Leg bone unearthed at forgotten grave site: Work postponed at Roswell project

The bones of Roswell's earliest settlers rest no more.

A few hundred yards from the grave of town founder Roswell King, a bulldozer ripped into a hillside this week exposing a bone from a human leg in an unmarked portion of the city's original cemetery, which was established in 1840.

The femur bone was forwarded to the Fulton County Medical Examiner' s office for further study and a temporary stop-work order was issued at the construction site. Roswell issued the building permit for the two- story home on a lot that backs up to Founders Cemetery.

The discovery puts homebuilders and potential buyers in the area in legal limbo.

The construction site apparently is located on top of the city' s earliest burial grounds, as are dozens of other homes along Kings Mill Court, according to Peter Abreu, who oversees Roswell's Historic District, including the cemetery. The existing houses were built prior to a 1984 archeological survey, which determined the cemetery to be about seven times larger than its apparent boundaries.

"We don't know yet where we are legally on this," said Abreu.

The bone was discovered Tuesday by Herman Bennett, a city water works supervisor, who was at the construction site on Kings Mill Court to install a water meter.

"When he showed it to me, I knew it was human. It looked old, " said Jimmy Sanders, an engineer with the city's Public Works Department. Sanders turned it over to the Roswell police.

"There were graves all over this hillside almost down to the creek," said Michael Hitt, citing an 1874 survey map, archeological testing results and recollections of older Roswell residents.

Hitt, a Roswell police officer and historian for the Roswell Historic Preservation Commission, is writing a book on overlooked and forgotten grave sites in Roswell. He said there were reports of construction crews finding bones in the area in the early 1980s.

Hitt and Abreu met with the homeowners, Chris and Janell Lyles, of Roswell and the contractor, Don Kirkman, at the site Friday. He warned them to stop work on the home or face possible state misdemeanor charges, including a $1,000 fine per grave disturbed.

"Nobody told us anything about this," said Janell Lyles. "We didn't know. The Realtor didn't tell us. The city issued us a buiding permit."

She said several lots in the area have recently been sold.

Copyright 1994, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, All rights reserved.

By Diane R. Stepp STAFF WRITER, Leg bone unearthed at forgotten grave site: Work postponed at Roswell project., 07-23-1994, pp C/12.