Crews find coffins, possible human bone during excavation work in Duluth

Duluth (KBJR) – St. Louis County MN crews have discovered multiple wooden coffins and a possible human bone during an excavation project in Duluth. 

Workers found the artifacts on Wednesday on the east side of Arlington Avenue, just south of Arrowhead Road. 

Resident Engineer Steve Krasaway says a total of 47 coffins have been found so far. 

Krasaway says out of those 47, 40 were found on Monday. The other seven were found last week on Wednesday.

St. Louis County officials say the excavation work was being done specifically to check for the possibility of human remains, as the area is near the Greenwood Cemetery, which served as a burial site.

The site was used for about 5,000 people who died at the former St. Louis County Poor Farm between 1891 and 1947. 

Workers looked inside coffins after being advised to do so by the State Archaeologist, and found them empty. 

Officials say the only bone found was outside of the coffins. 

In addition, the Fond du Lac Band, as well as the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, were also notified of the bone because some of the people buried in the cemetery were of Native American ancestry. 

Authorities say they are assuming the coffins and the bone are remnants of a grave relocation project which happened in the 1960’s. 

Multiple archaeologist teams are expected to arrive within the next two weeks to see if any additional bones are in the area. 

The State Archaeologist, as well as the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, will be working together on the study. 

The Affairs Council will coordinate and pay for the additional study. 

A planned excavation by the Public Works department will continue to the south of the site. 

St. Louis County officials say the exploratory digging is being done to prepare the area for a project scheduled for 2020. 

The project involves reconstructing and widening Rice Lake Road north of Arrowhead  Road, as well as other intersection improvements. 

Officials say the involved area is currently fenced off, and everyone is asked to stay out of the excavation site for safety reasons and out of respect for any remains which may still be there. 

The County Board declared the Greenwood Cemetery inactive in 2012 due to inaccurate record keeping at the turn of the century. 

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