State analyzing possible gravesite Discovery of old bones shifts construction of training facility

March 12, 1997|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The discovery of human remains, probably 19th-century settlers, at a building site in Sykesville has moved construction to another area of the state driver training facility.

The state Department of General Services, contractor of the $46 million public safety training center, has called for an archaeological investigation, cordoned off the area and moved construction to another location on the 70-acre site.

"Ultimately, the gravesite would be part of the [training course], but we are working around it now," said Raymond A. Franklin, assistant director for the state police and correctional training commissions.

"We will have to deal with it within the next few weeks, but for now it is not interrupting the project," he said.

The driver training course, scheduled for completion by the end of this year, is the first phase in constructing a facility that will serve the state's 25,000 law enforcement and correctional officers. It includes several courses to simulate driving on highways, city streets and rural roadways. Buildings for vehicle maintenance and classrooms are also under construction.

An excavator discovered two sets of human skeletal remains about four feet below the surface while grading for the highway training course last month.

The remains are thought to be those of early settlers who farmed the land that became Springfield Hospital Center in 1896, state officials said. The hospital was once two large farms, one owned by Maryland Gov. Frank Brown (1892-1896).

The graves are near the access road to the highway course and close to where the vehicle maintenance building is under construction.

"It looks like a family gravesite from the early 19th century," Franklin said. "There were no markers."

Also found were wood fragments, possibly from coffins. That has led some investigators to believe the remains date to Colonial settlers. The burial site is about 1,000 yards from what remains of the foundation of an old farmhouse.

The contractor called state police, who removed the bone samples and took them to the state medical examiner.

Analysis established the age at older than 100 years, ruling out any recent crime victims or missing persons.

Plans call for a complete archaeological analysis of the site to search for other remains -- often a time-consuming process.

"We will search the primary location thoroughly to see if there are any other bodies," said Dave Humphrey, a spokesman for the Department of General Services.

The state medical lab will test any bones recovered for age and prepare a report for the Maryland Historic Trust.

Contingency funds would pay for the archaeological study and the General Services Department is reviewing several proposals from companies that would conduct the investigation.

"This is a large course and we can move the work to another area," Humphrey said. "We are not losing time, and this is not impeding construction."

The Maryland Historic Trust, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a federal historic commission have all been notified of the discovery.

The remains have been returned to the site and will be part of the archaeological study. Once that is complete, they will be re-interred at a spot selected by the historic trust.

"The bodies could be buried within a fenced historic area we are already protecting in perpetuity," Franklin said.

Construction crews have also found arrowheads and a few other artifacts on the site.

"Once we are certain all the human remains have been recovered, work can proceed," said Larry Lewis, the site's project manager.

Pub Date: 3/12/97

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