Radar used for old burial stories

A ground penetrating radar device was recently used to check out parts of an area behind Pauls Valley's Old Cemetery on South Walnut, which stories say was once used as a burial ground for Native American tribes in the area. (PV Democrat photo)

One Pauls Valley man and his kids made what they believe is an interesting find when they decided to use modern technology to check out a local historical legend.

With access to ground penetrating radar Kive Kerr and others recently discovered the signs of what they believe to be unmarked graves on the back side of Pauls Valley's oldest city cemetery.

Radar from a Texas firm already in town at the time was used to check out stories he had heard since childhood that a couple of acres or so on the west side of the “Old Cemetery” on South Walnut was once an old burial ground for Native Americans.

Those stories go way back, but the images on the radar screen showed there might be something there after all.

“What he found were what we believe are bodies buried in the ground, about eight graves side by side,” Kerr said about the employee operating the radar equipment.

“The radar shows the ground had been disturbed in those areas. Most old graves are about 4 feet deep. These are three to 3 to 3 ½ feet deep.”

With small flags marking those findings, it was just a few feet away where they found what is believed to be another buried body, although radar shows this one has some type of air pocket. It's believed that's because the burial includes a coffin while the others did not.

This most recent connection to some old stories started when Kerr hired a Texas company to come use ground penetrating radar to check on other stories related to an old house he owns.

He calls it the old Rennie house, built in the early 1900s, up on the local Jackson hill, which Kerr has been slowly renovating for some time.

Hearing stories about underground tunnels coming from the home's basement, Kerr said the radar determined there were some “anomalies” about 50 feet away but nothing found that was conclusive.

“With them already here we went over to an area behind the old cemetery and he starts hitting them,” Kerr said about the radar being used on parts of the property on the west side of the old cemetery.

The old cemetery, which is the burial place of PV's founder Smith Paul and his family, was starting early in the 20th century no longer used as an active cemetery. It was fenced off in the early 1950s leaving the small area in the back next to Rush Creek.

“It matches the configuration of a cemetery. They were all in a line, side by side, all about three feet down. They said it matches what they find in old cemeteries,” he said about the area believed to be an old Native American burial grounds with unmarked graves.

With the radar equipment showing the possibility that old grave sites might indeed be there, Kerr said he hopes one day the entire two acres can be cleaned up and fully checked out with the radar equipment.

“I think it would be kind of neat to start looking at the possibility of learning the truth about the stories of it being an old Indian cemetery,” he adds.

“If it is a cemetery with unmarked graves we need to clean it up and give it the respect a cemetery deserves.”

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