University of Akron students dig for answers as they focus on cemetery mystery at Schneider Park

Posted at 5:25 PM, Jun 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-29 18:30:29-04

Beneath the ground at Akron's Schneider Park are mysteries that have captivated some University of Akron archaeology students.

An unmarked cemetery that dates back the late 1800's is the focus of a class project, involving the use of high-tech equipment designed to unearth some answers.

"I was excited to hear that we were going to do this class and to be able to come out here and kind of solve the mysteries of where everybody is buried," said graduate student Maeve Marino.

The students are using electrical and magnetic machines to map below the surface of 2.75 acres within the West Akron park.

Aerial photographs clearly show burial plots, but for years parts of the unmarked cemetery has been used for soccer games and other recreational activities.

Research revealed the park is the final resting place for forgotten immigrants, children and many others who died in an infirmary as early as 1875.

"We know that this is where they buried the poorest of the poor, the unwed mothers, the unruly boys, the sick, people who couldn't take care of themselves," said Dr. Tim Matney, a professor of archaeology at the University of Akron.

Dr. Matney, who is leading the project, said it's not clear where the grave sites start and end. The equipment allows the students to gather readings, patterns and signals that could help answer how many people are buried at the park.

"Part of our mystery is just understanding what's left and where these people finally ended up," he said. "We've talked to a lot of locals who feel that these people deserve respect."

Dr. Matney and his students hope there will be some sort of recognition one day for those buried at Schneider Park. In a way, he feels the research is bringing dignity to people who died well over 100 years ago.

"I would love to see just at least a commemorative marker."

The students will continue collecting data in a taped off area through July 3. As part of their final exam, they will present their findings at Highland Square Library on July 7 from 3 to 5 p.m.