Not a soul at the gravesite knew anything about the child, yet some wept as she was lowered into the ground a second time.
About 140 perfect strangers gathered on a foggy, Northern California morning to honor a 3-year-old girl who died more than 140 years ago. The perfectly preserved mystery child had been unearthed by contractors renovating a home in San Francisco’s Richmond District earlier this month.
When she was found, she was entombed in a metal casket with glass windows, through which her blonde curly hair, her alabaster skin and a rose covering her chest could be clearly seen.
“It looked like her mother had just laid her in there yesterday,” Elissa Davey told InsideEdition.com Monday. Davey runs Garden of Innocence, which buries unidentified children with the help of donated money and services.
“She still had her eyelashes, she still had her skin,” Davey said.
The homeowner’s family had renamed the girl Miranda Eve after her remains were discovered under a concrete floor. They had reached out to Davey and her organization after becoming stuck in a bureaucratic morass of red tape.
City officials wouldn’t take possession of the body because it had been found on private property.
Homeowner Ericka Karner said she had been told by an undertaker that it would cost $7,000 to reinter the little girl’s body. Even if she had $7,000 to spend on a stranger’s burial, Karner wouldn’t have been able to bury the remains because she didn’t have a death certificate.
“She was stuck. She didn’t know what to do,” Davey said. “She couldn’t just leave someone’s child in her backyard.” Eventually, Karner was referred to Davey.
"I said, 'Don’t worry, I got this,'" Davey said.
And so Miranda Eve was given a new, wooden casket with her name engraved on it, and was buried Saturday at Greenlawn Memorial Park, where donated money helped pay more than $10,000 to a ground crew that worked overtime to dig a resting place for the child born in the 1800s.
"It was a very wonderful service," Davey said. "The headstone arrived, the baby arrived, the Knights of Columbus arrived — it was just wonderful."
The fraternal Catholic organization members helped preside over the service in which a poem was read and voices were raised in song.
The unknown child is believed to have been buried at the Odd Fellows Cemetery, one of four main graveyards in San Francisco in the 1800s. When it closed in 1890, the bodies were transferred to Greenlawn in Colma.
But somehow the little girl’s remains were left behind.
Researchers are trying to determine the child’s identity. Davey said she has been combing old maps of the cemetery, trying to discover which section corresponds to the spot where the glass-and-metal coffin was found.
Two groups will conduct DNA testing on strands of the child’s hair, to try to determine her genetic heritage, Davey said. The results will also be run through databases to see if a familial match can be found.
Davey said people have asked how she can stand to bury a child she doesn’t know.
“And my reply is, how can you not?”