Come Get Your Dead

A new building is going up in downtown Columbus—the Merchant Building, a 31-story tower that will sit atop what is now the North Market parking lot. There’s only one catch; hundreds of graves wait under the parking lot and the remains of those buried there must be removed before development can begin. is giving me the chance to go deep into the history and future of the North Graveyard bones with a new and who-knows-how-long series. This series, Come Get Your Dead, will explore the long, weird afterlife of the North Graveyard—once the final resting place for some of Columbus’ earliest citizens—and follow the team of scientists currently attempting to exhume and rebury those who were left behind.

Everyone knew, when the Merchant Building was first announced, that the graves under the North Market would have to be exhumed first. But in late 2022 I started to hear stories that archeologists had already started the work months earlier, excavating 40 graves from the streets surrounding the market.

It’s all happened before.

For 150 years people have been developing, building and digging on the land that was formerly the North Graveyard, and all while hundreds of people were still buried there. I interviewed archeologist Ryan Weller about what he and his team found during the last excavations at North Market twenty-one years ago.

My first time ever doing a podcast.

I talked with Tim Fulton of the Confluence Cast about researching and reporting on the North Graveyard. It finally gave me an opportunity to describe my new favorite archeology term—”grave stains.”

In my research for this series, one name kept coming up: Don Schlegel, the author and historian who decades ago recreated the lost map of the North Graveyard. He was reluctant to be interviewed for this series, but he began to take on a mythical quality in my mind, and so I gave him what I felt was an appropriately mythic nickname—”The Graveyard Detective.”

I interviewed Dr. Cheryl Johnston, the anthropologist contracted by Lawhon & Associates to examine the bones recovered from the North Market parking lot. Meticulously cataloging, photographing and studying the remains could take years, but doing so could teach scientists a lot about the city and people of Columbus in the early 1800’s.