CROWS LANDING — Scientists with fancy machines that "see" underground were not able to find pioneer graves at the Crows Landing site where developers hope to build a huge business park.
"It's disappointing, but not a big shock," said Pat Snoke of Gustine, whose great-grandmother is believed to have been buried at the small cemetery in about 1885.
She and other descendants of pioneers think the unmarked plot held six to 20 bodies.
Road building, farming or burying utility lines likely destroyed part or all of the 130-year-old cemetery decades ago, according to an 80-page report released Tuesday.
Southern California geophysicist Brian Damiata leaves open the possibility that his crew looked in the wrong spot.
A 1937 aerial photograph shows a conspicuous half-acre parcel left unplowed for an unknown reason, in an area that wasn't scanned and now is partly covered by Bell Road, the report says. The rest, east of Bell, has been irrigated and plowed for many decades.
Damiata, who has detected graves all over the world, was unavailable for comment but will discuss his methods and findings at a public meeting Tuesday.
Snoke had helped piece together the cemetery's possible location from West Side lore and ancient journals.
Her family told stories of children at the original Bonita School site, used from 1870 to 1891, who found human bones at recess, said to have been unearthed by animals.
Accounts of the cemetery's entrance near two prominent trees figured heavily in the decision about where Damiata should look. But a tree core sample from tall cypresses concludes that they date to the time of the airfield, or the 1940s, and not to the cemetery's origins in the 1870s or 1880s, Damiata determined. Also, a 1937 photograph shows no such trees there, the report says.
Damiata and assistants compiled old maps, newspaper articles, books and descendants' accounts before spending about a week in October surveying ground, collecting data with ground-penetrating radar and magnetics.
The combination of methods helps scientists analyze whether someone has disturbed the soil at any time over thousands of years.
Data showed plenty of soil disturbance — consistent with air base activity and not Christian burials, the report says.
Damiata stressed from the start that the high-tech procedure carries no guarantees. He works for Earth Tech, hired by West Park's Gerry Kamilos, who wants to build a 4,800-acre industrial complex at the former air base.
Geophysicist Brian Damiata is scheduled to discuss his report at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the council chamber at City Hall, 1 Plaza, Patterson.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2390.