Preliminary Results of
Although African Cemetery No. 2 is known to have over 5,000 graves, only about
1,200 are marked. Through abuse and neglect over the years many headstones are
now damaged and unreadable. The location of the markers has also been called
into question. With no known original records of the cemetery, the governing
Board of the cemetery has been hampered in its efforts to preserve, improve,
and protect the cemetery. Through a fortuitous circumstance, the Board was able
to obtain the services of perhaps the finest human remains search dog in the
On April 4, 2002 a dedicated team of eleven volunteers from Canine
Solutions International, led by Sandra Anderson and her internationally
known human remains search dog, Eagle, arrived for two and one half days of
intensive search work at African Cemetery No. 2. The team along with local volunteers
searched, mapped, and studied the cemetery with the goal of increasing the available
information about the physical grounds and those who lie at rest there.
Eagle and his sensitive nose are well known around the world for his ability
to find the tiniest fragments of human remains even when thousands of years
old and buried as deep as twenty to thirty feet in the earth. Taking part in
as many as 200 homicide investigations a year for various law enforcement agencies,
Sande and Eagle also find time to help in cemetery preservation work.
It was not practical to attempt to locate all the graves in the cemetery. To
make the most of Eagle's time, the search effort centered around several smaller
- Exploring the cemetery fence boundaries
- Spot checking various markers and unmarked areas
- Examining the front Seventh Street and back fence along the railroad tracks
- Surveying the remaining markers
- The fence which encloses two sides and the back of the cemetery was explored
by Eagle. Eagle would stop every few feet and indicate the presence of human
remains. A small red flag would be placed in the ground exactly where Eagle
indicated. By carefully studying his body language and barking Sande was able
to judge whether Eagle was pointing out a grave, a scattered human remains
fragment, and if a grave roughly how deep the grave was. Over 475 flags were
in the ground after Eagle concluded his search of these areas. Most flags
are no more than one or two feet from the fence. Some flags are actually in
the fence and a few fall outside the fence. This is true especially at the
rear of the junkyard that borders the cemetery to the west. The back acre
of the junkyard was once an extension of the cemetery. Eagle indicated the
presence of human remains in just across the fence in this area. It was not
possible to enter the property to do a more thorough search.
- A small area containing what is possibly a mass grave was discovered along
the back fence. This may possibly be the area used for reinterring
graves from the old Presbyterian Cemetery in 1889. This cemetery was located
between Sixth and Seventh Streets and Limestone and Upper Streets.
- Eagle spot checked a number of small areas in the cemetery and indications
are that the rows of markers are mostly in the correct positions. A number
of areas which have no markers were shown to contain graves and those graves
either lie in existing rows or serve to join what appear to be separate rows.
- The front edge of the cemetery, along Seventh Street was examined, briefly
due to exhaust fumes disturbing Eagle. Two indications of human reamins were
found under the street, approximately one to two feet into the street, and
one indcation was found within six inches of the curb. It may be hard to believe
that a dog could sniff out human remains under pavement, but this is not the
first time Eagle has done this. According to two forensic anthropologists
who were part of the Canine Solutions International team, the dog has never
been wrong. Everytime he has been doubted, an excavation has proven Eagle
- The back boundary along the railroad tracks yeilded even more interesting
results. There is a row of 50 graves outside the property line of the cemetery
actually under the railroad bed.
- Four human remains fragments were located. Two small pieces of rib bone,
a piece of heel bone, and a tooth. These were found at several sites a few
inches below the surface, exactly where Eagle said they were. These remains
will be reinterred this summer in a ceremony during the Juneteenth celebration.
- Names and inscriptions were collected from legible stones and merged with
a previously compiled list.
- Two "negative areas" were located. These are areas where no one
is buried. One area is along the back fence and railroad tracks and extends
into the cemetery for quite a ways. This may possibly be a former entrance
into the cemetery before the railroad tracks where laid on what used to be
Strodes Road. The other area is at the front, near the current east entrance
to the cemetery, and is in the same location as an old caretaker building
that can be seen in the 1937 aerial photo.
- Both driveways into the cemetery from Seventh Street have human reamins
- The current flag count, indicating human remains, stands around 800. These
flags are currently being cataloged for inclusion into a survey plat of the
None of this would have been possible without the efforts of the Board, local
volunteers, and most especially the Canine Solutions International team. It
is heartening to know that there are people willing to travel hundreds of miles
to help in the preservation of a cemetery they have never seen before and have
no personal connection to.
Much work remains in producing a final report on the two and one half days
activities. Several questions were answered and many more raised. Many new avenues
of research have been opened as a result of CSI's visit. We will expand this
report with more detailed information as soon as time permits. In the meantime
feel free to visit the cemetery or donate some time on Saturday mornings helping
to mow grass and general groundskeeping. If that's not your thing perhaps you
have some little piece of history tucked away in a memory or shoe box someplace.
We would love to hear from you about it. Nothing is too insignificant to pass
on to us. Every piece of informaton collected helps us bring the historical
significance of the cemetery into sharper focus. Thus preserving the memory
of those buried in African Cemetery No. 2 and highlighting the contributions
they have made to Lexington's past and to its future.