Sanford construction crew unearths piece of the past

SANFORD, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - A Sanford construction worker's project took a turn when his shovel hit not just dirt - but human remains.

The crew was trying to dig a water line on Main Street to build a new Cumberland Farms at the end of the day Thursday when the discovery was made.

The discovery of human bones “caused quite a stir,” explained Sanford historian Paul Auger.

The discovery is alarming - but can be explained with a look into the city's history.

A brand new Cumberland Farms - that's what the construction site will become in the future.

But in the past, it was the Emerson School's playground. Before that, it was Sanford's first-ever high school.

And before that - until 1906 - The Woodlawn Cemetery.

“They discovered, according to our records, that there were 72 bodies still in the cemetery and they were all moved to Oakdale cemetery,” said Auger.

At least one person's body was left behind, though - and it's been there at the site for over 100 years.

“Because it did not have perpetual care, many of the tombstones had toppled. Some of them may have been taken,” said Auger.

Several bones were found, as well as parts of a coffin.

While it's sad and mysterious that this person was left behind, from a historical perspective, Auger says, “It's very exciting. I'm just really happy that this person isn't going to be forgotten anymore.”

For now, construction on the site is on pause. “There can't be any construction work done until we are satisfied there's nothing left here,” said Auger.

That means digging carefully... both at the site, and in the history records.

“We want to honor whoever this person is, treat them with respect,” said Auger.

As for what's next - local historians say it's time to find out who this person was - no matter how long that takes.

Officials say they haven't found an organization willing to take on the DNA testing of the remains, and that they are actively looking.

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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