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Final resting place for early El Pasoans - El Paso Inc.: News

Final resting place for early El Pasoans

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Posted: Monday, February 18, 2008 2:33 pm

The sun was shining and the sky clear Tuesday morning as the remains of eight early, unidentified El Pasoans were given a final resting place at Concordia Cemetery.

The historic skeletal remains of seven adult males and one young child were uncovered in June 2004 during the renovation of Cleveland Square Park in Downtown El Paso.

"We felt there needs to be one place for relocation of remains because we all know that Downtown El Paso was the city's hub from 1850, and as progress comes marching through, remains are turned up from time to time," said Patricia Kiddney, president of the Concordia Heritage Association.

In 1861, prominent El Pasoan Simeon Hart donated land to serve as a burial ground for Confederate soldiers who had died in battle. The land, located at what is today 200 N. Franklin St., borders Missouri, El Paso, and Santa Fe streets.

When the city closed the cemetery in 1883 because of sanitation issues, all identifiable remains were moved. Union remains were sent to Fort Snelling, Minn., and Confederate remnants were reinterred at Concordia Cemetery.

It's clear, however, that not all remains were transferred at that time, as evidenced by those reinterred last week.

"This is for people that there's no way to identify them, and they need to go some place," Kiddney said. "We've set aside the space in Concordia Cemetery for more as they turn up."

Working together

Though the ceremony was a simple one, many individuals and organizations worked together to make it a reality.

In early 2007, a committee including Stephen K. Mbutu, Oriana Perez, and Veronica Alvarez presented a report to the city and the Texas Historical Commission in an effort to raise community awareness about the historic skeletal remains.

"After the report was presented to the commission, they determined the remains should be buried in a historic cemetery," Kiddney said.

Soon after, Concordia Cemetery was chosen as the final resting place.

The bones were carefully stored at the El Paso Museum of Archeology from the time of their discovery until they were reinterred last week.

Using ground radar, Jackson Polk and Bob Lambeth surveyed a section of the cemetery to ensure that no other gravesites would be affected. A 20-by-40-foot plot of land in the cemetery's northeast corner was designated as the burial site.

Jaime Enriquez of Martin Funeral Home donated a casket for the event. Final farewell

The ceremony was short and simple. A single coffin containing all the remains was lowered into the ground, Kiddney conducted a brief burial service and the group recited The Lord's Prayer.

In addition to the remains, the coffin contained several artifacts discovered with them metal buttons, coffin nails and wood.

As Kiddney said, "We think that because [the remains] are significant to El Paso, they needed to properly reinterred."

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