NEW PALESTINE, Ind. (AP) — Some preservationists are worried that construction of an office building just outside Indianapolis could disturb unmarked graves at a 1800s African-American cemetery.
Retired dentist Brian Shoppel has proposed the building for an open field next to his former dental office along U.S. 52, where the Delaney Cemetery, which covers about one-tenth of an acre, also borders a grocery store and other businesses. Members of the Hancock County Pioneer Cemetery Board and others say the cemetery near the town of New Palestine could have such graves outside its fence line, The (Greenfield) Daily Reporter reported.
Preservationists say the cemetery’s original 1860 deed gives its size as one-quarter of an acre and that they fear construction work could unearth remains that aren’t marked by headstones.
“We don’t want anyone to start digging and have any surprises,” cemetery board member Nancy Leach said.
County Plan Commission attorney Gregg Morelock said that while the preliminary construction plans didn’t include the cemetery land, he recommended seeking more clarification before the board considered approval for the project.
Harold Gibson, a surveyor working for Shoppel, said they were willing to make changes to the project plans. “If you all can show us where the limits are, we can get it right,” Gibson said.
The Plan Commission could consider the project during its Aug. 19 meeting.
Looking for tombstones isn’t a reliable means of determining the cemetery’s boundaries, cemetery board secretary Cindy True said.
“You can probe all you want, but we might not find a tombstone,” she said. “They could try ground-penetrating sonar, but that might be pretty costly.”