Nashville, Tenn. , A developer has unearthed human remains that may be two centuries old, not far from a Civil War fort and a cemetery in 1822, while excavating to lay the foundation for a new Nashville project.
For Nashville, the discovery marks the latest crossroads in a time of economic boom and the city’s rich and sometimes troubled history – where new facilities sprouted on or near the land where people long ago settled, fought or worked hard. Key, then died and were buried, often with little record of their final resting places.
In a court petition earlier this month, AJ Capital Management noted that the discovery occurred in a neighborhood near Fort Neglie, when the company was working on a mixed development for its Nashville warehouse company, which would include apartments and business spaces.
The fort, built by runaway slaves and freed black people for the Union, has been trying to cope with the rapid growth in recent years from the center of Nashville’s old Confederation into a vibrant, modern city. It’s about half a mile from the multi-building project, which is partially completed and surrounded by a giant guitar sign and a construction crane in a rapidly developing neighborhood with businesses, bars and restaurants.
The company is asking a Nashville Chancery judge for permission to move the remains, which include skeletal fragments and thin wood fragments from coffins, adjacent to the 200-year-old Nashville City Cemetery.
An archaeologist hired by the company wrote that his team discovered the remains in May and again in June, describing them as not of Native American origin and “presumed by the early nineteenth century”, potentially Placed them before the Civil War.
The archaeologist wrote that they were likely to be “isolated burials and not a more widespread cemetery distribution”, adding that only two of the 53 4-by-6-foot excavations carried out to work on the foundations found the remains. Were. Both were found about 15 feet below the ground, give or take a few feet. State archeology officials, local police and the county medical examiner’s office were informed.
The archaeologist wrote that a portion of each burial and the remains were not uncovered and preserved in place.
A spokesperson for AJ Capital did not respond to a request for additional comment.
Who these potential centuries-old people might be is an open question, according to Tennessee State University professor Lerothea Williams, who specializes in African-American, Civil War and Reconstruction studies.
He didn’t rule out that the remains could be Native American, from early settlers, Civil War soldiers, or black workers at the fort—though this seems unlikely, as there was evidence of coffins, he said, and that a At that time, black people were generally not given a level of respect.
Williams said he would “feel a whole lot more comfortable than maybe an academic unit could come” to study the area where the remains were found. He described Nashville’s “spotty record” of bridging the friction between development and historic preservation.
Williams said that things are “changing a bit” but there is still “a way to go” when it comes to Nashville’s sensitivity to the history of marginalized people.
Most prominently, an attempt by Fort Neglie to build up the area several years earlier led to enough investigation that it was shelved as it was later found that the land below was probably a burial ground.
Adjacent to the fort, the developers planned to build a housing and entertainment complex where Nashville’s former Minor League Baseball Stadium sits near the foot of the fort.
As protests escalated, the city ordered an archaeological study that in January 2018 determined that human remains were still buried there, possibly of enslaved people who built the fort.
Plans were put on hold, and instead the city conceived a park in memory of the fort and people were forced to build it. The city has demolished the baseball stadium and is holding public meetings about the overhaul. The final draft of the master plan is expected to be released this summer.
After the surrender of Union troops in Nashville in 1862, the Union took more than 2,700 runaway slaves and freed black people from their homes and churches and forced them to work at the fort, where they became “contradictory camps”. “I lived in. Although they were promised money for their labour, some were paid. About 600 to 800 of them died.
The fort deteriorated over the years. The Works Progress Administration rebuilt it in 1936 and reopened in 1938, but the fort again fell into disrepair. According to the late author Robert Hicks, the Ku Klux Klan rallied there in the Jim Crow years, and separate softball fields were later built nearby.
The new development where the remains were found this year is across a set of railroad tracks, not far from the fort where the baseball stadium sat.