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updated: 11/15/2013 10:36 AM

Illinois cemetery search finds 1922 massacre victims

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  • Smith's Garage in Herrin Illinois, in front of which six men were shot and killed in connection with the Herrin massacre.

    Smith's Garage in Herrin Illinois, in front of which six men were shot and killed in connection with the Herrin massacre.

Associated Press

HERRIN -- Researchers believe their excavation of a southern Illinois cemetery has located the likely remains of people killed during a violent 1922 labor strike at a nearby coal mine.

The Herrin City Cemetery search headed by Eastern Illinois University geologist Steven Di Naso and author Scott Doody found four coffins this week matching the description of those used for victims of the Herrin Massacre, the (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan reported Friday.

The digging also located the grave site for of Anton Molkovich, a decorated World War I veteran for whose remains Doody had for years been searching. The searchers plan to replace his marker.

"It was a flood of relief to find the coffin hardware and layout of graves and know we had the right people," said Doody, who in April published a book about the massacre.

The excavation began in September, after a judge cleared the way for the work, in the hunt for victims of the massacre that took place during a union strike and killed dozens of replacement workers at the Southern Illinois Coal Co.

Tuesday's discovery also confirmed that some modern burials have taken place atop the remains of the victims of the 1922 bloody, armed skirmish between striking union workers and the temporary miners hired to replace them, Herrin City Councilman Bill Sizemore said. Those talks with the families already are underway, he said.

"Those lots have been sold to three families. They will have a choice if they want the bodies removed for their families to use in the future or if they prefer to leave the men there and trade out lots," said Sizemore, who also serves as Herrin's public works chairman.

Mayor Vic Ritter said plans are afoot to erect a memorial to the massacre's victims.

"Something is going to go up," he said.

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