ECU anthropologist Charles Ewen and his students have been working with the Smithsonian this summer to identify the remains contained in two Civil War-era cast iron caskets unearthed in Kinston, N.C.
It had been hoped the caskets contained a grandson of the late Gov. Richard Caswell. Caswell, who died in 1789, was a Revolutionary War hero and North Carolina’s first governor. The site of his grave remains unknown and a local businessman, Ted Sampley, has offered a $1,000 reward to anyone who could locate it.
Upon request of Gov. Caswell’s descendents, Ewen has been searching for the remains of the late statesman since 2000. This summer, Ewen and a dozen archeology students unearthed the coffins and, accompanied by scientists from the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, transported them from the Herritage Cemetery in Kinston to the Smithsonian laboratories in Washington, D.C. Smithsonian researchers are conducting a study of the rare, expensive caskets and were interested in the Kinston site.
Ewen and two of his students witnessed the opening of the caskets at the Smithsonian laboratories. The bodies of two women who died about 150 years ago were found inside. Based on jewelry, buttons and cavity fillings, the women appeared to be well-to-do. An effort is underway to identify them. Ewen hopes to claim the caskets from the Smithsonian and return them to their original location next month.