By Ashley Wislock
The Daily Item
MILTON — The final resting places of a number of African-American residents will be marked, thanks to a committee of Miltonians dedicated to honoring those who came before them.
“These were contributing members to the welfare of the Milton community,” said Carriann Shultz, chairwoman of the African American Memorial Committee. “There is no recognition of them, and since we now know that these graves are there, we should really honor them.”
Research by Catherine Hastings, an associate professor of communications at Susquehanna University, Selinsgrove, identified a number of African-American residents of Milton whose graves were unmarked, Shultz said.
“There were obituaries for people but no plot, no headstone and no indication of where they were,” she said.
Further research brought to light the fact that a plot was purchased during the Civil War-era in the borough-owned Milton Cemetery, on Golf Course Road, to allow African-American residents of the community to bury their dead, said Milton Mayor Ed Nelson, who also is a member of the memorial committee.
“This plot was used for several burial sites that were unmarked and unnamed,” he said.
Cemetery records were lost during the Milton fire of 1880, and many funeral home records were destroyed during the flood in 1936, according to information provided by the committee.
However, new technology allows researchers to confirm the existence of the burial plots. Ground-penetrating radar can be used to detect “physical and chemical changes in the ground related to the presence or absence of buried materials of interest can be measured and mapped,” according to the University of Denver website, which uses GPR in its Department of Anthropology.
Using GPR, students at Susquehanna were able to locate the graves of 17 people along with two headstones, both belonging to African-American men.
After hearing Hastings present her research, Shultz and others in the community decided something had to be done to mark the resting places of those buried in the plot.
“It just seemed like the right thing to do if you knew about it,” she said.
The committee is trying to raise $5,000 to construct a limestone and marble monument to mark the graves, Shultz said. The committee already has the stone and is looking for someone to construct the monument, she said.
“We won’t move ahead until we have the funds,” she said.
The committee hopes to have the project completed by the annual Harvest Festival in September, Shultz said.
Donations for the African-American Cemetery Memorial are tax-deductible and can be sent to: AACMP, c/o Milton Borough Office, 2 Filbert St., Milton, PA 17847.