duffie Recreation Center on Saturday, March 25th.