Experts to Use Ground-Penetrating Radar to Search Forgotten Cemetery

On May 30, an anthropology professor and students from Lawrence University in Appleton, will search an abandoned and mostly invisible cemetery in Fulton, Wisconsin, looking for graves using ground-penetrating radar technology. There are no records of anyone being buried on the property, which a previous landowner gave to the town as a cemetery in the 1840s.

Sometime in the early 1930s, after the land was designated a cemetery, whoever owned the nearby farmland started tilling the graveyard and planting crops. The remaining tombstones, if any, apparently were removed and destroyed.

You can read more in an article by Jake Magee in the GazetteXtra at http://www.walworthcountytoday.com/20150428/experts_to_use_radar_to_search_forgotten_town_of_fulton_cemetery.

14 Comments

You have to be a member to read the article.

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Membership required, but unable to find indication if there is a fee.

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    That url didn’t work for me, Jim. It wants me to register at $29.95/month.
    On another note, we will be using GPR to scan the Dobard Family Cemetery in Jesuit Bend, Louisiana, in June. We have a list of 2 dozen burials there gleaned from obituaries and death certificates and only 13 burial sites where the inhabitant is unknown. Even allowing for errors in the data, we hope to find several sites that have “disappeared” under the weeds and grass. http://dobardcemetery.blogspot.com/

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There are a lot of cemeteries around here that could use that.

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CRAI, Inc., of Lexington, KY, has begun to explore the Shelby City African-American Cemetery near Junction City, Boyle County. In one area, just 60 x 200 feet, GPR found evidence of over 87 graves — we only knew about 4. Dozens of volunteers have spent 18 months reclaiming this cemetery from oblivion. https://www.facebook.com/SCAAC

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Whether I clicked on the article’s or Jim’s link, I ended up at the same page, the one that wants you to pay to view.

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Experts to use radar to search forgotten town of Fulton cemetery
Jake Magee
Where: Newville Road between County M and East Merrifield Road in the town of Fulton
When: 9 a.m. Saturday, May 30.
Information: Anyone with any information about the cemetery, including where headstones might be located, can contact James Fiedler at 262-364-8240 or fiedlerje@gmail.com.
TOWN OF FULTON—James Fiedler was surprised when he learned some family members could be buried in a forgotten, half-acre cemetery in the town of Fulton.

He was visiting Mark and Anita Langer’s farm—the same one Fiedler’s great-grandfather owned at the turn of the century—along Newville Road two years ago when Anita asked if Fiedler had any family buried in the nearby cemetery. Farmland has since overrun the cemetery, which dates back to the mid-1800s.

“I didn’t even know it existed, and that started the wheels rolling,” Fiedler said.
On May 30, an anthropology professor and students from Lawrence University in Appleton will search the area for graves using radar technology. Fiedler and some of his family members, a Rock County Historical Society representative and curious Fulton-area residents will show up to watch the work and possibly look for the cemetery’s missing headstones, Fiedler said.

There are no records of anyone being buried on the property, which a previous landowner gave to the town as a cemetery in the 1840s, Fiedler said. Still, Fiedler has heard firsthand from a Fulton resident that headstones once stood there.

“That just tells me we’re going to be successful on May 30 when we do the GPR (ground-penetrating radar) search and find some graves,” he said.

The radar scans underground and identifies any void in the ground and metal from casket remains, Fiedler said.

Anita Langer, Fiedler and a couple of cousins have searched the grounds for hours and found no headstones or grave markers. That’s why Fiedler wants to use radar equipment, which will confirm whether graves exist there.

Sometime in the early 1930s, after the land was designated a cemetery, whoever owned the nearby farmland started tilling the graveyard and planting crops. It’s not uncommon for farms to eventually creep into small adjacent cemeteries, Fiedler said.

“It’s not right, of course,” he said. “The cemetery is a cemetery. It’s not farmland.”

Fiedler’s passion for genealogy ignited his quest to uncover graves at the site. In just a few years, he has identified about 9,000 family members, living and deceased, on his and his wife’s sides.

Fiedler has uncovered most of his family history by researching online, looking up records at courthouses and talking to family members and genealogy experts. He has grown close to several family members he never would have met otherwise.

“Genealogy has been a priority in my life. I’m interested in finding out as much about my family as I can,” Fiedler said. “It’s quite an interesting journey I’ve been on.”

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I clicked on both links provided and was unable to access the article for free either. It sounds interesting. I’ve heard of this being done, and would have liked to read the article but can’t find a work-around.

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Ground penetrating radar can work wonderfully, but if the area has been farmed very much, it might not do the job. GPR is looking for disturbances in the soil, which is what you get when you farm. If the GPR doesn’t work, they should try getting dogs to check it out. We’ve had luck using Cadaver Dogs in some of our old cemeteries which had gotten pretty torn up. Those dogs are amazing.

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    We used cadaver dogs in the Dobard Cemetery. They alerted to an area of disturbed ground that we suspect contains grave sites. We are hoping the ground penetrating radar will confirm the existence of graves.

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Thanks Louise, I also could not access that link.
I would like to know if anyone can give me any more info on GPR, such as ballpark costs, what accuracy it has at present, what chance is there it could pick up sufficient bones to show if the person in that grave had a leg missing, or whether the grave contains an adult, or instead several children, etc.

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    It is going to cost us about a thousand dollars to have an area about 3/4 of an acre scanned. The radar will pick up below ground disturbances such as changes in soil density, voids, etc. The readings will be interpreted by the technicians. If the ground is saturated, the density of the water will throw the readings off. The radar will not reveal details such skeletal remains. Even with the limitation, we are hoping it will give us an idea of areas where graves may be located. It’s a good idea to combine the radar with the service of cadaver dogs to confirm the readings. We hope to have the cadaver dogs back on site.

    I don’t know where you are, Cedric, but you might contact local university archaeology departments to see if they have the radar and might consider your project as part of a class.

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