Cemetery notes and/or description: The following paragraphs describe the current circumstances regarding the Confederate cemetery in Socorro, New Mexico.
State officials have known about the abandoned cemetery since at least 1995, said Glenna Dean, a former state archaeologist who is now associate director of the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area.
Dean said the cemetery, whose exact boundaries are unknown, was likely in use from 1853 to 1875, and was probably a former Presbyterian cemetery.
Civil War buffs have kept an eye on the lot for years and have notified state officials anytime a suspected grave is disturbed — such as in the 1970s when headstones and statuary disappeared from the cemetery, and in the summer of 1995 when rock-pile grave markers and the remains of a wrought-iron fence were bulldozed.
October 22, 2008 - City workers made a startling discovery in Socorro Tuesday when they dug up a human skull and pieces of a casket -- reopening a fight over what may be a Civil War cemetery.
The February 1862 Battle of Valverde brought wounded Confederate soldiers to Socorro, and some historians believe those who later died were buried under what are now a paved street and the backyard of a local family.
The most recent discovery came when two city workers digging for a gas line uncovered more than pipe. "This is the shoulder blade; right underneath about another six inches is where the rest of it is," Dr. Heather Edgar, an anthropologist, said as she inspected the site Wednesday.
Edgar said in the hole dug only a few feet into the ground revealed a human skull, shoulder bones, leg bones and the handle to a coffin. Edgar said she believes the bones date to the 1800s but for now declined to speculate beyond that. "I don't know if it's male or female," she told KRQE News 13. "I don't know anything about the person yet."
This isn't the first time an unmarked grave was unearthed on the street. Across the street from Tuesday's discovery sits a pile of rocks in a vacant lot where another set of remains was found several years ago.
Charles Mandeville, a member of the Sons of the Confederate Soldiers, said he believes the abandoned cemetery, with the remains of 27 Confederate soldiers, lies beneath the vacant lot. "In this, behind us, was found the Knight's of Pythias button, which was the organization that Lincoln founded to watch over the graves of Union soldiers," Mandeville said. There are no placards and no records so the only way to find out what is there is to dig, he said. "We're trying to gain access to the property ultimately to determine who might be here," Mandeville said.
However, the owners of the main portion of the property have already told Mandeville he cannot dig on their property.
The City of Socorro told News 13 it needs more proof that Confederate soldiers were buried there before Mandeville can get his way. "I'd probably want to find some badges that say Confederate soldier on them," Edgar said, "I haven't found anything like that."
The bones and artifacts recovered in Socorro are being turned over to the University of New Mexico Maxwell Museum of Anthropology.
In 2004, when the city graded Peralta Drive — the street fronting the property containing the Confederate cemetery — at least four suspected grave sites were unearthed. Despite the discovery, the graves were paved over.