City manager to help excavate colonial cemetery

Published On: Sep 25 2012 07:12:54 AM EDT
BRUNSWICK, Ga. -

City Manager Bill Weeks will dust off his archaeological skills as he takes on the excavation of a Colonial-era cemetery recently discovered on the grounds of the old Glynn Middle School.

The city had contemplated hiring an archaeology firm to handle the work before Weeks, who describes archaeology as his avocation, offered his services.

"I've done five cemeteries - African-American, Colonial and Antebellum -- already in South Carolina," he said.

Weeks, assisted by the city's Public Works Department, could get to work as early as Monday, weather permitting.

"We'll remove the top layer of soil, locate the graves and measure the shaft sizes," he said. "We'll survey the cemetery accurately so we'll know exactly where those graves are within a 16th of an inch, then we'll cover it all back up."

The cemetery is located on what will be a city park near the southeastern corner of George and Egmont streets.

"This is a really great discovery we've made," Mayor Bryan Thompson said. "We're not going to disturb the graves, just identify where they are and memorialize the site."

Weeks will not receive extra pay for the work.

"Having Bill, with the expertise to do this, is going to save the city an awful lot of money," Thompson said.

Weeks found the first grave on Sept. 6 and called in local archaeologist Fred Cook, who had said that the cemetery existed on the site. Weeks and Cook found four more graves that day.

"This was a Colonial cemetery from before Brunswick was laid out in 1771," Cook said. "They came out here and picked out this place to bury people."

That was when Brunswick occupied a narrow band along the western side of what is now the city peninsula. The city later took in all of the peninsula, which included all the uplands east of the cemetery.

Cook will continue to be involved in the excavation, Weeks said.

Cook estimated that the cemetery would contain 50 to 100 graves.

Weeks said the cemetery likely was used from the mid-1700s until 1840, when Oak Grove Cemetery on Brunswick's South End opened.

"There's some archival history that suggests that some of the graves may have been moved to Oak Grove," he said, "but it doesn't look like anything we have uncovered so far has been disturbed."

The excavation will take two to three weeks, Weeks said.

"Since we have opened it up now, we don't need to leave it in that condition for very long," he said.

Police patrols have been increased in the area to make sure that no one disturbs the graves.