SUGAR LAND, Texas — We're getting more details about the 95 unmarked graves found on a Fort Bend ISD construction project in Sugar Land as administrators planned for the district's new career and technical center.
“This large of a cemetery, particularly this specific of a population, is a very unusual cemetery to encounter. It's not something that is very common at all," bioarcheologist Catrina Banks Whitley said. "[It does] not have any grave markers, but each individual does have their own casket."
“We have 48 exhumed at this point. We have analysis completed on over 20," Archaeological Project Manager Reign Clark said. "The majority of the population shows African-American traits and we believe the date ranges from 1878 – 1910."
Even after emancipation, unpaid labor was still legal in the form of prisoner work detail. Efforts will try to confirm whether or not these remains belonged to such prisoners.
“This is a story that is not often told individuals that are stuck in this kind of situation are lost very regularly to the history books,” Whitley said.
“I'm hoping that Fort Bend County School District along with the city of Sugar Land, which we appear to have a relationship with where we're trying to mend the past and make a negative into a positive, so they've reached out to us and said that they want to work with us as far as the memorial,” Reginald Moore who managers the Old Omperial Farm Cemetery said.
Where the remains go from here is still unknown.
“At this point, we're working closely with the city of Sugar Land to try to determine a site here in the city, in which we can re-inter the bodies, because they realize as we do it really benefits the entire community to keep our history here local in one place,” FBISD Superintendent Dr. Charles Dupre said.
Fort Bend students are being given the opportunity to see archaeology first hand in their own backyard.
“It's all done by hand. There's no mechanical tools used. They have to take each bone one by one— just to visually see it in person was really cool, really something for me to get to experience,” Fort Bend student Tyler Burrous said.
While many unmarked remains may go lost and forgotten, the remains of these 95 will be moved with care and respect, every step of the way.