In Fort Bend, Texas, the remains of 95 individuals have been exhumed from a site earmarked for a new technical center. Archaeologists on site believe the remains belong to those who were forced into labor during a time when slavery was illegal.
According to CNN, the initial remains “were discovered in February in Sugar Land, a suburb southwest of Houston.”
Along with the human remains, which were buried in wooden boxes, artifacts were also discovered.
“Some of these chains, especially the ones that date prior to the Industrial Revolution, some of them have swivels on them, which were more than likely utilized in chain gangs,” said Reign Clark, the site’s archaeological project manager.
It is likely the remains date from between 1878 and 1910 and the bodies belong to mostly males, one female being the exception according to CBS News. The ages for these individuals range from 14 to 70 years old.
Researchers announced on Monday that the remains found in the unmarked gravesite likely belonged to freed black people who were forced to work on plantations. It is also suspected that some of these individuals might be from prison camps.
Reginald Moore, who used to work in the prison system in the 1980s, initially suspected there could be a gravesite after he had become interested in historical gravesites in the area.
“He has documented and provided a lot of information about the history of that cemetery. He has a lot of ideas where the burials could’ve been,” said Chris Florance of the Texas Historical Commission in relation to Moore’s hunch on the burial site.
Moore would now like to see the remains of these individuals reburied in the Old Imperial Farm Cemetery, of which he is a caretaker.
“We’re trying to move forward in a positive way, getting them memorialized, getting them a museum put together, giving them recognition,” Moore revealed to KHOU-TV.
The stretch of land now belongs to the Fort Bend Independent School District. Superintendent Charles Dupre thinks the find is a great way for locals to find out more about the history of the area.
“It’s a remarkable opportunity for our community and our school district to learn much more about the history of our local region,” Dupre said.
It is a sentiment echoed by Reign Clark of Goshawk Environmental Consulting.
“It’s a rare opportunity. We’ll be telling the story of what it was like to live here, work here, and, in some cases, die here.”
According to CNN, there are 177 known cemeteries in Fort Bend County. However, there could be many more undiscovered ones across the state.