A patch of woods on the University of Mississippi Medical Center campus, just south of Lakeland Drive, was surveyed recently for new construction. But what was found underneath has prompted a change of plans.
"Recent ground penetrating radar has shown us there are about 1,000 on the north side of this new roadway, 800 to 1,000 on the south side of this roadway," says UMC Spokesman Jack Mazurak. "We've always known there were graves on this site, many of them unmarked. It was really a matter of knowing how many and where."
Mazurak showed us an imaging map peppered with yellow dots, indicating grave sites. Some of the bodies came from the State Lunatic Asylum that used to sit on the grounds. There was also an African American church there, and a potter's field for indigent people who died.
A year ago, an area just south of the woods where a roadway now sits was the site of an archeological dig. A total of 66 graves, wooden coffins and all, were unearthed and taken to Mississippi State University for research. And back in the 1990s, a handful of marked grave sites were moved to a small cemetery you can see today on the campus.
But the more recently-discovered graves are not marked.
"We recognize that these are people's relatives. We hear all the time, social media, people calling us up saying I had a grandmother who was at the insane asylum," Mazurak says. "We recognize there is a direct connection to people today."
Unearthing 2,000 graves would be costly, and would compromise an interesting piece of Jackson's history. UMC officials plan to leave the graves undisturbed.
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