POSTED: Sunday, May 27, 2012 - 5:00pm
UPDATED: Sunday, May 27, 2012 - 5:04pm
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — Construction at a portion of Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, California has stopped after crews unearthed pine boxes filled with the bodies of people whose families couldn't afford their proper burials.
Santa Clara County counsel Michael Rossi said Tuesday that the pine caskets date back to between 1875 and 1935, and were discovered in February when construction crews were doing seismic work.
He said the county had no idea there was a cemetery on the property.
"It’s a potter’s field or a pauper’s graveyard. Between 1875 and 1935 at Valley Medical Center, people who died indigent, whose families couldn’t be found were buried at this site," Rossi said.
There are as many as 1,445 bodies on the site.
The county filed a petition with the court to get permission to remove at least 100 of the pine coffins to make room for construction.
The county is looking into hiring an archaeologist who specializes in this type of find, Rossi said.
If anything identifiable is found the county will publish the information in the newspaper to give family time to claim the remains.
After that the county will ask the court's permission to dispose of the bodies in accordance with the law.
In a county map from 1932 the cemetery is marked, but by 1958 there was no indication it existed.
By 1966 there was an employee parking lot on top of the cemetery.