November 7, 2009 in City

Unmarked graves found in cemetery

Hundreds of plots may date from 1800s
Associated Press

HAILEY, Idaho – A survey of the Hailey Cemetery using ground-penetrating radar has found hundreds of unmarked graves.

Many of the unmarked graves in the 13-acre central Idaho cemetery are in a one-acre area referred to on maps as the “Chinese Cemetery.”

Officials say a brush fire in the 1930s destroyed wood markers, and that another fire in town at a later date destroyed burial records.

“The oldest gravestone is from 1879,” cemetery clerk Steve Tomkins told the Idaho Mountain Express. “But I am sure there are some older burials than that.”

Cemetery officials want to find unmarked graves to avoid digging in occupied ground. Six years ago workers unearthed bones in a spot thought to be vacant.

The $12,000 survey was conducted last summer by Brad Ford, a Boise State University geophysicist. He’s now overlaying an official map of cemetery plots against the results of his survey.

“As you can see, we found things everywhere,” Ford said at a presentation on Wednesday to cemetery officials. “Because of the characteristics and depths of them, and the regular spacing, they are definitely burials.”

The survey also showed burials under asphalt roadways and in an old canal that once ran through the cemetery but was filled in.

Ford said, based on the ground-penetrating radar, some of the unmarked graves contained metal coffins and concrete vaults, while others could be wood coffins.

About 300 Chinese lived in Hailey during the 1880s, said Teddie Daley, director of the Blaine County Historical Museum. Daley said they worked in mines in the surrounding hills, kept shops and grew crops.

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