With construction to widen Roop Street from Beverly Drive to Winnie Lane underway, the ghosts of some long-forgotten Carson City residents could come back to haunt the project.
Nearly four years ago, a crew digging a utility trench across Roop Street from the Lone Mountain Cemetery unearthed the human remains from what appears to have once been Carson City's Chinese cemetery.
City records showed no burials there, but an 1875 bird's eye lithograph penned by an Augustus Koch shows a vast cemetery right in the path of modern-day Roop Street - the Chinese cemetery.
State Archivist Guy Rocha said old records and obituaries indicate the graveyard may have been used from the 1860s to the late 1930s, and possibly even the early 1940s.
Carson City once had the largest Chinatown in the state, and Rocha said the graveyard also likely became the resting place for some Japanese, Indian and black residents as well.
Since many Chinese preferred to have their remains sent back to China if they had the money, the cemetery was often used for the indigent. Rocha said there may be more than 100 unmarked graves there.
The archivist couldn't say how a cemetery used so recently could have faded so fast from the public consciousness, but longtime Carson City resident Jim Thorpe, who remembers the place, had an idea: It didn't even look like a graveyard anymore by the middle of the 20th Century.
"It didn't look like nothing but overgrown sagebrush," he said.
The utility trench project in 2000 reminded Carson City that it indeed was a final resting place. The six bodies recovered then came from a simple ditch, all of two feet wide.
Old maps indicate there are bodies likely under the buildings across from the Lone Mountain Cemetery, Rocha said, but their foundations didn't require digging deep enough to find them.
The widening of Roop Street won't require much digging either, but a pipeline for reclaimed water the city is laying will.
All construction on Roop Street is planned for the road's west side, the opposite side of where the six bodies were recovered in 2004. But according to Koch's drawings, what appears to be the current Roop Street ended at the cemetery and turned into a walking path that bissected it, with grave markers on either side.
"Everything seems to suggest the cemetery extended in that area. It's possible if there is excavation, they could unearth remains," Rocha said. "The city needs to be prepared for that."
Carson City Development Services Director Andy Burnham said city construction contracts call for the excavation and reburial of any unearthed remains.
The six people dug up on Oct. 6, 2000, were sent to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas for research.
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