Update: Remains of 68 people found during downtown sewer work

Update: Remains of 68 people found during downtown sewer work
Published: Jun. 6, 2023 at 6:43 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) -An Evansville Water and Sewer Utility construction contract was amended and approved for over $566,000 for the Toyota Trinity Storm-Water Park project.

Officials say more than half of the approved funds will be going towards excavating remains.

[Related Story: ‘Archeological discovery’ of human remains found during downtown Evansville construction]

[Related Story: ‘It happens more often than you think’: Historians weigh in on uncovered human remains]

Director of Operations for Cultural Resource Analyst Inc., Andrew Martin says finding human remains during construction projects isn’t rare, however, the process isn’t free.

”It’s not unheard of to have dozens of graves in a city cemetery even at that time, although, it may have only been a river town,” Martin said. “It was growing and certainly people were living and dying here, so they had to put them somewhere and in this cemetery was the most likely spot. It’s not surprising that there’s that many graves,” he continued. “What is kind of surprising is that they haven’t been moved since then or disturbed by other activity, construction activity in those 150, almost 200 years.”

Department of Natural Resources Archeologist, Cathy Draeger-Williams and EWSU officials say there are specific rules and guidelines they must follow.

Draeger-Williams says when human remains are found, by law they must be reported to both the coroner office and law enforcement.

“So, we knew that there was a cemetery in the area but there wasn’t a headstone, the graves weren’t intentionally marked, the cemetery came before the city,” said Draeger-Williams. “And so as the city developed, roads, buildings were developed all around it, on top of the cemetery.”

The water utility company approved a 178-day extension on the project, and 58 of those days are set aside for the removal and documentation of the cemetery remains.

Martin says they’ve removed 63 of the remains so far, but there are still five in the ground.