Public works crews unearth dozens of empty coffins, a bone at Duluth site

August 27, 2018

Crews digging near an intersection in Duluth in preparation for future road construction have come across 47 empty coffins along with one bone that appeared to be human.

St. Louis County Public Works employees were looking for any evidence of human remains as part of a planned archaeological exploratory dig last week, before a planned project to widen Rice Lake Road north of Arrowhead Road in 2020.

The coffins had no lids and were empty, the bodies likely removed during a 1960s grave relocation project. But workers discovered a lone bone outside the coffins, according to a county news release.

The spot is located in a road right of way near a wooded area that once served as Greenwood Cemetery, where about 5,000 people who died at the former St. Louis County Poor Farm were buried from 1891 to about 1947. The cemetery was declared inactive in 2012.

About 100 to 125 bodies were moved from the cemetery in the 1960s, said Steve Krasaway, resident engineer with the county. But the cemeterys boundaries are still unclear, with no records providing guidance, he said.

It is not known to be a Native American burial site, Krasaway said, but there may be some Native American remains included in the 5,000 who were buried there.

Theres still 4,900 bodies within this general area, Krasaway said. We want to make sure we treat all of these remains with care and respect.

A team of archaeologists is being called in to look for any more bones. The Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, collaborating with the state archaeologist, will coordinate and pay for the additional study.

Pam Louwagie 612-673-7102

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