Mass grave discovered by construction worker


SCHUYLKILL HAVEN (WNEP) — There may be a delay in some construction on Route 61 near Schuylkill Haven, because while a worker was trying to dig up some dirt, he dug up some history instead.

That history includes a mass grave containing old human bones.

Joan Bachman and her husband own the land where the remains were found. When they bought the property in 1997, there were rumors that it might have been an old cemetery.  

“They told us it possibly could have been a burial ground from many, many years ago, 100 years ago, so evidently it is,” Bachman said.

Historians believe the remains belong to people who died from the 1918 Spanish influenza. Records show it hit Schuylkill County hard, killing almost 1,600 people in about a month.

“There was a genuine panic; everything closed, schools, hospitals, the only thing left open were drug stores,” explained Tom Drogalis of the Schuylkill County Historical Society.

Because so many people were dying so fast, historians say it wasn’t uncommon for people to just be buried in a field with no markers.

“They did, indeed, have several mass potters’ graves, if you will, at the time. And one of them was identified as being in Schuylkill Haven.”

So now crews are collecting those bones and they’ll be running tests. One of those tests will be to determine if there is any DNA that they can match with those bones to find out who they belonged to.

“There are bones in there, you can see a tibia, femur, a jaw bone and stuff like that,” said Schuylkill County deputy coroner Joseph Pothering.

A forensic archeology team from Mercyhurst University in Erie will be doing the research.

For Bachman, she says she never thought buying a plot of land would lead to all this.

“It was just for the kids to hang out and play there and my husband to have something to do when he retired.”

It could take weeks before the results of the forensic tests are back, but after it all the Schuylkill County officials will hold a proper burial for the remains in Schuylkill Haven.

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