EnRichmond Foundation Executive Director John Sydnor tells 8News bones found back in July are believed to be the remains of someone buried at East End Cemetery many years ago.
Friday night, DHR announced a preliminary analysis by a state archaeologist determined 200 bones and bone fragments were unearthed over the summer, belonging to men and women over the age of 25, interred sometime between the late 19th and early 20th century. Officials say some of the remains showed indications of “post mortem dissection,” meaning the deceased were likely victims of grave robbers, who then reinterred the remains.
Founded in 1891, East End is the final resting place of many African Americans whose records have not stood the test of time.
“In the ’60s, through vandalism and more than likely a racist attack, the caretaker’s cottage was burned down,” Sydnor said, “so almost all of the records were lost.”
Spanning roughly 80 acres, including Evergreen Cemetery, canvassing the entire property has proved challenging.
“The totality of the space of the cemetery is still being explored,” Richmond native Viola Baskerville said. “We do not know where there are graves yet to be discovered.”
Baskerville has relatives buried somewhere in the cemetery, but their exact location is unknown.
“There is this compounding difficulty of not only finding, but identifying who is buried where and who is here,” Sydnor said. “That really pulls on your heartstrings.”
Syndor says the number of graves in the cemetery is unknown.
To honor and preserve the memory of interred family members that are unfound or unknown via unmarked graves, EnRichmond has developed a plan for the creation of a Memorial Meadow.
“The EnRichmond Foundation partnered with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation to look at what could be done on a grander, broader, more sustainable scale so that the space would not go back to where it was,” Baskerville said. “One of the concepts that was put in place through the Restoration and Planning Committee was that there be some plan in their plans to honor those sacred souls who’ve gone on and we don’t know who they are, but some space where they can be memorialized.”
Baskerville tells 8News the exact location of Memorial Meadow will shift, depending on what else is found. If there are no remains found in the space that seems to accommodate the concept, then that would be the space used for Memorial Meadow.
“It is a discovery process, but it is a piece of Richmond’s history that has been hidden for so long,” Baskerville said. “Among these 60 acres are the monuments for freedom’s first generation, for people who were coming — or their ancestors or parents — were coming out of slavery and starting to form the small businesses, the sororities, the educational institutions, the medical practices; everything that you would need in a community to build a community and make it sustainable, and create this economic and educational and social base.”