New Jersey historians find lost graves believed to be 1918 flu victims

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SOUTH RIVER -

A group of Middlesex County historians may have just uncovered a bit of the state’s lost history.

In South River’s Washington Monumental Cemetery there is an open field with no grave markers. For decades historians had heard stories passed down through families of this being the place where victims of the 1918 flu epidemic were buried.

But the historians weren’t sure if these were just stories or if they were held in fact.

Then in October the Middlesex County and South River Historical societies conducted a ground-penetrating radar survey of the plot.

“The results were rather stunning,” says historian Mark Nonestied.

They discovered 400 tightly-packed, unmarked graves in the open field.

“We think they were either individuals who didn't have the financial means to mark the graves. They may have been buried in a hasty fashion,” Nonestied says.

Nonestied says that it was a deadly and chaotic time period for the state and the country.

“There are notes of carpenters in South River making coffins 24 hours a day. It had quite a devastating impact. The discovery is just the beginning of the effort to find out more about who is buried here,”says Nonestied.

Anyone who believes that they may have ancestors buried in the plot, or anyone who may have any other useful information for researchers, should contact the Middlesex County Office of Arts and History

 

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