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  Facts and Plans Regarding Grave Site Discovered
At Location of 12th PWCS High School

  • PWCS is moving forward with the steps necessary to deliver an urgently needed high school for our fast-growing student population by 2016. 

  • Efforts include careful excavation, surveying, and reinterment of any remains and artifacts found on the site, in compliance with the permit granted by the Commonwealth. 
  • Excavation and recovery of remains and artifacts has been completed.
  • In keeping with the clear consensus of a December 16, 2013 public meeting, the School Board concurred with the Superintendent's Staff recommendation to reinter artifacts and remains exhumed from the site at a new location on the property.
Questions have arisen surrounding the discovery, actions, and planned disposition of an old grave site discovered at the location of the athletic field at the soon-to-be constructed 12th high school for Prince William County. The following are key facts and a related timeline. Updates will be added as new information becomes available:

June 3, 2014

The final report by an archeological firm on the cemetery at the 12th high school is available for public review.  A meeting to discuss the reburial of the artifacts and remains is scheduled for Wednesday, June 11 at 7 p.m. in the atrium of the Kelly Leadership Center. The meeting is open to the public.

Findings of the report include:
  • A total of 11 “grave features” dating to the period post-1850 to post-1880 were identified;
  • Individuals included four older male adults, at least two but possibly four, older female adults, and three individuals of indeterminate sex (one sub-adult, one adult, and one of unknown age);
  • No DNA testing could be conducted because of the incompleteness of the remains;
  • Three of the individuals have possible African ancestry;
  • Some of the individuals were likely associated with the family of William and Cordelia Lynn, owners of the land during this time period, and/or possibly with tenants that leased the property when the Lynn family moved to Washington, D.C.  
  • The report concludes that it is likely that the individuals at the site may never be positively identified.

December 18, 2013

A poll School Board Members confirmed their acceptance of reinterment plans presented by the Superintendent, and reflecting the consensus of family members and others commenting at the December 16 public meeting. 

Subject to further community consultation and approval of appropriate agencies, the plans include:
  • Reburial of remains and artifacts at an appropriate location on the property of the 12th high school as soon as required permits and agreements can be obtained (likely within within 3-6 months); 
  • The fencing and placement of markers and plaques at the site;
  • Its long-term maintenance and legal designation as a cemetery site; and
  • Inclusion of paths and access.

December 16, 2013

Community members and other interested parties turned out for a School Board Public meeting to hear a presentation on archeological findings surrounding the grave sites, and to provide input on next steps. About a dozen speakers offered suggestions for the appropriate reinterment of remains and relics exhumed from the graves. Speakers included several members of the Lynn family, who have historic connections to the site and believe they may be descendents of those buried there. Archeologists cite the family's long presence on the land as strong evidence of a connection, but say remains have not yielded usable DNA that could prove the link. Lynn family descendents and several others at the meeting urged the reburial of relics and remains somewhere on the original tract of land where the graves were discovered. The School Division included that option as among three reinterment possibilities under consideration. A decision is expected shortly.

December 2, 2013

Public meeting on reinterment plans announced. PWCS modifies site discovery timeline to reflect that possible evidence of graves was found by contracted surveyors in 2008, but not shared with the School Division, until 2013. Information on the discovery has been consistently and accurately shared by PWCS, as known to the School Division at the time.

November 22, 2013

Excavation and recovery was completed on November 21. DNA testing will be conducted on any recovered remains, if feasible. The first fragments evaluated were too severely deteriorated to allow the DNA work.   

November 20, 2013

Fragile bone fragments have been discovered in one of the graves and will be studied for possible identification. The exhumation process will be completed to ensure the legal, and most respectful handling of the situation. A public meeting will be held prior to final reinterment.  

November 19, 2013 

Presentation on graves to School Board (video)

(Added information, 12/2013) The presentation clarified the timeline on discovery of the graves. Unknown to PWCS, evidence of possible graves was found by contracted surveyors while cutting transect lines during topographical survey work at the site in 2008. However, this information was not passed along to PWCS. The information was found during contracted Civil Engineers' quality control reviews in July 2013; at that time, it was first made known to PWCS.

PWCS staff met with several Lynn family members regarding the archeological work being done at the 12th high school. As has previously been reported, no remains have yet been found. Should there be archeological confirmation that this is a Lynn family grave site, we would eagerly work with them to have a respectful and caring reinterment of any recovered artifacts.

November 18, 2013

No human remains yet found; uncertain that any will be discovered. But any artifacts recovered will be part of a respectful and caring reinterment.

Total number of graves now likely to be 11 and not 13, as previously announced. A possible family connection has been raised and we will work archeologically to confirm; if there is one, we would work with the family on the reinterment plans.

November 2013

Archeological work began. Recovery of identifiable remains unlikely, but science/university team prepared. 

October 30, 2013 

PWCS acquires funeral plots at Stonewall Memory Gardens for each individual grave. 

October 23, 2013  

PWCS issued permit to begin the archeological recovery; 

September 2013 

Plans for recovery underway. Public notice published and on display. Permit application submitted. Story in news. 

August 2013

Options evaluated; site challenges preclude leaving graves intact; county archeologist and historical commission alerted.

July 2013

(Revised 12/2013) Suspected grave sites made known to PWCS based on contracted surveyors' review of observations noted in 2008. The area became visible following clearing of overgrowth (see photos). Details

August of 2008

Site survey conducted; no grave site found.

Previous Situations: 
  • PWCS has encountered old grave site during the construction of other schools. We have always sought to leave them intact and to share any information gleaned.

  • This has been the case with Hylton and Potomac High Schools, Graham Park Middle School, and with Dumfries Elementary School.  In contrast, sites are frequently discovered and relocated as part of road projects across the Commonwealth.

Location of graves prior to clearing for school.
Location of graves prior to clearing for school.

High School Site Before Cemetery Discovered--Forest at back previously covered entire area

High School Site following discovery of graves--Forest and scrub in background previously covered entire area.
How site appeared (minus flags) when first cleared

How site appeared (minus flags) when first cleared. No easily identifiable signs of graves were visible.

So What’s Next

Site considerations, steps already taken, finances, and timing needs surrounding the 12th high school project preclude efforts to leave the graves intact.

But PWCS remains committed to taking appropriate action. We have and will continue to:

  • Play a lead role on this issue with complete transparency;
  • Fully coordinate with federal, state, and Prince William County agencies and commissions, with an open line of communication;
  • Treat the exhumation with the utmost respect, assuring the dignity that these burials deserve;
  • Work with experts, our local community, and confirmed descendents of the graves' occupants to make certain the full historic significance of this discovery is determined and shared.
  • Reinter and memorialize the remains and artifacts at a suitable and permanent site on the same parcel of land in which they were originally buried. This will happen as quickly as final agreement can be reached with interested parties and required county and agency approvals can be secured.

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