SAGEEP 2011 conferenceKutztown logoGeophysical Investigations at a Potential Mass Grave Site in Bethlehem, PA 

Messler, Charles, Sherrod, Laura, and Higgins, James, 2011, Geophysical Investigations at a Potential Mass Grave Site in Bethlehem, PA [abs]: Symposium on the Application of Geophysics to Engineering and Environmental Problems - Charleston, South Carolina (10-14 April 2011).

 

Charles Connor Messler and Dr. James Higgins using GPRDuring the winter of 1918-19 there was an outbreak of Spanish influenza in Bethlehem, PA. The city was based around the steel industry and had seen a large surge in production and therefore population during the First World War. The outbreak is documented to have claimed nearly two hundred lives, although the accuracy of this number has been questioned by some. Those hardest hit were the poor working class. This group of immigrant workers had few or no relatives living in the area, and thus no one available to make funeral arrangements. The task was appointed to the city, or done through the church of the deceased. Records from this time period are incomplete, but there is evidence that suggests a mass burial during the epidemic on South Mountain in Bethlehem.

Geophysical surveying (GPR and magnetometer) was performed in the summer of 2010 at St. Michael's Cemetery located in South Bethlehem, Lehigh County Pennsylvania. The section of the cemetery surveyed is 19m by 13m and located on the south end of the cemetery. The land was used by St. Michael's Roman Catholic Church from the mid 19th through the early 20th centuries. The area surveyed is of particular interest because of the time period in which it was used. Grave markers show that a large number of burials took place during the Spanish Influenza Outbreak of 1918-19. The terrain is sloped and marked by many physical obstructions. Due to vandalism, topography, and vegetation many of the grave markers are broken, shifted, or completely missing. A three dimensional dataset was created to image the subsurface burials.



Dr. Sherrod also presented results from another project at this meeting: Sherrod, Laura, Brashler, Jan, and Gaff, Donald, 2011, Previous Excavations and Geophysical Discoveries at a Prehistoric Earthwork Site in Western Michigan


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Kurt Friehauf - April 2011