Archaeological crew continuing district's research into history of UAHS site
As construction crews continue work on the new Upper Arlington High School, an archaeological crew will help the school district continue its research into the history of the school site.
Beginning the week of July 19, 2020, the crew will pull back the asphalt and top layers of soil in an area of the parking lot adjacent to the existing building in order to learn more about a cemetery that once served as a final resting place for the family and friends of Pleasant Litchford.
Mr. Litchford was a master blacksmith who had been enslaved in Virginia. After buying his own freedom and settling in the area that is now Upper Arlington, he built a successful business and purchased the land that is now home to the high school as well as Northam Park and Tremont Elementary School. Among his many contributions to the area were establishing a school for African American children and being a founding member of the historic Second Baptist Church, which provided an important voice in the anti-slavery movement.
When the current high school was developed in the 1950s, about 30 bodies were exhumed from the Litchford Cemetery and moved to other cemeteries. The district’s goal is to identify if any graves still remain and if any artifacts from this important time in our history can be found.
Next week’s work should help determine the extent to which the ground has been disturbed over the years, allowing the team to look for and document any grave-like soil anomalies. If soil anomalies are found, they will be recorded for the next stage of the project, which could include feature excavation, exhumation, and relocation.
“This is an important learning opportunity for our entire community,” said Superintendent Paul Imhoff, Ed.D. “It will also offer us an opportunity to create a memorial recognizing the importance of the site and the contributions made by Mr. Litchford and his contemporaries.”
Work is expected to last most of the week, with an update on initial findings available at www.uaschools.org soon. More information on the Litchford family is available in the book Secrets Under the Parking Lot by Diane Kelly Runyon and Kim Shoemaker Starr, the Upper Arlington Historical Society website and the Columbus Neighborhoods website.