Our services help a community learn about its past and honor its ancestors at a historic burial ground.
Occasionally, our role as consulting engineers has a solemn purpose. Such as when the St. Mathews Baptist Church Cemetery and our project partners—Clearwater/Upper Pinellas Branch of the NAACP and the Clearwater African American Cemeteries Memorial Committee in Clearwater, Florida sought our assistance surveying, locating, and investigating graves on land now partially developed as a private business. From 1909-1955, the St. Matthews Baptist Church Cemetery served the African American community of Clearwater. Historical records indicate as many as 550 people may have been buried on the property. Today, due to the advocacy of local community members and descendants, the City of Clearwater sought to verify the findings of a previous ground penetrating radar survey and identify if historic burials still exist on the property.
The team performed ground “truthing,” carefully removing layers of soil until reaching the site of each grave. In all, nine grave shafts were identified. Within a few of the grave shafts, we found objects that would have been left on the graves, possibly by loved ones. In one we found a fragment of a ceramic vase, and in another we found two pennies—one dated 1916, and the other 1923.
Working with the community, property owners, and other stakeholders, our team helped provide context on the history of the site. While work continues, we are pleased to help solve the mystery of the cemetery, help right past injustices, and complete a story that still resonates with descendants of those buried at St. Matthews Cemetery.
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