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New Technology Detects Unmarked Graves In Gallatin

Posted at 6:54 PM, Jun 05, 2018

New technology is being used to uncover hidden history at Gallatin City Cemetery.

Matthew Turner has spent hour walking back and forth across four acres of the historic Gallatin City Cemetery. As he walks, he pushes a device that looks like a lawnmower, but is actually a ground penetrating radar which can track marked and unmarked graves.

The machine sends a non-invasive radar into the ground. If a grave or casket is detected, an image is created on a computer screen. Turner then marks the site on the ground with orange paint. So far, he has found over 100 unmarked graves in the Gallatin cemetery.

“It’s important because if they are going to dig another grave, they don’t want to hit another grave,” said Turner, Vice President of GeoModel, Inc.

Turner focused his work in the oldest part of the cemetery where graves date back to the 1800’s and it’s believed slaves were buried in unmarked graves. Turner said in older cemeteries, unmarked graves are common, and misplaced or deteriorating headstones may make graves unclear. The information will help the city of Gallatin produce an updated map of the cemetery.

“We don’t know who is back there,” said Jeff Hentschel, Director of Communications for the city of Gallatin. “This is part of unlocking the mystery of who is buried in the back of our cemetery.”

Hentschel said in addition to slaves, veterans, some of the founders of the city of Gallatin, and a former governor are all buried in the cemetery. Tucked away off West Main Street, Hentschel said many residents may not even realize the cemetery is there, but it tells an important part of the city’s history.

“There are so many untold stories here,” said Hentschel. “We are figuring that out as we go along.”

A $15,000 grant from the Volunteer State Bank is covering the cost of the project.

Hentschel said this is the first of many things planned for the City Cemetery. The city also hoped to find ways to make the cemetery a visitor destination by better maintaining the grounds, renovating the tombstones, and restoring the monuments.

Turner said he travels to cemeteries across the country to use the ground penetrating radar. Most recently he stopped in Washington, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

For more information on the technology Turner used visit: https://geomodel.com/