space traveling warriors tier list : Ground penetrating radar finds unmarked graves at Nathan and Olive Boone Homestead State Historic Site

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.The Missouri Department of Natural Resources often uses ground penetrating radar, or GPR, to find water lines and leaks or buried tanks. However, the department put this technology to another use at the Nathan and Olive Boone Homestead State Historic Site, where several unmarked graves in both cemeteries on the property were discovered.

“During the orientation of a new employee in the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Division of State Parks, I had the opportunity to visit the different divisions of the agency,” said Mike Busekrus, site superintendent. “When I visited the Environmental Emergency Response team, I saw the ground penetrating radar. I thought it was something I should keep in mind, but I wasn’t sure why. I didn’t know when or why I would need it, but I kept that information.”

Busekrus is charged with managing the state historic site near Ash Grove, Missouri. The site includes nearly 400 acres of Nathan and Olive Boone’s original property, remains of outbuildings and two separate cemeteries; one for the Boone family and one for the slaves who worked on the farm.

“In an effort to better understand the lives of the enslaved who lived here at Boone Homestead, we need to better understand the most visible reminder of their presence, the African American Cemetery,” said Busekrus. “When the cemetery was first located by archaeologists in the 1990s, its exact boundaries were unknown.”

Unfortunately, unmarked graves are common in older cemeteries, especially those over 100 years old. Serious records are often lost, vague, or incomplete. Sometimes there is not even the surface expression of the grave, so the burial site is not seen from above. The challenge is how to explore underground without disturbing the ground or graves.

Busekrus, intent on learning more about the site’s history, reminded the department’s Environmental Emergency Response team using GPR. GPR is a geophysical method often used in archaeological and forensic investigations and even in the detection of tombs. When the African-American cemetery was first located, the use of ground-penetrating technology in archaeological work was still limited.

According to Rachel Campbell, an archaeologist at Missouri State Parks, the GPR has a transmitter that sends out waves of energy, then the receiver records the amount of time and strength required for the reflected signal to return. The density of any object encountered will uniquely reflect, refract and distribute the signal, which the receiver detects and records.

“GPR records variation in soil material composition as signals travel differently through various types of soil,” Campbell said. “Soil changes and mixtures are picked up by machinery due to the modification of soil density that occurs during a burial. GPR is a wonderful technology to use in archaeological research as it is non-invasive, and the radar does not cause any damage to burials or other subterranean features or artifacts that may be present.”

Busekrus said it is similar to a fish finder, but without water. A fish finder locates fish in the water by detecting reflected pulses of sound energy. A fish finder displays measurements of reflected sound, allowing the operator to locate schools of fish, underwater debris and the bottom of the body of water. Likewise, if one uses GPR regularly, he becomes familiar with the readings and can decipher tree roots and other soil disturbances from items placed there by man.

With the equipment already in place, no outside expense would be incurred if they used it to check for more unmarked graves. So Busekrus took the idea and ran with it, contacting the Environmental Emergency Response team at the department responsible for the GPR.

A group of seven, including Busekrus, Campbell, and members of the department’s Environmental Emergency Response team, spent two days at the historic site in March 2022. A 30-foot-wide perimeter was cleared around the existing boundary of the Afro-American Cemetery. American. To make sure they covered the entire cemetery where there was a possibility of a grave, the team established a 60 cm grid, collecting data along each grid line.

“This was a relatively quick process and was done in-house,” Busekrus said. “Our team took a day and a half to collect the data for the African American Cemetery. The graves are unmarked in the Cemetery of the Slaves, with only two with weak inscriptions: Moses Boone and Preston Boone. As there are no burial records in the cemetery, the GPR data is our best tool for understanding its size and significance.”

During the study, the team discovered at least eight more burials in the enslaved cemetery, two of those burials were outside the boundary of the previously known cemetery. The team then turned their attentions to Boone Cemetery, where they located five more unmarked graves.

“My hope is to continue working with Mike to produce a detailed map of the cemeteries and anomalies seen during the survey,” Campbell said. “This would serve for a greater interpretation of the place and the life of the enslaved who lived there. We also hope to use this study as a starting point for further geophysical studies at the site, expanding our knowledge of the larger landscape and use of the property.”

With the new graves discovered, the size of the African American cemetery has nearly doubled, from 11 known graves to 19. At Boone Cemetery, there are now 20 known graves, many of which were for children. Nathan and Olive Boone, along with Olive’s 104-year-old mother, are also buried there.

During the two days of study, the team also used the equipment in another area in an unsuccessful attempt to locate the remains of the slave quarters.

“We knew it was a long shot, but with the technology already in place, it was worth a try,” Busekrus said.

In 1991, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources acquired the property, facilities, and 400 acres. The historic site offers tours of the property, and Busekrus works to tell an accurate story of life on the property.

“This work helps us to better understand how life unfolded here in the 19th century; this gives us a starting point to better tell the life stories of the individuals enslaved on the property,” said Busekrus. “As the story continues to unfold, we will continue to tell the story.”

For more information on state parks and historic sites, visit mostateparks. with. Missouri State Parks is a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

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