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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Plantation Cemeteries

The area of Jacksonville I live in used to be a series of orange plantations, some established while the Spanish still ruled Florida. Since organized public cemeteries weren't established in the area until the turn of the 20th century, there area a lot of small, family cemeteries that used to be on these plantations. Dad and I have adopted one to take care of, which will involve a lot of mowing, weeding, and putting up a fence (with the blessing of the family left around). There are three others relatively nearby that we will be keeping an eye on. One is fenced already since a neighbor thought everyone had forgotten about it and he was going to make it part of his property -- surprise! That didn't happen. Now, partly because I was contacting people and city offices left right and center, the cemetery belongs to the city proper and has been designated a historic site, but it still needs upkeep. That's where we will come in to mow and keep it clean. The other neighbor has put a drainage pipe under the fence so their yard drains into the cemetery. I need to figure out how to deal with that. The other (that I mentioned first) has neighbors who trim their trees and throw the branches over into the cemetery. That's going to stop -- somehow. The fence has been torn down, which is why we need to replace it, and apparently kids like to hang out there.

Two others are sadder. All four of these are in subdivisions now, but are designated historic sites. One is fenced, but the fence has been torn down in one section, and in another the gate hasn't been closed in so long that a tree has grown large enough to keep it from shutting at all. When we were there late last summer, it was mowed and fairly clean. This time at least one of the headstones had been knocked over and broken, there's trash and overgrowth of weeds everywhere. The people located here have been there since at least 1820 if not earlier, since many of the original markers used in this area were made from wood and have since rotted away. From the layout, it seems to have been divided into quarters, with one quarter strictly for the family, another for friends or (white) servants, and then a couple more for slaves or black servants. You can tell there are burials from the way the ground looks, but there are no markers. Since I am officially
part of the Cemetery Liaison Team reporting the condition of the cemeteries to the City Council, I need to take care of this pronto. There's also a back gate that leads into a neighbor's back yard, so I'm going to check to see if it would be okay to lock that gate.

The other one is in fairly good condition, but that's only because some elderly neighbors have taken it upon themselves to tend to it. This one is especially historic since Anna Kingsley is buried there in an unmarked grave (probably another example of a rotted wooden marker). A few of her descendants are buried in marked graves, but their markers have fallen and are in danger of disappearing into the ground. There's no fence, but there was no trash or anything at this one. It just feels forgotten and neglected. It needs to be raked, but otherwise it's physically okay. It's just sad.

There are others around here that have been bulldozed over or the graves have -- supposedly -- been moved, but truth be told, apart from a handful of people in Jacksonville, no one cares.

1 comment:

  1. The "Meet A Rabbit" column wants you! Over at the Graveyard Rabbit Association I write the column and would like to feature your blog. Please contact me:

    sherifenley@gmail.com

    Sheri Fenley

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