Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Kenner and Kugler Cemetery
Historic Name: Kenner and Kugler Cemeteries Archaeological Dist.
Other Names: 16SC50 and 16SC51
Parish: St. Charles
Status: National Register
Date Placed on National Register: 10/16/1987
Level of Significance: National
Area of Significance: Archaeology, Ethnic Heritage, Religion, Social History
Property Type: Archaeological Site; Cemetery
Architectural Style: No Style
Theme: Archaeology, African-American Heritage
Pictures - None (see pdf file for above photo)
Maps - None (see spillway Bonnet Carre)
The archeological district consists of two discontiguous, but historically associated, historic
cemeteries. The cemeteries, named Kenner and Kugler, are Black burial plots which appear to date from the early 1800's to 1929. The sites are located on former adjoining nineteenth and early twentieth century sugar plantations in St. Charles Parish. According to oral histories, both
cemeteries were dedicated burial plots on the back side of their respective plantations. The Kenner Cemetery, located on the former Roseland Plantation, was reported to be marked by iron and wooden crosses during its period of use. No such markers were confirmed archeologically, but one granite headstone was recovered from the site. The Kugler Cemetery, located on the former Hermitage Plantation, was reported to contain iron crosses and a metal fence. One such iron cross and remnants of what could have been the fence were recovered during the 1986 archeological investigations. At present the sites are indistinguishable from the surrounding landscape. This is due to the extensive landscape modification that has taken place since construction of the spillway. The site areas have been subjected to scour and sediment deposition during several spillway openings and extensive sand dredging after such openings. Both sites were partially damaged during trench excavations in 1975. However, the 1986 archeological research revealed that both retain a high degree of archeological integrity.
The information related to the period of use of the cemeteries is largely limited to the oral
histories collected from elderly residents of the area and the archeological interpretations. The only confirmed date of interment is for Sanders Royal who was buried in Kenner Cemetery in April 1895.
This information was traced from the partial headstone recovered at Kenner Cemetery (National
Archives, not dated). The informants agree that both cemeteries were in use until the land was
acquired in 1929. Analysis of the morphology and construction of the coffins examined during the
1986 fieldwork indicates that the coffins date from 1830 to 1929.
The historical research indicates that Kenner and Kugler Cemeteries probably were
established during the antebellum period as slave cemeteries for Roseland and Hermitage
plantations. The limited fieldwork did not confirm this probability and the historic record is too
incomplete to conclusively assign this period of use. What can be said with certainty is that the
cemeteries were in use from 1895 to 1929. Equally certain is the cultural/ethnic association of the sites. Both are cemeteries of the rural black communities residing in the area.
Kenner Cemetery was initially discovered in 1975. After slipping into obscurity when use
was discontinued in 1929 and subsequent spillway openings masked its location, the site was
inadvertently damaged by excavation of a drainage ditch in early 1975. Several burials were
disturbed and human and coffin remains were later discovered along the banks of the ditch.
Archeological fieldwork coupled with historical literature research and oral history collection was
conducted in 1986 to investigate the nature of the remains. This research was part of the first phase of a cultural resources inventory of the Bonnet Carre' Spillway conducted by R. Christopher Goodwin and Associates, Inc., under contract to the New Orleans District, U. S. Army Corps of Engineers (Yakubik et al., 1986).
The 1986 archeological fieldwork included a variety of methodologies. These included
magnetometer survey, topographic survey, excavation of five 1m X 2m units, backhoe trenching,
and augering. The magnetic and topographic surveys were the first methods used and were
intended to define the extent of the site. The survey was followed by probing and shovel testing of anomalous features. Excavation of 1m X 2m test units followed to examine individual burials. It's important to note that all artifacts were left in situ and no coffins were opened. Next, backhoe trenches were excavated along the assumed perimeters of the site to confirm the horizontal extent of the site. Finally, a line of auger tests were placed through the site along an east-west axis to further investigate the stratigraphy. In total, only 1.1% of the total site area (33.6 of 3,106 square meters) was excavated during the 1986 fieldwork. Any cultural remains encountered in these limited excavations were left undisturbed.
The fieldwork determined a total site size of 3,106 square meters (0.77 acres) for the
Kenner Cemetery as shown on the site map (Attachment 2). Due to the surface disturbance which has taken place at the site, the depth of the site below present land surface is variable. Vertical extent is estimated at 1 to 2 meters based on burials examined at the site.
Extensive disturbance to the surface of the Kenner Cemetery has occurred since 1929
when the site was abandoned. The spillway has been opened seven times with resulting sediment deposition in the site area. Sand dredging to remove the sediments over the site area has been accomplished in several discrete episodes. Although this work has altered the cemetery's physical setting, it has not significantly affected the burials themselves. The disturbance which did damage a portion of the site and lead to its discovery occurred in 1975. Early in that year a shallow drainage ditch was excavated through the site area. Based on analysis of skeletal remains recovered later in the year, a minimum of five individual burials were disturbed. Although two spillway openings and sand dredging since 1975 have obscured the extent of the ditch through the site, its location is approximated by the 0.8 meter contour line shown on the site map (Attachment 2). Use of this contour line indicates that 29.1% of the total site area (903 of 3,106 square meters) was affected by excavation of this ditch. However, it can not be concluded that the disturbance was total since 6 of the 11 intact burials identified at the Kenner Cemetery are located in the portion of the site which was impacted in 1975.
The archeological investigation of the Kenner Cemetery identified 11 intact burials. An
estimate of 108 to 156 individual graves was generated based on density figures from similar sites and a minimum size estimate for the site utilizing the distances between documented graves. The similar sites utilized in the estimate were the nearby Montz Cemetery with its density of one burial per 6.92 square meters (Franks et al, 1986) and the Cedar Grove Cemetery with a density of one burial per 10 square meters (Rose, 1985). This estimate is considered conservative since only documented graves were utilized to estimate the number of burials.
The Kugler Cemetery was identified during the oral history research for the Kenner
Cemetery. Informants noted the existence of a second cemetery in the spillway and identified its
general location. After initial locational difficulties, exposed burials were identified in a cattle ditch.
The methodologies employed at this site were similar to those described for the Kenner Cemetery. One addition, however, was the inspection of six burials exposed in the cattle ditch. In total, only 1.6% of the total site area (53.4 of 3,300 square meters) was subject to excavation. Again, cultural remains were left in situ.
The fieldwork determined a total site size of 3,300 square meters (0.82 acres) for the Kugler
Cemetery as shown on the site map (Attachment 3). The vertical extent of the site is estimated at 2 to 3 meters below present ground surface based on the burials exposed in the cattle ditch.
Similar to the disturbance which has occurred to the Kenner site, the Kugler Cemetery has
been subject to extensive surface disturbance resulting from spillway openings and sand dredging.
Also similar to the Kenner site, Kugler Cemetery was damaged during excavation of a ditch in 1975. The purpose of the ditch was to control the movement of cattle which were present in the spillway in 1975. me area of disturbance can be identified as the continuance of the cattle ditch shown on either side of the site on Attachment 3. The topography was recorded after the cattle ditch had been filled in to protect the exposed burials. The portion of the total site area affected by this ditch is 7.8% (257 of 3,300 square meters). The remains of burials dislocated in 1975 were not recovered during the 1986 fieldwork. It is likely that they exist in the spoil bank of the ditch along the southern margin of the site.
The 1986 fieldwork identified 14 burials at the Kugler Cemetery. Using the same method
employed at the Kenner Cemetery, an estimate of 100 to 144 individual graves was derived. Again, this estimate is considered conservative.
The artifacts recorded from these sites include the 1975 disturbed remains from the Kenner
Cemetery and those examined during the 1986 fieldwork at both sites. The artifacts included coffin furniture, coffins, grave markers, cultural remains, and human remains. Coffin furniture included 53 items in three classes of remains; handles, lid fasteners, and decorative elements. Of the 25 burials confirmed during the fieldwork, 12 could be placed in broad date ranges based on morphology, construction details and furniture. Grave markers found at the sites included one iron cross, a white marble tombstone, and a cast iron beveled marker. Since no coffins were opened, no clothing, jewelry or grave goods were recovered. A button was found near one of the disturbed burials at the Kugler site.
During the 1986 investigations, no human remains were recovered . However, remains from
the 1975 disturbance of Kenner Cemetery were examined to ascertain their condition. All the
remains are in an excellent state of preservation. Long bones are intact, as are cranial and
mandibular elements. Epiphyses are present at most diarthrodial joints. The collection displays a
number of pathological conditions, including a healed fracture, and osteoarthiritis of diarthrodial
Portions of both sites have suffered a loss of integrity as a result of direct impact. As noted
earlier, approximately 29.1% of the Kenner Cemetery and 7.8% of the Kugler Cemetery were
disturbed by dredging activities in 1975. However, even in portions of Kenner and Kugler
Cemeteries where direct impact has occurred, significant research potential remains. A number of relatively intact coffins were observed at both sites within the impacted zones, and human remains are expected to be in an excellent state of preservation.
Integrity of setting has been reduced as the result of spillway construction and operation.
However, integrity of location and workmanship has been maintained. Except for the portions of the sites affected in 1975 ditch construction, dredging activities have not disturbed the stratum
containing burials. Coffins and coffin hardware were observed to be in good to excellent states of
preservation. Burials retain their east-west orientation in discrete locations relative to adjacent
interments. Artifactual and human remains have retained their initial pattern of deposition and,
therefore, have the potential to provide information contained in the distribution of features and
artifacts. In summary, the major portions of both sites retain sufficient integrity of location, materials, and workmanship to allow the recovery of important information in the framework of an appropriate research design.
Data provided by oral informants and the limited documents available (National Archives,
nd) suggest that for purposes of mortuary and skeletal analysis, individuals interred in Kenner and Kugler Cemeteries represent members of a single population. However, if they do not represent the same population, they are strongly related to each other; historically, culturally and ethnically.
Significant dates N/A
Criterion A & D
State significance of property, and justify criteria, criteria consideration, and areas and periods of
significance noted above.
The district is significant under criteria A and D because the two cemeteries can yield
important information relative to events which have made a significant contribution to the broad
patterns of our history. Specifically, the cemeteries are associated with slavery, the Civil War,
emancipation, and reconstruction. The limited archeological and historical research conducted at the two sites has revealed the potential to yield important information about demography, variations in mortuary practices, morbidity, mortality, nutrition and quality of life of an antebellum and reconstruction-era rural Black population. The information recoverable from these remains is generally unavailable elsewhere. The cemetery district qualifies under criteria consideration D because of its association with historic events that illustrate broad patterns of history and because few known documentary sources have survived to provide information about the history of this group.
The Louisiana Comprehensive Archeological Plan (Smith et al., 1983) has defined historic
contexts for the state and three are relevant to the district. These are Antebellum Louisiana
(1803-1860), War and Aftermath (1860-1890), and Industrialization and Modernization (1890-1940).
Several of the themes and research goals identified in the Louisiana CAP can be addressed by
multi-disciplinary scientific investigation of the district. For the Antebellum period context, the
Louisiana CAP lists plantation archeology and ethnic enclaves as important themes. A specific
research goal pertinent to the district is "what was the nature of Louisiana slave life?" (Smith et al., 1983: 254). This is a broad research topic which can be addressed if the cemeteries began use as slave burial plots as hypothesized. The district is potentially eligible on a local and state level in this context. Although plantation sites in Louisiana have been subject to numerous archeological investigations, study of plantation cemeteries in the state are rare. Such studies offer the opportunity to provide important information on the quality of slave life, nutrition, morbidity and mortality for comparison with the documentary record and with data from other regions of the South.
The Louisiana CAP also lists plantation archeology and ethnic enclaves as important
themes for the next historic context, War and Aftermath. Specific research goals for this period
include "how is the change from slave to tenant reflected in the archeological record?" (Smith et al., 1983: 274). The Louisiana CAP also notes that because the Louisiana society and economy were destroyed by the Civil War, the archeological deposits of this period offer an ideal opportunity to study human adaptation (Smith et al., 1983: 296). The two cemeteries represent a population which resided continuously in the area from the Antebellum period to 1929 and, thus, can provide data to study this issue. The size and quality of the data set available in the district can be utilized to address many aspects of this turbulent period which are not available in other sources. These include the impact of emancipation on the diet, morbidity, mortality, mortuary practices, patterns of personal property, and economic status of the Black population of the area.
Finally, for the historic context entitled Industrialization and Modernization, the Louisiana
CAP identifies Ethnic enclaves again as a significant research theme. One of the research goals for this period which has already been partially addressed by research at the two cemetery sites is the collection of oral histories for comparison with archeological results. Specific questions are "how do our memories correlate to the archeological record?" and "what can be learned through this combined approach to historical reconstruction?" (Smith et al ., 1983: 287).
This archeological district offers a unique opportunity to address this research goal. Due to
the almost non-existent documentary record for this period of Black history, the importance of oral history research to maximize archeological interpretation can not be overemphasized. In this particular case, many descendants of the interred population still reside in the immediate area.
During the 1986 archeological investigations of the sites, the assistance of oral informants was
crucial to our understanding of the historic context of the sites. Therefore, the sites possess local
and state significance in this context. Because this type of research could have broad applicability to method and theory in historical archeology, the district may possess National level significance.
From the above discussion, the district obviously possesses local and state significance in
several historic contexts identified and described in the Louisiana CAP. No other cemetery sites of this period and ethnic association in Louisiana have previously been listed or determined eligible for listing in the National Register. In addition to these levels of eligibility, the district may also possess National level significance. The following excerpt from Yakubik et al., 1986 addresses this potential:
Kenner and Kugler cemeteries offer the researcher the unique opportunity to study a nineteenth
century Black population about which very little is known. The scientific importance of such a
resource to archeology and to bioanthropology has been summarized by Rose (1985, passim) for
the Cedar Grove Cemetery in Southwest Arkansas. Archeological research issues identified by
Rose (1985) include the daily domestic life of slaves in the antebellum period, patterns of personal property, mortuary customs and attendant belief systems, and changing patterns of economic status. These issues obtain for the Reconstruction Period, as well.
Rose (1985: 1) has referred to the "almost invisible" lives of historic American Blacks; the
presence, in situ, at Kenner and Kugler Cemeteries of a nearly autochthonous Black population with antebellum roots and almost a century of residence in the region, provides a unique opportunity to study unrecorded history, including patterns and processes of change. That opportunity is even more significant given the biases intrinsic to the written records of the antebellum and even of the Reconstruction period in the Deep South. The Kenner and Kugler Cemeteries provide an opportunity for both archeological problem solving and for simple discovery about an otherwise unrecorded or poorly documented history.
In addition, the Kenner and Kugler Cemeteries have the potential to contribute to
bioanthropological understanding about the demography, morbidity, mortality, nutrition, and quality of life of antebellum and Reconstruction-era Blacks. Rose (1985: 146-152 ), in his study of the Cedar Grove population, has shown the uneven and controversial nature of historic data on these subjects. The Cedar Grove data, at least, indicate that popularly held notions about the health and nutrition of Reconstruction-era Blacks may not have broad applicability. The Kenner and Kugler Cemeteries present bioanthropological resources that have the potential to provide important information on these subjects; they also may provide a comparative test of the representationality of the Cedar Grove baseline on morbidity and nutrition, extending the utility of that data base for scientific understanding of a poorly documented period in American history. Again, it should be reiterated that no documentary sources provide these data for rural Southern Blacks (Rose 1985).
Examination of census records during the course of investigations reported here demonstrated that records concerning Blacks in Louisiana during the Reconstruction period are incomplete and
inadequate (U. S. Census 1870, 1880). A minimum estimate of numbers of individuals interred in each of the cemeteries under discussion here is approximately 150. Data provided by oral informants and the limited documents available (i.e., Military Pension Application of Sanders Royal, National Archives) suggest that for purposes of mortuary and skeletal analysis, individuals interred in Kenner and Kugler Cemeteries represent members of a single population. However, if estimated sample size is correct, the populations could be analyzed separately and subsequently compared. If that comparison confirms that they are not statistically different, then the two populations could be combined. Therefore, research potential of these sites is greater than that of any sites of this category reported to date.
In summary, Kenner and Kugler cemeteries have the potential to yield significant data for
further investigations into the demography, health, nutrition, and mortuary practices of a single
population. These potential research subjects meet the criteria for eligibility outlined in the Secretary of the Interior's Guidelines. Furthermore, osteological, pathological, and genetic questions potentially could be addressed, especially considering the excellent bone preservation noted previously.
Kenner and Kugler Cemeteries exhibit the quality of significance as defined by Criteria A and D.
(Yakubik et al., 1986: 329-330) .
Major Bibliographical Reference
Nat'1. Archives Military and Pension Records of Sanders Ray, Company H, 10th
Not dated Regiment, U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery (Civil War). On file at USACE, New
Rose, Jerome C. Gone to a Better Land: A Biohistory of a Rural Black Cemetery in the Post
1985 Reconstruction-South. Research Series No. 25, Arkansas Archeological
Survey, Fayetteville, AR
Smith, Steven D. et al. Louisiana's Comprehensive Archeological Plan. Louisiana Division of
1983 Archeology, Baton Rouge, LA
Yakubik, Jill-Karen et al. Cultural Resources Inventory of the Bonnet Carre' Spill St. Charles
1986 Parish, Louisiana. Final Report on file at USACE, New Orleans District.
Corps to check status of watery graves
May 15, 2008
By Shonna Riggs
The decision to open the Bonnet Carré Spillway caused heated discussions over whether or not that opening was good for the environment and how it would hamper recreational activities at the site.
However, not too many people thought about how it would affect the remains buried beneath it.
"Yes, there are two graveyards located in the spillway," Chris Brantley, biologist and spillway operations manager, said. "The cemeteries contain the bodies of both free and enslaved African-Americans."
Now that the spillway is closed, one of those cemeteries, the Kugler Cemetery, could have been affected. Brantley says he and Dr. Edwin Lyons, an archaeologist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will be looking to see if the water that poured in from the river affected the gravesite.
"We know there might be some erosion and water damage to the Kugler Cemetery because it's located right in the middle of the spillway and there's a lot of erosion that takes place there," Brantley said. "The archaeologist will go in next week and determine whether or not there's excessive water damage there and then the water will be pumped out."
Brantley says the tombstones and caskets are under several feet of sediment.
"There are markers there letting people know there's a cemetery in the spillway," he said "We keep both sites maintained."
Brantley says descendants in the area often come by to visit the cemeteries.
"We are in the process of updating a master plan and working with the descendants of these families," he said. "We're considering putting in a memorial to develop more of the cultural aspect to let people know just what took place in this part of the river."
The location of the gravesites was a mystery until the 1970's when the corps was attempting to excavate a ditch in the spillway. During that process, a tombstone and casket were discovered. In 1986, the corps ordered a historical study of the spillway and discovered a second cemetery.
"During the study, through oral history from people living in the surrounding area, we were told that the Kugler Cemetery wasn't the only one located in the spillway," Lyons said. "The second cemetery was later discovered and identified as the Kenner Cemetery."
According to the Louisiana Historical Preservation Society, there are 14 graves located in the Kugler Cemetery and 144 in the Kenner Cemetery. The artifacts discovered during the 1986 study included coffin furniture, coffins, grave markers, cultural remains and human remains.
"With the guidance that we have nowadays, if we were to ever do another project that required the use of that area in the spillway, we would work with the descendants a little more in having the remains relocated," Brantley said. "But the decision of the families at the time was to leave the remains in place."
See also Bonnet Carre Spillway - The History of the Plantations...