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BSU students work to locate remains at Old Pen

Posted at 10:33 PM, Mar 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-04 14:28:15-05

Boise State University Geophysics Club members are using their skills to help out the old Idaho Penitentiary. Saturday, they gathered information to find out how many unmarked graves could be at the cemetery. Several gravestones are marked as unknown.

"When they did bury a lot of these men, they did it with wooden markers, which, you know, over time were deteriorated," said Anthony Parry, Idaho State Historical Society.

Boise State and the Idaho Historical Society are working to find out how many people are buried there and where they are.

"I was very curious about who was buried out here and their stories and, you know, why--why were they left out here. And some of these men, they were in for crimes that were so heinous that their family members--they didn't want anything. They didn't want them to be buried elsewhere, but others--they were under aliases, they didn't have families."

Parry says there are at least 55 confirmed graves there, but there could be up to 66.

BSU Geophysics Club students are using special equipment to find out.

"Ground penetrating radar. It essentially pushes a frequency into the ground and then anything that reflects backwards, anything that's out of the ordinary from the soil around it, including a casket--you know, a pine box--that will pop up as a little blip."

Parry says the students also are using a tool that's like a high tech metal detector to find any changes in the magnetic field.

"This is one of these mysterious aspects of our history that didn't have a lot of scholarship behind it and we have had family members who have reached out to us that know that they're relatives are buried here. So they wanted to know more information about it as well.

Parry says it could take several weeks to get any results back from Boise State.

He also says they are working to collect donations, so they can make a placard with the names of the individuals.