Family Member: Build School Around Grave Sites
PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — Carolyn G. Lynn has spent countless hours researching the lives of past residents of Prince William County.
She publishes a blog, Prince William County Genealogy, and comes from a long line of Lynns – her family whose members that have called Prince William home since the at least the early 1800s.
So imagine the Manassas-area resident’s surprise when, this past weekend, she learned at least 11 graves at the site of Prince William County’s soon-to-be-built 12th high school, near the corner of Va. 234 and Hoadly Road, contained her ancestors.
She was given the news by Ruth E. Lloyd Information Center (RELIC) Director Don Wilson who, after working directly contracted archeologist when graves were found on the school site this summer, was pressured by local residents to determine the origins of the graves.
After issuing a public notice in the Washington Post, and eager to continue the process of building a new high school for a rapidly growing county, the Prince William school division last week began the process of exhuming the graves with plans to bury any found remains at registered cemetery.
So far, no human remains have been found and the school division says they don’t expect to find any.
“I was upset when I learned that the graves were there and they were going to move them, and that was before I even knew they were my family,” said Lynn. “Now that I know the graves belong to my family, it’s even more upsetting.”
Lynn’s grandfather, John Henry Lynn, who served in the 4th Virginia Calvary during the Civil War, is suspected of being buried there, she said. And, because her family owned so much property in and around the Independent Hill area — where the new school will sit — during the time of the Civil War in the 1860s to the early 1900s, she suspects other family members may be buried there, too.
When the school is built a new stadium will sit on the site where the graves are located.
Officials said a 2008 pre-construction survey of the property missed the graves because they were located in such a heavily vegetated area of the property.
Already in the news, the school could also be the site of a hotly debated $10.5 million swimming and aquatics facility that would be paid for and maintained by the public.
If human remains are found they will be surveyed and treated with the “utmost respect,” and then reburied in a chartered local cemetery, according to a statement from the school division.
“We will continue to work with the community to assure that the reinterment is properly handled and any historic information is shared. And, should a family connection be confirmed by the archeology study, we would look forward to working with that family regarding the reinterment. As far as we know, there is no specific reference to a cemetery in the deeds for this property,” stated Prince William County Public Schools spokeswoman Irene Cromer.
Lynn, area residents, and a growing number of public officials say more could have been done to treat the grave sites with respect.
“I’m really shocked the school system has not tried to build around them,” said Lynn.
While other high schools in the county, like C.D. Hylton and Potomac high schools, have been built around grave sites, school officials maintain plans for this high school are already well into the works. Officials stated on Monday, however, “there may yet be some opportunity for further input on the reinterment.”
Lynn said she has not spoken to anyone at the school division, and that she welcomes the opportunity to address the county school board on the matter.