IT IS WRITTEN that “a grave shall give up its dead,” but from the silent tombs on the hill of the old cemetery comes tales so gruesome that they almost cause the flesh to creep and reveal evidence of mysteries unexpected when it was decided to move all the bodies from the old grave yard on the hill in the northwest part of Muskogee and create there a city park. But they are true.
Yesterday the contractors, Messrs. Chapman & Johnson completed their work and made a statement to the city council. Their statement shows that there were remains of 318 bodies moved to Green Hill Cemetery.
There were 53 graves opened and refilled in which here were no bodies found. The expense to the city was $5 each for bodies moved and $1.50 each for all graves opened and refilled in which bodies were not found. The bill to the city as presented calls for $1,819.50.
It took ten days to complete the work. There were eighteen men working in the old cemetery taking up bodies and there were ten at Green Hill reinterring them. The remains were placed in pine boxes 10X10 and 42 inches long, government specifications. They were hauled to Green Hill on wagons, taking from 25 to 30 at a load. Carbolic acid and quick lime were used to disinfect all graves when they were opened and they were carefully refilled.
The old grave yard had been used for nearly half a century, the first body being interred there forty-two years past, and for this reason all the coffins and caskets had the bodies decomposed entirely save the skeletons.
There were two metallic coffins found in the old burying ground. One of these was that in which were buried the remains of Myron P. Roberts. He was a newspaper man and was buried 22 years ago. He started the Indian Journal, now the Phoenix, the first paper that was ever published in Indian Territory. The workmen removed the casing over the glass in the coffin and looked at the body. There was no evidence of decomposition, the beard and hair were still combed and the clothes were as they were the day the internment took place.
Unmistakable evidence was found in one grave that a woman had been buried alive. The skeletons was intact and was laying face down, and one arm and hand was laying across the back, showing that the woman was alive when buried and had turned over in the coffin in an effort to free herself. This grave was in the northwest part of the cemetery and was unmarked. There is not the slightest evidence to tell who she was.
In another grave was found the remains of an Indian who had been buried wrapped in his blanket. The blanket was red, and still showed the position of the body around which it was wrapped. The Indian was very large with his thigh bone measuring 22 inches in length.
In another grave was found a body that had been buried with a leather or canvas strap about its neck, fastened with a ring and padlock. There was no evidence to show whether this was an Indian or white man.
A remarkable feature found by the workmen was, that the false teeth of the persons buried there were in as good condition as when they were buried. Teeth with gold fillings were also found.
Mr. Chapman, who was one of the contractors on this work was formerly a government contractor and worked at Pea Ridge, Missouri, when 3,000 bodies of Confederate soldiers were moved from the battlefield ditches to the Confederate cemetery at Springfield, Missouri.
Muskogee Daily Phoenix — March 25, 1904
Muskogee's Regional Heritage Center
Assistance from the Muskogee Redevelopment Authority