A burial ceremony is planned for the two individuals whose remains were found last summer at the construction site for the college's Geneva campus.
GENEVA — The mystery of the identity of the remains of individuals discovered at a construction site in Geneva early last summer may never be solved without further investigation.
But this Tuesday, they will be buried again, with respect, according to Tom Harvey, director of planning for Ontario County. A public ceremony is planned at 11 a.m. Tuesday in the Pulteney Section of Glenwood Cemetery in Geneva.
“We try to maintain their dignity,” Harvey said.
Construction crews on June 29, 2015, discovered human remains — including a skull — while excavating a trench to install conduit for fiber-optic cable as part of the $16 million Finger Lakes Community College Geneva campus project.
Although much of the information contained in a report detailing the aftermath of the discovery turned out to be what Ontario County officials had informed guesses about anyway, a report compiled by a forensic team at Mercyhurst University’s Archaeological Institute does provide new information. The team came to Geneva for three days to exhume the remains and begin an investigation, after the site was protected and crews were assigned to work temporarily at other locations on the work site at 63 Pulteney St.
For instance, the report determines the remains discovered at the site were consistent with the use as a cemetery and they were not of Native American origin.
The members of the forensic anthropological team were able to determine that one of the remains was likely a white male between the ages of 14 and 19 and anywhere from 5 feet 4 inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall, according to Alexandra Klales, one of the leaders of the team from Mercyhurst.
The other was a young white female between 4 feet 11 inches and 5 feet 5 inches tall.
But the remains had fragmented to the degree that further details were unable to be determined.
“We were limited in some capacity,” Klales said, adding that this is fairly common with historic cases. "Historic," in forensic anthropology, means older than 50 to 70 years.
The Pulteney Street Cemetery had been used as early as the late 1700s up until 1919. The Geneva City School District acquired the property, and the 630 sets of remains were then moved to Glenwood Cemetery so the district could use the site for a high school.
Officials locally were unable to identify the names of the individuals after searching local records. There are clues that could narrow the search, Klales said, although pressing on is beyond the scope of the forensic team.
In addition to the remains of the male, 39 coffin nails, a pipe stem and 30 beads were discovered scattered in the area where the discovery was made. Five coffin nails were found near the female.
Determining the dates of those artifacts could help nail down a more definitive time period, Klales said.
But that’s outside the scope of what the forensic team does, said Klales, who teaches biological and forensic anthropology courses at the college. The Pennsylvania university’s archaeologists and anthropologists — some graduate and post-doctoral students learning the craft — can work as many as 120 cases a year, usually active criminal cases such as homicides, suicides and fire scenes.
In addition to human remains, crews also uncovered a marker, which as part of the ceremony Tuesday will be placed on the grave of Truman Wallbridge. For whatever reason, his remains were moved to Glenwood Cemetery but his marker was left behind.
“I’m sure the school district did the best they could do when they tried to relocated the cemetery,” Harvey said. “But this was an area, even in 1919, where there were not believed to be any remains.”
The public is invited to attend a graveside ceremony at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Pulteney Section of Glenwood Cemetery off South Main Street in Geneva.