A new city board will tackle the task of getting some 225 human remains from First Street Cemetery back in the ground.
Waco City Council on Tuesday appointed a First Street Cemetery Memorial Advisory Committee to make recommendations on reinterring and memorializing the remains discovered six years ago during a construction project behind the Texas Ranger Museum.
The 14-member committee will recommend to the council how to properly rebury the remains, now stored in boxes at the museum. City officials expect the burials will be at Rosemound Cemetery to avoid disturbing other unmarked graves at First Street Cemetery.
The group will hold a public meeting before advising on planning a memorial service and plaques and memorials at the historic cemetery, which dates to the 1850s.
The cemetery supposedly was relocated in the 1960s to make room for the museum and an RV park, but the construction of a waterline to the Texas Ranger Co. F building in 2007 revealed that only the headstones had been moved, not the bodies.
Under an agreement with the Texas Historical Commission and National Park Service, the city has rededicated the site as a cemetery and is removing roads and internal fences.
Mayor Malcolm Duncan Jr. said a proper burial should provide closure to the long saga of the unmarked graves. The city paid archaeologists more than $2 million to exhume and study the remains under a license with the Texas Historical Commission.
“I think we’re through finding things,” Duncan said. “We’ve got everything boxed up and kept safe. It’s time to inter the remains and do it in a sensitive manner.”
The new board reflects the racial diversity of the cemetery, which was the resting place of white, black and Hispanic Wacoans.
Several members, such as Robert Gamboa, Lydia Abbott and the Rev. Nika Davis, grew up around the cemetery and have personal memories of it. The board includes Glenn Littles and Andrea McDowell, who own funeral homes that once buried people in the cemetery.
Others include Susan Duncan, wife of the mayor and head of the Oakwood Cemetery board; John Wilson, head of Baylor University’s Texas Collection; and Norma Cannata, president of the Central Texas Genealogical Society.
Assistant City Attorney Annette Jones said archaeologists from Atkins North America are finishing a massive report on the graves and will be assisting the new board.
She said the board may meet before the end of the year but will do most of its work in 2014.