While walking his dog this week, a Dubuque man found human bones — which investigators say may pre-date Iowa’s statehood. Fran Henkels, a Dubuque attorney, says he was stunned by the discovery on his evening stroll.
Henkels says, "There were two teeth on the jaw, a piece of jaw, probably about two inches long, a couple teeth on it and what looked like the cap of a skull." He says that area of Dubuque is known as Kelly’s Bluff and was reportedly an early Catholic cemetery in the mid-1800s.
Henkels says: "What surprised me more than anything is that anything is that they were just sitting there I didn’t have to dig for them, they were just sitting on top of the ground." Father Loras Otting is the archivist for the Archdiocese of Dubuque. He says settlers first arrived in Dubuque in 1833, while Kelly’s Bluff Cemetery opened in 1839. Otting says in 1867, the bodies buried on Kelly’s Bluff were moved to a cemetery in the town of Key West, just south of Dubuque. Otting says it appears some of those bodies were accidentally left behind.
Otting says, "Bishop Loras did not arrive until 1839 so you have a gap of six years so people were dying of whatever and they had to bury them some place." The long-ago cemetery site is now the site of new life, a housing development is under construction. The River Pointe Condominiums are expected to be the tallest condos in Dubuque.