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Human remains found on future license bureau/title office site

Aaron Krause • Aug 10, 2014 at 7:22 PM

Huron County Commissioners Gary Bauer and Tom Dunlap said officials tried to avoid the grisly discovery made Friday.

An excavating company was digging near the cemetery on Shady Lane at the site of the future new building for the license bureau and title office.

What they uncovered roughly three to four feet below were what appeared to be human bones.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: To see pictures of the scene, click HERE.)

Dunlap said county officials purposely moved the site of the new office back from the cemetery to avoid such a situation. Bauer said county engineer Joe Kovach made an "extra effort" to know where the cemetery ended. Officials poured over all records from the county's history, Bauer added.

"We're very concerned about it," he said.

But there was little county officials could've done to ensure they didn't excavate on cemetery property, county historian and Reflector columnist Henry Timman said.

"It's just exactly (what I) thought would probably happen," Timman said when informed of Friday's discovery.

The problem is, nobody ever marked the spots where the cemetery ends. Timman said from his research, "there's 140 some people buried there" and they're not all buried in the front where a bench is located.

"I said when I've been consulted about it I knew there had to be more to it than that," Timman said. "One hundred forty people occupy an awful lot of space."

The only thing county officials could've done was some preliminary digging. However, if the deceased were buried six feet under, workers would have to dig a while, Timman said. He added some people claim one can "witch for land" by poking sticks into the ground to see if it had been disturbed. If it were, the stick would go down.

"They say it works; I don't know," Timman said.

He said the site of the current high school, jail, hospital, bypass and Christie Lane used to be a farm. Those who lived in an old county home on the property were indigent people of any age taken in by the county and given food, shelter and clothing. But, they had to earn their stay by either working in the home or on the farm.

"You were expected to do your share of the work," Timman said.

Some couldn't because they were sick. When a lot of those residents died, they couldn't afford a funeral or plot for burial, so they were buried in the cemetery on Shady Lane, which Timman said dates to 1848. The last burial took place about 1917, he added. That's when tax money started supporting burials at Woodlawn Cemetery, Timman said.

Huron County Sheriff Dane Howard said sometime Friday afternoon, excavators discovered bones that were "likely human remains."

As the sheriff spoke, county officials surrounded the site of the discovery, marked off by sheriff's tape. Howard, however, said the site is not a crime scene.

Among those on the scene was Huron County Assistant Prosecutor Daivia Kasper. She said the county would ensure the scene is secured and that the remains are eventually re-interred appropriately."

Huron County Coroner Dr. Jeffrey Harwood was expected to arrive on scene Friday evening to confirm the remains were of humans.

Timman said he doesn't believe they're the bones of animals who resided on the former farm.

"There's at least a temporary delay" in the new offices project, Kasper said.

About a month ago, the commissioners approved the lowest base bid of $1,119,000 for construction of the new building for the license bureau and title office. New Washington-based construction company Studer-Obringer Inc. is the general contractor. Dan Frederick is the project's architect/construction manager.

Huron County Auditor Roland Tkach has said the current building on Shady Lane, which houses the license bureau and title offices, doesn't meet the needs of the public due to space limitations.

"Many, many Saturdays people are lined outside the door (by) the license bureau," Tkach said.

Count clerk of courts Susan Hazel has said county officials have invested "a lot of time" in exploring different options.

"I think exciting times are ahead for us," Hazel said. "I'm pleased that we're working together."

This discovery, however, likely will delay the project for some time. Howard ordered all construction workers to leave the site until further notice.

It’s possible the graves are located throughout the area where the office is planned.

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