A century-old tree in New Haven was uprooted Monday afternoon by Sandy’s winds, exposing skeletal remains of unknown origin, as reported by the New Haven Independent.
The woman, Katie Carbo, made the discovery around 3:15 p.m. near the corner of College and Chapel streets. Visible among the roots of the tree is the back of skull, upside down, with its mouth open (pictured). It is still connected to a spine and rib cage.
New Haven police spokesman David Hartman filled in a few details on the macabre discovery — and provided a bit of a history lesson as well:
“Hurricane Sandy has uprooted a famous New Haven tree on the upper town green. The tree was planted by Admiral Andrew Hull Foote’s Grand Army of the Republic post (the Union of the Republic). Foote, who was born in New Haven, was President Abraham Lincoln’s favorite Civil War admiral. He died in a naval battle and is buried in the city’s Grove St. cemetery.
Dutch Elm disease killed all of the majestic Elms planted by James Hillhouse in the 1820s. In honor of the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birthday in 1909, the Oak tree was planted.”
Hartman said the skeleton is likely that of a “victim of Yellow Fever or Smallpox who may have been buried between 1799-1821 when the headstones were removed to the Grove Street cemetery. The bodies were never relocated.”
Hartman said detectives from the department’s Bureau of Identification and the State Medical Examiner’s office responded to the scene and collected the remains. The town green is the burial ground of possibly 5,000 to 10,000 people, according to local historian Robert S. Greenberg, Hartman said.
New Haven police have not launched a criminal investigation. The remains are being taken to the Medical Examiner’s office.