Remains found during Heuvelton water project to be reinterred Sept. 19

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Sep. 11—HEUVELTON — The remains of five people found during a water project in the village of Heuvelton in 2019 will be reinterred at Hillcrest Cemetery in a ceremony Sept. 19.

The remains were found during a $5.5 million project to replace the village's water main in October 2019. Heuvelton Mayor Barbara Lashua said that when crews were digging for new piping to the water tower the remains were discovered and the project was temporarily shut down. The project has since been completed.

The discovery of the buried remains was a shock, especially since the project completed a required archeological survey that gave the village the all-clear to progress with digging.

"We did the survey and it showed that the property was clear. In the process of the project they unearthed these five individuals," Mrs. Lashua said.

The property had been the location of Heuvelton Cemetery which had later moved to Hillcrest Cemetery, according to Mrs. Lashua. It's her understanding that when the cemetery moved, families were given the option to move their loved one's remains or keep them there.

The mayor said that the identities of the remains are not known. It's also unclear when they were buried.

The reason it has taken so long to reinter them is due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mrs. Lashua said originally, the remains were taken to Frary Funeral Home, Ogdensburg, which received permission from the state to send them to Mindy Pitre, an associate professor in the anthropology department at St. Lawrence University, Canton, to perform an anthropological survey.

However, Ms. Pitre, a Canadian, was unable to cross the U.S.-Canada border during the pandemic and it delayed the survey. The results of the survey are expected to be discussed at the ceremony on Sept. 19, according to Mrs. Lashua.

"So once we were OK to cross over the Canadian border again then she continued. And as part of that process I believe she will be giving us some detailed information on these individuals. Of course, we will never know their names but she will be able to tell us, I am assuming, approximate ages and maybe any indication what they died from," Mrs. Lashua said.

The reinterment ceremony will take place at 1 p.m. at Hillcrest Cemetery, 18 Wilson St., Heuvelton. A reception will follow at Pickens Hall. Attending the ceremony will be Mrs. Lashua; the Rev. Kevin J. O'Brien, pastor of St. Raphael's Church; the Rev. Robert Schirmer, pastor of Heuvelton First Presbyterian Church; and others associated with the village's water project.