The human remains found last week at a Sanford construction site belonged to a child who was buried in the city’s first municipal cemetery.

The bones and remains of a Victorian-era coffin were found May 4 by construction workers digging a water line to Main Street from the property where the Emerson School stood before it was demolished last month. That area had been converted from a cemetery to a school playground in the 1930s.

The remains were found in a collapsed coffin in the northeast corner of the former Woodlawn Cemetery. The coffin appeared to have had a single-pane glass window, which was not unusual in the Victorian Era, according to the Sanford-Springvale Historical Society.

The remains and artifacts were examined Thursday, according to an update posted on Facebook by the Sanford-Springvale Historical Society, which helped recover the remains and artifacts last week.

“The examination today went very well and we can officially state that the remains are those of a child,” the update said. “This information helps us narrow our search for the identity of this person.”

The historical society is now looking for an accredited institution to attempt a DNA test on the remains.

“While this is occurring, one of the world’s foremost experts in antique wood identification has agreed to attempt to identify the coffin’s wood,” the update said.

The wood is in poor condition, but there is enough to send a sample for testing. Many metallic items were also found in the grave and those will be tested to identify what type of metal was used.

If the historical society can identify the remains and find a descendant, it will be up to that person to decide what type of service should be held before the remains are re-interred, according to the historical society.

The land where a Cumberland Farms store is now under construction was purchased prior to 1889 by Thomas Goodall, who owned the Goodall Mansion across the street and who had founded the Goodall Mills in the 1860s. The Woodlawn Cemetery is shown on a map of Sanford from 1889, according to Harland Eastman, president of the historical society.

The town began moving graves out of the cemetery around 1900 to make space for the Emerson School, which was built in 1901 and opened to students in 1902. Some of the graves remained in a side lot next to the school for years and were moved in the decades following the school’s construction.

City records show 77 bodies were exhumed and re-interred at Oakdale Cemetery by 1933 when Emerson School purchased the lot to build a playground.

The historical society shared a photo of the front page of the Sanford Tribune and Advocate from Sept. 17, 1931. The lead headline that day read, “Three-hundred Emerson School children cheer as Woodlawn Cemetery is converted into playground by town officials.”

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