Chicago Roadwork Site Could Hide Thousands of Long-Buried Bodies

Oak Park Avenue was a burial site for the 'forgotten' a century ago
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted May 3, 2015 9:43 AM CDT
Chicago Roadwork Site Could Hide Thousands of Long-Buried Bodies
Cars drive by a pothole in a file photo. Construction in Chicago could lead to bodies buried around the turn of the 20th century.   (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Workers are preparing for improvements to a road on the Northwest Side of Chicago, and their work could lead to the unearthing of thousands of bodies, a cemetery researcher tells the Chicago Tribune. That's because the area of Oak Park Avenue in question was once a cemetery and now houses some 6,900 bodies, adds Barry Fleig. The area was a burial site from 1890 to 1912 for people whom Fleig describes as "forgotten in life." That includes the poor, unidentified crime victims, criminals themselves, and people who died in hospitals, the Tribune reports. Some 2,000 infants were buried in the area, Fleig tells DNAinfo.

"These were people—mothers and fathers and babies—not just bones," Fleig says. He is pushing for construction work to be very careful. "I know they have to redo Oak Park Avenue, and I can go along with that, but they have to be respectful and careful," he notes. A local official says they will be. Workers will employ ground-penetrating radar where they plan to dig. '"Everybody is aware that there is a possibility, maybe a probability of running into something," the official says. "And they're taking great pains to make sure they comply with all the state laws" addressing the relocation of bodies. "Also, it's just human decency." (March saw reports of a mass grave under a Paris supermarket.)

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