North-Central Section - 42nd Annual Meeting (24–25 April 2008)

Paper No. 1
Presentation Time: 1:00 PM-5:00 PM


HENSON Jr, Harvey1, DI NASO, Steven2, GUTOWSKI, Vince3, COBB, Dawn4 and GILLUM, Aneesa1, (1)Geology, Southern Illinois Univ, Carbondale, IL 62901, (2)Department of Geology and Geography, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, Charleston, IL 61920, (3)Dept of Geology/Geography, Eastern Illinois Univ, Charleston, IL 61920, (4)Human Skeletal Remains Protection Act Coordinator, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, 1 Old State Capitol Plaza, Springfield, IL 62701,

As land use changes dramatically throughout the Midwest and urban expansion and agricultural needs compete for limited spaces, small family cemeteries are increasingly encroached upon, desecrated, or even destroyed completely. Their locations are often lost, especially if records were not kept and descendants lose the oral traditions. Multidisciplinary geological, geophysical and archaeological studies offer perhaps the best approach to relocate these missing cemeteries. The Strahan Cemetery, was reportedly located about 2 kilometers south of Tilden, Illinois in northeastern Randolph County near an old farm. By the late 1970's this area was totally converted to cultivation as was evident from aerial photographs, and any existing tombstones were presumably removed offsite. Unfortunately, the exact location of the cemetery was never documented. The Strahan family believed most of their ancestors were buried northwest or north of this small farm and asked for help in locating the old cemetery. Non-invasive geological and geophysical remote sensing data were collected to systematically narrow down the prospect area and help relocate the cemetery. Global Positioning System (GPS) data were collected to precisely locate the remote sensing data. Interpretations of digitally processed aerial photography, electromagnetic conductivity, magnetic gradient, and ground-penetrating radar data suggest that these methods were quite successful in locating the cemetery boundary and individual graves. Archaeologists from the Illinois State Museum Society (ISMS) and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA) worked on site to confirm the geophysical data interpretations and results. A track hoe was used to remove soil from the area suspected to contain the unmarked graves. This joint investigation revealed the locations of at least 36 graves.