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Scan shows formerly segregated area of Alta Vista Cemetery has up to 22 graves

POSTED: January 8, 2009 12:06 a.m.

Scan of Alta Vista cemetery plot turns up unmarked graves

Alta Vista superintendent Vince Evans discusses the findings of the scan of the ground in a portion of the cemetery once reserved for blacks who could not afford a burial.

SARA GUEVARA/The Times

One marker stands in a section of Alta Vista Cemetery that once was reserved for blacks who could not afford a burial. Representatives from a group that specializes in mapping underground burials told city officials that there could be as many as 22 graves in this quarter-acre section. Only one of those graves is marked.

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There are about 12 to 22 unmarked graves in a quarter-acre section of Alta Vista Cemetery once reserved for blacks who could not afford a burial.

Only one of those graves is marked with a headstone.

The city kept no records on the plot, but a document produced by a group that specializes in mapping underground burials shows that as many as 22 possible graves could be located in a small section of the old pauper’s cemetery reserved for burying blacks.

Virtual Underground Inc. scanned a quarter-acre section of the nearly4-acre plot with ground-penetrating radar and found that there are 12 burial sites and 10 other spots that are also likely graves.

Alta Vista Superintendent Vince Evans said he was aware of about half the possible grave sites prior to the reading Wednesday by Virtual Underground.

"There are some that I can actually walk up to them and tell," Evans said.

The free plot reserved for blacks dates back to a time when even cemetery plots were segregated in Gainesville, and could contain graves as old as 102 years. The burial ground was traded for a church on Broad Street in 1907 by A.B.C. Dorsey, Evans said.

Evans has had the quarter-acre section of the pauper plot scanned twice before, and each scan produced different results — once, a scan indicated there were eight graves in the section and, another time, it indicated there were 32 graves in the plot.

Evans said he feels confident that the most recent scan done by Virtual Underground is accurate.

"We would never know for sure unless we hired an archaeologist and went up there and dug," Evans said. "Digging would probably tell us that there is or is not a grave there, but digging would never tell us who’s buried there."

Hiring an archaeologist would be costly, and the information provided by Virtual Underground likely will sit idle in Evans’ office for now. He says the city has no plans to sell the unused portions of the plot or to spend money determining who is in the plot.

"We will just basically file this away as general information, because we don’t have any intent of using that land at the time being," Evans said.

Evans has no plans of paying to have the rest of the3-acre pauper plot scanned for mapping. Such an endeavor could cost the city about $10,000. Virtual Underground scanned the quarter-acre section free of charge, he said.

"This is fairly costly to have it done..." Evans said. "We would be paying $10,000 for information we just don’t need right now, because we don’t have any intention of doing anything but just cutting grass on there."



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