HERRIN, IL (KFVS) - Weather has delayed the continued search for the massacre miners at Herrin Cemetery.
Eastern Illinois Geology Geography Professor Steve Di Naso says, the dig on Friday, Sept. 20 has been postponed due to weather at the Herrin Cemetery. They will resume Monday weather pending.
Research teams from Eastern Illinois University and Southern Illinois University have gotten the opportunity to prove out years of research on the 16 Herrin massacre miners' graves at the Herrin City Cemetery.
On Friday, Sept. 13 shortly after 8 a.m., several members of the research teams began digging with shovels and a maddox to break up the soil.
But, they quickly turned to a backhoe for the heavy digging to get them down to where they believed the miners graves would be found.
Once they were at a depth of four feet they continued digging with shovels and a hand trowel to not disturb anything they might find.
The first two holes the teams dug came up empty. Then on their third and final dig of the day they finally found what they were looking for.
"We almost gave up, but then we dug down another six inches and that's when we uncovered a wooden vault," said Professor Steven Di Naso of Eastern Illinois University. "We knew if there had been previous interments they would be at a greater depth."
Once enough dirt have been removed from around the exposed wooden vault Professor Di Naso discovered that this was not your ordinary wood that would be around a coffin buried in the 1920's, which the miners were all buried in 1922.
"That's an empty vault. We do know that in 1922, five men were exhumed and their vaults would have been left in place," said Professor Di Naso.
Normal vaults from that time period would have been made from Pine, Fir or a softer wood. This one was made from Oak.
"It is made out of Oak, and we also found an 'at rest screw' that may be suggestive that a coffin lid was opened, " said Professor Di Naso.
"It's a much nicer vault then the one we uncovered a month and a half ago," said Scott Doody author of the Herrin Massacre. "It's not your typical paupers vault."
"We're not dealing with a cemetery that has a typical burial depth. We've got in some areas ten to twelve inches of fill dirt, and up to two feet in others," said Doody. "It really caused us some problems until later this after and Professor Di Naso and his team figured it out as to what was going on here."
Now researchers have a point of reference to begin broadening their search from the miners from the location of the wooden vault they found on Friday.
"It's a fairly moderate size area that these men could be in. And we will just work our way back to the area of where we found the wooden vault and see if there's some outlying extension to it," said Professor Di Naso.
The research teams plan on being back at the Herrin City Cemetery on September 20.
"We do want to thank the City of Herrin, for their support, the manpower and equipment they have provided to us today in this search," said Doody. "It's important that we all keep working together to solve this mystery of where these men are buried at here in the city's cemetery."