WHAT IS LEFT?

1894 topographic map showing cemetery entrance from Adams Mill Road (east side). Mill buildings once owned by John Quincy Adams are still visible northwest of the cemetery.

An early 1890s map showing the cemetery site which stretched from Adams Mill Road down to Rock Creek.

A central goal of the Walter Pierce Park Archaeology Project was to find out what, if anything, was left of the African American and Quaker cemeteries at the site. The Archaeological Team found ample evidence of the cemeteries’ 19th Century operation and 20th Century desecration. An extensive geophysical survey, which followed the archaeological survey, found at least 35 intact graves in the park and the possibility of hundreds or even thousands more buried too deep for detection. You can read the archaeological report and the geophysical report findings here.  

Since the cemeteries were forced to close in 1890, the Walter Pierce Park site has undergone a series of disruptions, including: exploratory excavations in 1940 to search for graves to prepare the land for sale, resulting in the removal of 129 sets of full and partial remains; steam-shovel excavations in the 1950s for the construction of four large apartment buildings and underground garage, which were never built; and the 1982 construction of Walter C. Pierce Community Park.

The Archaeological Team between 2005 and 2012 found exposed human skeletal remains; headstones and headstone fragments; foot stones; coffin handles and other coffin hardware; a partially exposed coffin; seashells and broken ceramic and glass that once decorated the tops of graves; a stone bird; a metallic candle holder or incense burner; and cemetery-related land features. At least 8,428 burials were found in city death records; official records showed fewer than 300 burial removals. It is likely, therefore, that many graves still remain at Walter Pierce Park. Here are photos of some of the discoveries:

Headstone

Headstone

Left temporal bone

Left temporal bone

Ceramic, glass and bisque

Ceramic, glass and bisque (probably grave offerings)

Stone bird

Carved Stone bird

Left temporal bone

Left temporal bone

Coffin hardware

Coffin hardware

Stone_Block_1

Foot stone or plot marker

Femoral bone fragments

Femoral bone fragments

Gravestone fragment

Axe head

Axe head

Metallic candle holder or incense burner

Metallic candle holder or incense burner

Coffin handle

Coffin handle