Study finds many more bodies under garbage; City Cemetery, later a dump, was a burial site for people without money


NEWARK, N.J. -- A potter's field that became a garbage dump contains more than the 18,000 bodies originally believed buried there, a new study says.

And it is possible the sliver of land in an industrial area near the airport and an Anheuser-Busch brewery could hold as many as 200,000 bodies, according to the study by Malcolm Pirnie, a White Plains, N.Y., environmental engineering firm.

The city ordered the study as part of a court-ordered restoration of City Cemetery, where people without money to pay for a funeral were buried between 1869 and 1954.

After the last burial, the city began using the cemetery as an industrial storage yard, then as a public dump. Its condition was publicized last year when an 85-year-old Hackensack woman sued the city after learning that her father was buried there in 1921.

Newark officials have found no burial records, but the Malcolm Pirnie report says metal grave markers and perhaps tombstones are buried underneath the trash, and that it "is reasonable to assume," that 39,000 to 40,000 people are buried at the 5.2-acre cemetery, perhaps as many as 200,000.

Eugene Boesch, the archaeologist who conducted the study, recommended that ground-penetrating radar be used this fall to locate the graves. Boesch also suggested that the city plant grass and shrubbery, erect a monument to the dead and produce a booklet on the cemetery's history.

The restoration is expected to cost more than $1 million.

Pub Date: 09/24/99

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