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Published: Monday, 4/18/2005

Records say orphanage was home to cemetery


A search will resume today at the former Miami Children's Home for evidence of a cemetery after Maumee police found records that state one existed at the one-time orphanage.

Police turned up the documents at Bowling Green State University on Friday, the same day forensic anthropologists concluded that bones uncovered Thursday at a construction site are probably the 100-year-old remains of an African-American adult female.

Wanting to learn more about the history of the property at 2500 River Rd., police contacted Lucas County Children Services for records. They were sent to the archival collections at BGSU.

Maumee police Detective Nick Foels said he and a pair of detectives examined orphanage records that date back more than a century. "After we got this information, we have enough backing that there is a pretty good indication there is a cemetery at the Miami Children's Home," Detective Foels said.

Well-preserved records list the names of children, when they were admitted, and if and when they were adopted, and identify the instances when children died there, he said.

A few children were listed as buried in Maumee Cemetery, along with entries in 1892 and 1893 that state children were buried in Maumee Cemetery Potters Field. But no such cemeteries with those names existed, he said.

"There also are numerous entries where children died that made no reference to where the burials were," he said.

With medical care still rather primitive, child deaths were more common in those days, the detective said.

While they were researching, an archival worker told police of a book cataloging Ohio cemeteries compiled in 2003 by the Ohio Genealogical Society.

Besides references to Riverside and St. Joseph cemeteries in Maumee, they found in that book an entry that reads an "unnamed cemetery on the grounds of the former Miami Children's Home."

"We believe there is or was a cemetery there at one point," Detective Foels said. "We don't have any idea how big it was."

Dr. James Patrick, Lucas County coroner, said an electromagnetic device will be used this week to determine whether a cemetery exists. The method identifies where the ground was disturbed decades ago to accommodate burials.

The orphanage first was opened as the Protestant Orphan's Home by a group of Toledo philanthropists in 1867. It was renamed the Lucas County Children's Home when the county took ownership in 1890.

The remains discovered last week were unearthed when digging was begun for the first home foundation. CSB Investors recently demolished former orphanage buildings to prepare the site for the residential development called Riverside Commons.

Contact Jack Baessler at: jbaessler@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.

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