Human remains found on John Dickinson Plantation, believed to be from formerly enslaved people

DOVER, Del. – Historians are one step closer to uncovering the full truth about the history of the John Dickinson plantation. Archaeologists discovered a burial ground on the property. Investigators used radar technology to look into the ground for anything buried underneath, and found human remains believed to be from formerly enslaved people. “We’ve always known, based on some of the primary source documents, that there was a graveyard on the property. We just did not know where,” said Site Supervisor Gloria Henry.

Henry says part of the reason they were able to find the remains is because of ongoing work on the property. “We are in the process of creating pathways down to the original landing and also eventually to connect with the St. Jones Reserve next door. That led to more archeological fieldwork,” said Henry.

Once they detected things underground, they dug trenches and found human remains. Henry tells 47ABC that finding these remains was a challenge because of a lack of written history.  “There’s not a lot of primary documentation on the graveyard that was here on the Dickinson plantation,” said Henry.

Henry says now that they’ve found the remains, researchers can now begin to tell the full story of the plantation. “That is our goal. That is what we want to do, and we will promise that we will never let the people who were buried here be forgotten again,” said Henry. “There were other enslaved individuals, indentured servants, tenant farmers, tradesman, craftsman and free black people living and working on this plantation. So we do want to share all their stories.”

But the work doesn’t stop here. Henry says the next steps will be going through records to try and identify who these individuals were. She also says they’re hoping the community will share their stories to help fill in any gaps. “We’re going to have to go through the mansion documents, and a lot of the documents only have first names,” said Henry.

If you’d like to contribute and share your family’s story, you can contact Henry at Gloria.Henry@Delaware.gov.

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