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Former slave cemetery discovered at Capital City Country Club

Posted at 2:47 PM, Dec 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-13 06:56:56-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — The National Park Service says a slave cemetery has been detected on the golf course at the Capital City Country Club.

Those graves are believed to be the final resting place of slaves and their descendants.

Now, those apart of the Tallahassee Historical Society, want their stories to be told.

Unmarked graves on the land of a former plantation Now bringing people to dig deeper into Tallahassee History.

"Trying to tell the stories of people who lived in the past. Whose stories might not get told otherwise, you know whose stories might not appear in the history books," said Archaeologist Jeffrey Shanks.

Technology now allowing archaeologist to put the pieces together.

Ground penetrating radar is giving data of what's underneath the green of the Capital City Country Club golf course.

"The technology has been around for a number of years and its often used in cemetery's like this so we have a really good Idea of what the signature of a grave under the ground looks like even if there is no headstone," said Shanks.

To tell this story you have to travel back to Tallahassee in the 1830's with a slave population a little over three thousand.

About eighty of them belonging to Patrick Houston son of Edward Houston a major stakeholder in the city's history.

The Houston Plantation is now home to the county club.

Experts are confident they have identified 40 graves on that property.

"These are ones that we can say with a high amount of confidence that these are graves."

Historian Jonathan Lammers says there are probably more graves belonging to children.

"Child mortality was a huge thing and those graves are going to be smaller. if you go in old historic cemeteries they're filled with children and mothers who died in child birth," said
Historian Jonathan Lammers.

Now that this has been discovered, the community is looking to honor those who rest there.

"For sure give recognition and then have the story of the people told... I do think its very significant to have the story told in our community," said Betty Ashler.

Both Shanks and Lammers would like to honor the site but nothing further to disturb a historical part of Tallahassee history.

The National Park Service says a slave cemetery has been detected on the golf course at the Capital City Country Club.

The preliminary results of NPS' testing appear to confirm the presence of a cemetery at the site.

Officials say historic records suggest the cemetery is associated with a former plantation once owned by the Edward Houstoun family. Records show the plantation operated from the 1830s through the Civil War.

NPS says at its largest, the plantation was about seven square miles large and had 80 slaves working on it. This land includes all of Myers Park, Woodland Drives, Indianhead Acres, Magnolia Heights and the Governor's Square Mall area.

In the summer of 2019, the National Park Service offered to conduct an investigation of the Capital City Country Club golf course for the City of Tallahassee through its Archaeological Assistance Program.

Using ground penetrating radar (GPR) and two trained human remains detection (HRD) dogs, over 7000 square meters were surveyed. Preliminary results from the GPR data revealed the presence of approximately 40 subsurface anomalies near Hole 7 on the golf course that are likely graves.

Once all testing and analysis has been completed, a report on the findings will be issued to both the City of Tallahassee and the Capital City Country Club.