Underneath a house in San Francisco, a glass and metal coffin was found. Inside the coffin was a little girl, perfectly preserved for over a hundred years.
The body, entombed in a small lead and bronze coffin, was found in May 2016. Since the discovery, a research team have been working tirelessly to identity the young girl.
Their year-long efforts paid off last year and the Garden of Innocence project announced that the deceased child was none other than Edith Howard Cook, the daughter of a prominent high-society couple, who passed away tragically young in the 1800s.
Edith was born on November 28 1873 and died just a month short of her third birthday on October 13 1876, according to researchers working with Southern California’s Garden of Innocence non-profit organisation, SF Gate reports.
The San Francisco Edith was born into was no doubt worlds apart from the San Francisco we know today.
It’s thought that Edith probably died as a result of marasmus – a form of severe undernourishment, according to Jelmer Eerkens, an archaeologist at UC Davis who analyzed Edith’s hair.
Marasmus is characterised by a severe deficiency in nutrients, particularly proteins, and can be brought on by viral, bacterial or parasitic infections.
It is thought that Edith horrifically ‘wasted away’ due to malnourishment, and there is no evidence that doctors tried to use treatments, such as morphine, mercury or cocaine, which were popular at the time, to treat her.
The unearthing of her tiny body, dressed in white lace and well-preserved alongside a delicate red rose and lavender, which was woven into her hair, came as a huge shock.
Officials had previously believed that all the bodies in the 19th century Richmond District cemetery had been removed.
Edith was one of about 30,000 people with graves at the old Odd Fellows Cemetery.
But the majority were moved to Colma in the 1920s, and it is a mystery as to why Edith’s body was left behind.
Alongside Odd Fellows cemetery archive documents, researchers from UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz and UC Davis, tracked down a living Cook relative for a DNA sample. This allowed them to verify Edith’s identity.
The descendant, Peter Cook, who himself is 83, didn’t know anything about his family on his father’s side back further than one generation – so the news came as quite a shock to him.
In fact – there wasn’t even a huge chance that the two were related. But using a sample of Peter’s saliva and DNA taken from Edith’s hair, scientists confirmed that the two were related.
Her resting place of over a hundred years was discovered during a Lone Mountain home remodelling.
Ericka Karner, the property owner, was told by the city’s medical examiner’s office that – because the body was found on private property – she would have to deal with the body.
Garden of Innocence helped Karner respectfully dispose of the remains. On June 4 2017. Edith – who was dubbed Miranda Eve before being identified – was reburied at Colma’s Greenlawn Memorial Park.
About 140 people attended the service.
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Joseph Loftus is a Gold Standard NCTJ journalist with four years experience working for international and regional press.
As well as working for UNILAD and LADbible, Joseph has worked as Liverpool Correspondent for Unsigned & Independent Magazine, as well as stints with the Liverpool Echo and Warrington Guardian.