Dubuque's Forgotten Cemetery: 939 Graves Discovered

Mar 11, 2015

In July of 2007 construction was beginning for a new housing development in Dubuque. That's when someone found human remains.  

At first we found a couple of burials during tree removal. We kept digging. We just kept finding more and more. And I just thought, 'wow.' - Robin Lillie

  A man walking his dog near the construction site found the remains and contacted the police who called in experts from Iowa's Office of the State Archaeologist Burials Program.

"At first we found a couple of burials during tree removal. We kept digging. We just kept finding more and more. And I just thought, 'wow, there are a lot more here than I thought,'" explains archaeologist Robin Lillie. 

Lillie says that over the next five years they uncovered 939 forgotten graves. On this edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks with Lillie and Jennifer Mack about the excavation, what happened to the bodies they found and their new book, "Dubuque's Forgotten Cemetery: Excavating a 19th Century Burial Ground in a 21st Century City."