Letting the dead rest in peace
Sep 10, 2013 | 3007 views | 0 0 comments | 450 450 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For those who are titillated by horror or superstition, it was an opportunity to indulge that curious fantasy.

For devotees of television programs that focus on the use of modern forensic science in law enforcement, it could have been exaggerated into a case of life imitating art.

What it was, in the final, sober analysis, was the discovery of a forgotten gravesite.

And it leaves the Benton community with the question of what to do about the discovery.

Construction crews last week uncovered what has been determined to be a wooden coffin containing the remains of an infant believed to have died in the mid to late 1800s.

The property, owned by the city, was to be used as a parking lot for the new Children’s Art Center, which has recently been completed adjacent to the parking lot construction site.

The location had been commercially developed for more than a century, with a grocery store most recently located there. The store has been closed for many years and the building was long ago demolished.

The concrete slab floor of the supermarket and asphalt paving of the store’s parking lot were being removed as part of the site preparation when the gravesite was uncovered.

The gravesite is the place where the body was interred by the family. According to archives, the grave that was discovered is one of seven believed to be located at the site.

We would hope that previous use of the property was made without knowledge that graves were located on the site, and there was no deliberate disregard or disrespect. It isn’t far-fetched to suggest that the existence of the family cemetery was innocently and honestly overlooked.

But now that the presence of the graves has been ascertained, there is the matter of according proper reverence for them, as is our custom.

The options are pretty simple – either exhume the remains and bury them in another location, or leave them where they are and modify plans for use of the site accordingly.

Barring the determination of a living relative who might express his or her wishes regarding the matter, we’re not sure what the best answer is.

But we would argue that the family cemetery ought to be left in place, or moved in its entirety.

Neither is a neat and tidy option.

Certainly, best use of the property as a parking lot would be achieved by relocating the graves.

However, leaving the cemetery in place might be a less-expensive alternative, if slightly less convenient for patrons of the center.

We are confident that the leaders of the community will work together to come up with a solution that serves the needs of the new arts center and pays appropriate respect to the dead.

Both are objectives that are worthy of our best efforts.
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