USDA Scientists Probe Kent Co. Cemetery - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

USDA Scientists Probe Kent Co. Cemetery to Solve Underground Mystery

Updated:

FELTON, Del. (WBOC) - An underground mystery in Kent County brought USDA scientists out to the Felton area last week.

They were taking a look at Hopkins Cemetery.

Joe Hughes is the long-time caretaker of the cemetery.

"My father was caretaker before me. I help him from the time I was a small child," he said.

Since that time he's wondered about a spot in the center of the cemetery. Hughes describes what it looks like from above ground.

"Nothing. It looks like there's nothing there."

On a map dating back to the 1700s, the spot is labeled "promiscuous."

"Which means a random burial ground or potter's ground or something like that," Hughes said. "I think that there are burials here."

The only way to know for sure is to look at the spot underground. That's where soil scientist Jim Doolittle and his ground penetrating radar come in.

"The radar is non-invasive," he said. "It doesn't require any soil disturbance, and we're able to get a picture of the sub-surface."

Determining if there are graves under there is a tough, methodical process.

"They might have been buried in woods coffins, which have weathered away. They might have been buried in sacks," said Doolittle.

"The grave fill would be the same material as what's around it," Hughes said. "So, that makes this very difficult."

But Hughes is confident there's something here.

"There's got to be. Why would they mark it "promiscuous" unless they knew something was there."

He thinks its slaves and indentured servants, who were important to the region.

"These are the people that initially cleared this land and drained it. It could not have been farmed without all that work."

Bit by bit, Doolittle starts to get a sense of what's under the 8x17 meter area.

"We have seen some weak reflections out here," HE SAID. "Those might indicate unmarked graves."

But three locations in particular had strong reflections. With a little work, the team finds definitive evidence of at least one brick vault about 20 in. below the surface. It's big news for Hughes.

"It affirmed what we thought," he said.

But the work isn't over for Doolittle. He's gathered a lot of data at the cemetery.

"I'll go back. I'll process the data. I'll make it into a 3D cube diagram," he said.

That will help determine if in addition to the vault there are more, less obvious graves under the ground.

Hughes says he plans to put a memorial to the people buried under the spot. It will be dedicated to not just the people buried at Hopkins Cemetery but in unmarked graves across that part of Kent County.

  • Delmarvawide NewsDelmarvawide NewsMore>>

  • One Person Killed in Millsboro Crash

    One Person Killed in Millsboro Crash

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 7:02 AM EDT2014-04-23 11:02:33 GMT
    Police say a Millsboro woman was killed in a crash on Banks Road Tuesday evening.
    More
    Police say a Millsboro woman was killed in a crash on Banks Road Tuesday evening.
    More
  • Mitt Romney Gives to McDonnell Defense Fund

    Mitt Romney Gives to McDonnell Defense Fund

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 1:17 AM EDT2014-04-23 05:17:50 GMT
    Newly released tax records show former Gov. Bob McDonnell's legal defense fund raised nearly $150,000 during the first quarter of this year.More
    Newly released tax records show former Gov. Bob McDonnell's legal defense fund raised nearly $150,000 during the first quarter of this year.More
  • Maryland MVA Turns to Website to Shorten Lines

    Maryland MVA Turns to Website to Shorten Lines

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 11:30 PM EDT2014-04-23 03:30:41 GMT
    EASTON, Md.- Long lines, tickets, numbers being called, and lots of waiting are just some of the things associated with a trip to the MVA. But now, Maryland's Motor Vehicle Administration is adding more features to their website to cut down on all that waiting.More
    EASTON, Md.- Long lines, tickets, numbers being called, and lots of waiting are just some of the things associated with a trip to the MVA. But now, Maryland's Motor Vehicle Administration is adding more features to their website to cut down on all that waiting.
    More
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Two People Critically Injured in Sussex County Crash

    Two People Critically Injured in Sussex County Crash

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 11:24 PM EDT2014-04-23 03:24:31 GMT
    MILLSBORO, De - Delaware State Police say Bank Road in Millsboro is closed following a two-vehicle collision that occurred around 9 p.m. this evening. Police say two people were removed from the scene of the accident and are being treated for critical injuries. Troopers are still investigating this motor vehicle accident in Sussex County.More
    MILLSBORO, De - Delaware State Police say Bank Road in Millsboro is closed following a two-vehicle collision that occurred around 9 p.m. this evening. Police say two people were removed from the scene of the accident and are being treated for critical injuries. Troopers are still investigating this motor vehicle accident in Sussex County.More
  • Convicted Sex Offender Sentenced for Child Porn

    Convicted Sex Offender Sentenced for Child Porn

    A man who previously served four years in prison for possession of child pornography has been sentenced to 15 years on another child porn charge.More
    A man who previously served four years in prison for possession of child pornography has been sentenced to 15 years on another child porn charge.More
  • Mitt Romney Gives to McDonnell Defense Fund

    Mitt Romney Gives to McDonnell Defense Fund

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 1:17 AM EDT2014-04-23 05:17:50 GMT
    Newly released tax records show former Gov. Bob McDonnell's legal defense fund raised nearly $150,000 during the first quarter of this year.More
    Newly released tax records show former Gov. Bob McDonnell's legal defense fund raised nearly $150,000 during the first quarter of this year.More
Powered by WorldNow

All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Worldnow and WBOC. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service