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. The detailed  findings are contained in our public report, which you can read here:  PUBLIC_REPORT.

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 a 2,000-car underground garage, which were never built; and
  • the 1982 construction of the city park, originally named Community Park West and later renamed 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 probably once decorated the tops of graves; a stone bird; a metallic candle holder or incense burner that might have been an altar piece; and cemetery-related land features. City death records documented at least 8,428 burials at the site; 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

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