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Fort Bend ISD to continue discussions regarding future reinterment of remains discovered at abandoned and historic cemetery (11/20/18)

 

On Monday, November 19, a judge in the 434th District Court indicated he will reconsider a Fort Bend ISD petition to reinter the remains of 95 individuals discovered at an abandoned and historic cemetery at a later date, putting the District’s plans to rebury the individuals at a nearby cemetery on hold pending further community engagement.

 

In a petition filed in the 434th District Court, FBISD sought permission to reinter the remains at the nearby Old Imperial Farm Cemetery and to remove the designation of an abandoned cemetery from the FBISD site upon completion of the reburials. Rather than grant the petition at that time, the Honorable James H. Shoemake delayed a decision until a later time, and construction will continue to be paused in the 1.25 acres designated as a cemetery. Construction of the James Reese Career and Technical Center continues in the areas not affected by the archaeological discovery.

 

The judge also indicated that he would be appointing a liaison to work with FBISD and report back on the ongoing efforts to engage with stakeholders, prior to further consideration of the District’s petition.

 

Background:

 

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. A few months later, in June 2018, the 434th District Court granted FBISD permission to exhume the remains for the purposes of forensic investigation.

 

After an extensive and methodical exhumation process that followed, a team of archaeologists hired by the District analyzed the remains discovered at the site of the James Reese Career and Technical Center, determining that the individuals buried on the property are likely convicts who were leased to provide convict labor to a local plantation. It is estimated that a convict camp was established sometime in the 1870s, and use of the property for a cemetery likely continued through 1911, as the State of Teas operated the Imperial Prison Farm Camp Number 1 on the property.

 

In October, the District entered into an Interlocal Agreement with the City of Sugar Land regarding reinterment at city owned and maintained cemetery, which has a shared history with the land where the remains were discovered. Texas Law requires that the reinterment to be in a county, municipal, or perpetual care cemetery.

 

Full FBISD statement following hearing held in 434th District court:

 

“Fort Bend ISD appreciates that the judge recognized the diligence that Fort Bend ISD has demonstrated throughout this process to ensure we are following all applicable laws, and even more importantly, that we have done everything we can to ensure that the remains of the individuals are treated with dignity and respect. We also appreciate that the court acknowledged the District’s efforts to balance our core mission of educating students with the fiduciary responsibility to our taxpayers in regards to the use of voter-approved funding.

 

We respect the judge’s decision to delay granting the petition at this time, pending further community discussion and engagement. We look forward to working with the court appointed liaison, and we remain committed to moving forward in a way that honors these individuals and educates future generations about this part of our community’s – and our nation’s – history.”