It was an unexpected find. The remains of 4 bodies, along where I-35 would shortly be expanding. Construction was put on hold in Troy 3 weeks ago, but now that the remains have been fully excavated the project is back on track.
When the access road and highway were layed down in 1957, there was no need to dig. So the unmarked graves went under. And now that they have been fully excavate, a woman is hoping her great-grandfather will be one of those who were found.
You expect a few bodies here and there in a cemetery. But as the neighboring highway grows to accommodate the future, the past was exposed.
"Lived in Troy, had a meat market," says Cindy Schleede, while speaking about her great grandfather, John Alexander Thomas. He died in 1909 and was buried at Roberts Cemetery. But eventually, the family lost track of him. "Previous relatives have said, that yes, he was buried here. But his grave was never marked…which is why I'm pursing this now hoping to find out if it could be him," says Schleede.
The remains of four bodies have now been recovered. 3 adults and a child are now in an Austin lab, waiting to be identified."There will be some forensic tests, perhaps some DNA analysis. It goes into a lot of scientific processes that our archeologists and forensic analysts will utilize," says Ken Roberts, with the Texas Department of Transportation.
Archeologists believe the bodies were buried some time between the late 1800's and the early 1900's. A time frame Cindy says fits right in. "I think it'll be one of those stories that it was nice to have a little closure to it and a nice addition to the family genealogy," says Schleede.
If they are not identified, the remains will be buried in a different part of the cemetery. But Cindy hopes at least one will get a new final resting place. "Might want to take him back to the family farm and bury him there. "
TxDOT says 5 people who believe they may be related have already come forward, but they urge others to do so as well.
Reporter: Tania Ortega
Photographer: Chris Buford