The Oak Hill Cemetery Potter’s Field Community Remembrance Project

Project Overview:

The Oak Hill Cemetery Potter’s Field Community Remembrance Project seeks to identify and memorialize all those buried within the Oak Hill Cemetery potter’s field. The potter’s field is the place where those who could not afford a burial, or were unknown, were buried in unmarked graves. The potter’s field at Oak Hill Cemetery is located in the far northeast corner of the grounds, and was used from 1866-1917. This potter’s field is unique because it does feature several headstones, both from then and more recently.

The project’s goal is to work with and for the community to create informational, memorial signs at the potter’s field to remember every person buried there. In addition, several podcasts will be produced that will tell their stories, learned from research and History Harvests, where the public can share any personal, family histories of anyone buried in the potter’s field, and stories of or related to the potter’s field. If you cannot make it to one of our events, but would like to share your story or photos, please fill out the History Harvest Contribution Form or email Caleb Latas directly at [email protected].

This project is funded through grants from Humanities Kansas and Douglas County Heritage Conservation Council.

Meet the Team

Caleb Latas is an archaeologist who focuses on using geophysical survey techniques to find unmarked graves and historical cemetery preservation. Caleb was born and raised in Shawnee, Kansas but Lawrence is now his home. Caleb graduated from Johnson County Community College before graduating with his Bachelor’s in Anthropology from KU. Caleb then attended the University of York in the United Kingdom studying funerary archaeology. Caleb just submitted his master’s dissertation on the Oak Hill Cemetery potter’s field. This project means a lot to Caleb. As the descendant of Serbian immigrants in the early 1900s, he was raised hearing these passed down family stories of their struggles and triumphs. Caleb considers himself fortunate that his ancestors found enough economic security to afford burial plots, and so in addition he is able to connect with his past through visiting their graves and caring for their memory. Caleb also wants to work for and with communities to help preserve cemeteries and especially work to remember those in the past who were often forgotten and overlooked. Caleb serves as project director for the Oak Hill Cemetery Potter’s Field Community Remembrance Project.

Blair Schneider is an Associate Researcher and Science Outreach Manager for the Kansas Geological Survey. She has a Ph.D. and M.S. in Geophysics from the University of Kansas, and completed a postdoc in STEM Education at the University of Kansas Center for Teaching Excellence. Blair’s research focuses on the application of near-surface geophysics for archaeological and forensic research. Near-surface geophysics is an invaluable tool in these fields, particularly with respect to burials, because they do not disturb the ground surface during data collection. She uses a variety of geophysical methods including ground-penetrating radar, magnetics, and electrical methods to image the subsurface. Her research has taken her to different sites across the country with the National Park Service and at multiple sites across Kansas with the Kansas Historical Society and the NRCS. She is currently working on 4 projects in the northeastern region of Kansas that include potter’s fields or unmarked burials in Kansas cemeteries.

FAQ’s about History Harvests

How do I know if my ancestor is buried in the potter’s field?

Check out the database to see if your ancestor is buried there. Database launch is TBD.

How can I participate in the History Harvest?

You can attend one of our History Harvest events in-person or on-line through Zoom. If you choose to participate, please fill out a consent form and email it to [email protected]. If you cannot attend either way, then you can submit your story and/or photos through a History Harvest Contribution Form or email Caleb Latas directly at [email protected].

How will my story and photos be used?

Your story and photos may be used in the podcasts, informational memorial signs, or presentations. Ownership of the images and stories by the submitter will always be acknowledged in all formats.

What stories and materials are you looking for?

We are looking for family histories and stories of those buried in the potter’s field. We also would like personal or family stories related to the potter’s field. For example: if you or a relative were an undertaker, groundskeeper, worked at a funeral home, or in some other capacity worked with or in relation to the potter’s field or, if you have a personal story from your visits to Oak Hill Cemetery involving potter’s field. We are also looking for photographs of people buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, their descendants and relatives then and today, their homes (modern photos or those from the time), documents from their life (marriage certificates, etc.), heirlooms, and any other materials or objects that you would like to share. You can bring any of these to our events. If you have any family photos that include the potter’s field, even if in the background, we would appreciate those as well. If you bring an original we will make a copy, or if you bring a non-photograph item we will photograph it.

My ancestor was buried in the Oak Hill Cemetery potter’s field, can I submit a photo of our family today?

Yes, absolutely! We would love to include photos of their descendants and relatives today to show how they are cared for and remembered today.

Will we be able to identify where our ancestors are buried in the potter’s field?

For the majority of burials a plot number was recorded. Onsite informational signs will have these numbers on display and rows will be marked to help visitors find the approximate plot area. We would love to one day be able to create an individual marker for everyone.