Construction at a portion of Santa Clara Valley Medical Center has stopped in San Jose because crews have unearthed pine boxes filled with the bodies of people, whose families couldn't afford their proper burials, NBC Bay Area has learned.
Santa Clara County counsel Michael Rossi said Tuesday that the pine boxes date back to between 1875 and 1935, and were discovered in February when construction crews were doing seismic work.
He said the county had no idea there was a cemetery on the property.
"It’s a potter’s field or a pauper’s graveyard. Between 1875 and 1935 at Valley Medical Center, people who died indigent, whose families couldn’t be found were buried at this site," Rossi said.
There are as many as 1,445 bodies on the site. The county filed a petition with the court to get permission to remove at least 100 of the pine coffins to make room for construction.
The county is looking into hiring an archaeologist who specializes in this type of find, Rossi said.
If anything identifiable is found, Rossi said they would publish the information in the newspaper to give family time to claim the remains.
After that, the county will ask the court's permission to dispose of the bodies in accordance with the law, which often means cremation.
In a county map from 1932, the cemetery is marked, but by 1958 there was no indication it existed. By 1966, there was an employee parking lot on top of the cemetery.