LEIGHTON — Cadaver dogs have helped locate several graves outside the boundaries of the LaGrange Cemetery, as well as the grave of Henry Pitman Looney, a Confederate soldier buried in the historic cemetery.
Corey Speegle, of White Oak Canine Search and Rescue Unit, and several others swept the cemetery and its perimeter last weekend and made several discoveries, but there is more work to be done.
Members of the LaGrange Living History Association asked Speegle to help them determine if there were graves outside the cemetery that could contain slaves, Civil War soldiers or Native Americans.
Association President L.C. Lenz said there could be other reasons someone could be buried around the old cemetery, including murder. Decades ago, he said, a loved one might be buried on the family's property.
Louise Lenz, the association's treasurer, said they knew Looney was buried in the cemetery, but they did not know exactly where. A search inside the cemetery by Raven, Speegle's certified human remains detection German shepherd, found the exact location of his grave.
As they began digging, they found the footing of Looney's headstone, she said. They took the markers and moved them to the correct location.
Speegle said the headstone was located about 50 feet from the actual grave site.
"When we got the area ready for moving the grave markers, we had to dig down, and when we did we found the base to the headstone that had been buried in the dirt over the years," he said.
L.C. Lenz said the group marked about 50 spots where there could be unmarked graves.
"Anywhere there was a sunken area, we flagged it," Speegle said.
He is pretty sure some of the depressed areas will be graves. The dogs hit on some of the spots, including one where Raven picked up a scent from a tree.
"It's amazing to watch them," L.C. Lenz said of the cadaver dog.
Speegle said the tree likely grew up through a grave. He said the tree absorbed some of the chemicals produced by the decomposing body, which allowed the dog to pick up the scent.
Speegle said he would be cleaning up around the flagged areas to do further examination.
Noted forensic archaeologist Paul Martin, of Memphis, Tennessee, is expected to utilize ground penetrating radar equipment to determine if the depressions are indeed graves.
L.C. Lenz hopes Martin's equipment can locate the corners and foundations of the original LaGrange College buildings.
"I'm excited about it," he said of the project.