Bone fragments discovery halts work at Oakwood Cemetery Chapel

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — While bones are usually synonymous with a cemetery, bone fragments discovered from an unknown source halted work on the Oakwood Cemetery Chapel in Austin.

On Nov. 29, 2016,  as work was underway to rehabilitate the cemetery’s chapel, archaeologists found tiny bone fragments four feet below the work-site. Work was immediately stopped on the historic cemetery and the investigation began.

Improvements to the cemetery were approved by voters under the 2012 Municipal Bond Program. The Austin Parks and Recreation Department was working to repair the architecture and stop the foundation from settling. Other improvements include making the chapel ADA accessible, mechanical fixes and restoration of the interior.

The chapel has a long history in Austin built in 1914 on what was once the racially segregated portion of the Oakwood cemetery.

Council member Ora Houston, District 1, is working with the Parks Department to determine how they should proceed with the project. Houston says the cemetery is a “heart-wrenching and startling” reminder of how our ancestors were “mistreated.”

The parks department is asking for community feedback as they form a group to commemorate the historic landmark.

“All construction remains halted at this time. Archaeologists are working to determine the scope and scale of the burials. Burials are currently estimated at 25 locations within the Chapel’s footprint,” says Houston.

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