Caskets found beneath Philadelphia school

Caskets found beneath Philadelphia school
MGN Online
Thursday, December 5, 2013 - 10:34am

Police are investigating the discovery of several caskets, a skull and marble slabs underneath the playground of a North Philadelphia school.

Workers with the Philadelphia Water Department were excavating the playground behind the William Dicks Elementary School on the 2400 block of Diamond Street shortly after 2 p.m. As they were digging, investigators say the crew unearthed several wooden caskets with headstones -- one of which belonged to a child.

According to sources, the workers began digging on Tuesday and originally thought they were hitting wood and debris rather than caskets. It wasn't until the next day that the crew realized they were running into buried caskets.

Engineers, who surveyed the area, say it was a grave site back in the 1900s that was paved over. NBC10 also found records showing that the site was the home to the Odd Fellows Cemetery established in 1849 and destroyed in the 1950s.

"This was all a cemetery," said Ronell Reyes, who lives near the site. "I don't remember if they removed all of the bodies. That is proper protocol, but obviously not."

"We don't know what really happened back then," said Donovan Herrig, who also lives near the site. "Maybe somebody was rushing the whole process or they were like, 'I'm sick and tired of this! I'm not taking anymore bodies. We can leave the rest of them here and hopefully nobody finds them.'"

The Historical Society will examine the property Thursday morning. Police are holding the scene until then.

This isn't the first time a grave site was found under a city playground. Three feet under Wecceocoe Park in the Queen Village section of the city, archaeologists found a gravestone and several bones during a July dig.

That site is believed to be the final resting place for some 3,000 African-Americans who were interned there in the 19th Century. At the time, cemeteries would not accept African-Americans and the site was outside of the city limits.

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