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Archaeologists provide update on historic cemetery found at Fort Bend ISD’s James Reese Career and Technical Center site (7/17/2018)

FORT BEND ISD (July 17, 2018) – With the exhumation process and analysis well underway, representatives from Goshawk Environmental Consulting, the Texas Historical Commission and Fort Bend ISD provided an update on the historic cemetery found at the site of FBISD’s new James Reese Career and Technical Center.


A team of 10-12 archaeologists mobilized at the site in mid-June, led by Reign Clark, Cultural Resources Director with Goshawk Environmental Consulting, Inc. and Archeological Project Manager for the Excavations at the James Reese Site.


“We believe based on land use and the materials that come from the burials that this cemetery dates between 1878 and around 1910,” said Clark.


Preliminary analysis, which includes historical use of the land, indicates that the remains buried at the site may be those of individuals who were part of a convict leasing program that was utilized prior to the state’s ownership of the land. So far, 95 burial sites have been identified. Forty-eight individuals have been exhumed, with analysis complete on more than 20. The exhumation team at the site includes archeologists, graduate students, and doctoral candidates hailing from Southern Methodist University, University of Texas, and Mississippi State University.


The exhumation and onsite analysis is a methodical and extensive process. Each exhumation takes approximately 36 to 48 person hours per grave, followed by 4 to 8 hours for cleaning and an additional 12 to 15 hours for analysis.


“All of them are male, except for one female of the ones that have been analyzed so far,” said Dr. Catrina Whitley, bioarchaeologist and lead anthropologist for the exhumations and analysis at the James Reese Site. “They’re ranging from 5 feet, 2 inches to 6 feet, 2 inches in height, and anywhere from 14 years of age to 50 to 70 years of age.”


Speaking to reporters Monday, July 16, Whitley showed sketches from a few of the burial sites. Artifacts uncovered at the site were also displayed.


“I think it’s a remarkable opportunity for our community and our school district to learn much more about the history of our local region,” said Dr. Charles Dupre, FBISD Superintendent of Schools. “There are so many things we know about our history, and this is just going to add value and extend the knowledge base about Fort Bend County and Sugar Land, Texas.”


Fort Bend ISD understands this discovery comes with great historical significance, making the expertise provided by the state and all of those involved invaluable. Last week, a small number of high school students visited the site to explore and learn more about the work going on at the site.  


In April 2018, Fort Bend ISD, under the guidance and direction of the Texas Historical Commission (THC), announced the discovery of the historic cemetery at the construction site of the new James Reese Career and Technical Center. Since then, archaeologists have conducted further exploratory work and established the cemetery’s perimeter, discovering a total of 95 graves. Following the exhumation and analysis, FBISD will continue to work under the guidance of the THC to identify an appropriate location for reburial of the individuals.


Photo 1: The historic cemetery at the construction site of FBISD’s new James Reese Career and Technical Center.

CTE burial site


Photo 2: FBISD Superintendent of Schools Dr. Charles Dupre speaks to reporter.

Charles Dupre speaking to a reporter


Photo 3: FBISD Board President Jason Burdine and Chief Operations Officer Oscar Perez at the construction site.

Board President Jason Burdine and Chief Operations Officer Oscar Perez at the CTE cemetery site


Photo 4: Artifacts found at the gravesite.

Artifacts found at the site


Photo 5: Sketches of the remains exhumed from the historic cemetery.   

 Sketches of the remains exhumed from the historic cemetery


Photo 6: FBISD students visit the site to learn more about the historic cemetery.  

FBISD students at the CTE site