The discovery of more than 600 sets of remains dating to 1839-1856 in what was formerly a Catholic cemetery in Dubuque, Iowa, has stopped construction of luxury condos on the site and ended in the developer, A. J. Spiegel, suing the nuns who sold him the property. Spiegel claims that he was led to believe the remains had all been removed by the owners of the property, an order of Sinsinawa Dominican nuns. The nuns’ attorney and the diocese say that the nuns sincerely believed that all the remains had been removed from the area of the old Third Street Cemetery, also known as Kelly’s Bluff Cemetery.
It is believed that the graves may have been lost due to deterioration or loss of the grave markers or from the graves never having been marked at all.
Spiegel is seeking compensation under the Iowa law requiring property owners to pay for the excavation of human remains and also wants payment for relocation of the remains and lost use of the site.
The Third Street Cemetery was the first Catholic cemetery in Dubuque. The state archaeologist’s office will do an excavation on the site and has put the project on hold for two years.