Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pilgrim's of the Night

After yesterday's post, yours truly determined to find out more about the hymn sung during Mrs. Welborne's funeral at Winter Park in January 1884.

I quickly found it was written by Dr. Frederick W. Faber of London back in 1854, and entitled "Pilgrims of the Night." It originally had seven stanzas, but the American love of brevity shortened it to just three in hymn books printed on this side of the Atlantic. The surviving stanzas were likely sung by the mourners on Interlachen that winter day described by Harriet Switzer so many years ago:

Darker than night life's shadows fall around us,
And, like benighted men we miss our mark;
God hides himself, and grace hat scarcely found us
Ere death finds out his victims in the dark.

Rest comes at length, though life be long and dreary,
The day must dawn, and darksome night be past;
Faith's journey ends in welcome to the weary,
And heaven, the heart's true home, will come at last.

Cheer up my soul! Faith's moonbeams softly glisten
Upon the breast of life's most troubled sea;
And it will cheer thy drooping heart to listen
To those brave songs which angels mean for thee.

*Annotations Upon Popular Hymns, by Charles Seymour Robinson, 1893.
*Thomas Carlyle: A History of His Life in London, 1834-1881, by James Anthony Froude, 1885.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Backyard burials

Not all the graves in this little corner of heaven are to be found in formal cemeteries.

In pioneer days, folks were often laid to rest in the back yard, close to their survivng loved ones.

Back in January 1884, Harriet F. Switzer described one such burial of a neighbor at the old Welborne house on Interlachen in Winter Park:

Well, this morning, Mrs. Chapman and Mrs. Lyman drove up to tell us of the death of Judge Welborne's wife who had been suffering from consumption for a long time and at last succombed. The funeral is to be this afternoon and, "Would I help with the [illegible]?" There is so little one can do at such a time that I hesitantly, yet gladly too, said I would. I don't see that you could have done anything else.

I wish I had an artist's brush to paint [the] service. Instead of the close room we had expected, we were taken to the end of the garden. On the sloping bank of a beautiful lake was an open grave, but so [illegible] with green there was no earth showing. The sun danced and sparkled on the water and shone through the trees onto the plams, fur branches, and flowers carpeting the last royal resting place of a tired and worn out body.

Bishop Whipple's tall, commanding figure with his silvery hair, which he always has rather long, and the touch of colour [sic] given by his purple skull cap made the picture most impressive. Then the group of mourners and friends, the [illegible] colored men. Oh, their varying expressions! That was the human side.

But, above all was the sun, blue sky, and the stately pines that whispered peace as we sang "Faith's Journey Ends in Welcome to [illegible]." We knew that "life's long shadows" were forgotten, swallowed up in the "cloudless love" and that she who had suffered so long and so patiently was experiencing the "joy that ends the night of weeping."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Non-traditional source reveals citrus pioneer

This stone at Greenwood Cemetery in dowtown Orlando doesn't reveal too much about the fellow it memorializes.

It's hard to read, so here's a transcript for ye rabbits:

Aug 15, 1839
Dec 5, 1899
A precious one
from us has gone.

I tried the usual sources of additional biographical information, but completely struck-out with the federal census.

I did find a Civil War service record showing he served as Quartermaster Sergeant in the 27th Kentucky Infantry Regiment.

But, it was only by checking a recently-discovered source on citrus farming that I found out more about Mr. Dewey:

The site belongs to the Florida State Horticultural Society, and if you click on the "Proceedings" tab you will find they have kindly digitized their records dating back to 1888. It was in these records that I found the Committee on History's "paper number 6," about the history of orange plows. It was written by W.W. Yothers, an Orlando entomologist, who remembered Mr. Dewey as the owner of a grove about 3 miles south of Orlando, and quoted a letter from the Avery Plow Company in Louisville, Kentucky, dated 23 November 1918, which stated (in part):

An old and highly esteemed member of our staff
was Mr. Willard Dewey, foreman of our forge shop.
After years of faithful service he moved to Florida,
partly for the purpose of seeking relief from rheu-
matism. He acquired an orange grove, and at that
time the cultivation of groves was either not done or
done in a primitive way. This was about 1885.

He decided that the cultivation of orange groves by
plowing, to keep the groves free of grass and weeds,
was advisable, and he applied intensive cultivation to
his grove along this line . . . This improvement was made
in 1889, as the result of several years study preceding.

Mr. Dewey, like many of our pioneers, came to this neck of the woods only after the rail lines were established and thus missed the 1880 census enumeration. We all know the 1890 census records were lost to fire. So, it is important for we rabbits to broaden the scope of our search when we're trying to find out more about people whose grave markers were erected in this time frame. Don't just check the census and vital records, try contemporary periodicals, too!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dangerous trees?

I read in yesterday's Orlando Sentinel that there is some controversy brewing at one of the cemeteries we rabbits visited recently.

Apparently, Progress Energy has removed a stand of old oak trees along a one mile stretch of Rinehart Road--the namesake of adjacent Oaklawn Cemetery.

According to them, the trees were "dangerously close" to one of their 230-kilovolt transmission lines.

Their fear is a hurricane or tropical storm might blow thru and drop limbs on said line, thus disrupting power to area residents.

Hmmmm . . .

These trees somehow managed to survive the horrendous '04 season, among many others. Power outages are just something we have to expect in those situations. Progress Energy's fear doesn't justify, in my humble opinion, destroying the character of the neighborhood they claim as their primary concern.

What's done is done, though. I guess we will just have to wait and see what sort of "appropriate low-growing trees" they plant in the oak stand's stead.

Maybe, the folks in Lake Mary should rename their old burial ground "Appropriate Low Growing Tree Lawn Cemetery" when they get done . . .

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Graveyard wildlife

We graveyard rabbits are well aware of the fact that cemeteries are (or can be) places full of life.

That irony seems to be lost on most folks.

But, all they have to do is open their eyes to both flora and fauna, especially down in this little corner of heaven where the winters are so mild.

A recent visit to Greenwood Cemetery in downtown Orlando confirmed this.

Rising from the tombstone littered grounds and jutting above the treeline is an active bald eagle nest that could have inspired Dr. Seuss.

And scampering around the gravestones--not to mention along the paths that divide up the various sections--is a veritable menagerie.

I didn't spot any other rabbits, just yours truly. But, there were tons of birds.

Most of them fled, either on foot or on wing, when my indelicate clodhoppers approached with a camera . . . like I was a gaggle of paparazzi trying to capture their images for the front page of the National Enquirer.

I did manage to snap one good pic of a little white crane, though.


Friday, December 12, 2008

An accusation carved in stone

One of the most eye-catching sites within the bounds of Greenwood Cemetery in downtown Orlando is the Weeks mausoleum, mostly because just about everybody around this little corner of heaven was buried in the ground.

Anyway, if ye rabbits are brave enough to closely inspect the mausoleum, you will find a curious Bible verse (Luke 10:30):

"A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among thieves."

There's a fairly humorous story behind that inscription.

It seems Fred S. Weeks came to these parts from Quincy, Illinois, in the late 1800s, and began searching for a good piece of land to start an orange grove.

He traveled the countryside and came upon a promising parcel of land that some locals were already clearing for that purpose. They were piling up the scrub brush in a pile and burning it to make way for rows of new citrus trees.

Seeing this, Mr. Weeks eagerly made an offer on the property, figuring the current owner had already done the hard work of clearing it. He should have been slightly suspicious when his offer was accepted just as quickly . . .

When he and his wife went out to the property to build their new home, they discovered all the smoke from the scrub fires had masked the view of the entire tract of land. As it turned out, clear skies revealed a boggy marsh unsuitable for citrus. They had been swindled!

Exhausting all normal means of recovery from the swindlers, Mr. Weeks erected his mausoleum in Greenwood Cemetery. At the time, as pointed out in previous posts, the cemetery did double duty as a public park and had quite a lot of pedestrian traffic. So, you can imagine how embarassed the swindlers were when they found their names had been chiseled below the aforementioned Bible verse for all their neighbors to read!

Long story longer, they settled-up with Mr. Weeks and he allowed them to pay someone to remove their names. (You can still see the "blank" space beneath the verse where the swindler's names used to be listed!)

* 1870 Census, Adams County, Illinois, page 427b.
* 1880 Census, Adams County, Illinois, page 589a.
* 1900 Census, Orange County, Florida, page 45b.
* 1910 Census, Orange County, Florida, page 206b.
* 1920 Census, Orange County, Florida, page 130b.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Old newspapers add stories to the stones

Have you ever hopped upon a grave marker and wondered what it WASN'T telling you?

You know, most of them will give you a name and a couple of vital dates. But, there is so much more to a person's life than the beginning and the end.

Now, we local rabbits have a great online resource for finding out more by perusing old newspapers posted at this website:

For example, yours truly wanted to know more about this Civil War veteran Nathan H. Fogg (20 June 1838 - 26 March 1916) who was buried in the GAR section of Greenwood Cemetery in downtown Orlando.

I found his obituary printed in the 30 March 1916 edition of the Winter Park Post:


Nathan H. Fogg died at his home in Altamonte Springs Sunday evening. Mr. Fott has resided in Altamonte Springs for the past 32 years and was dearly beloved by all who knew him. In the words of one who knew him well, "He was a self-made man, a devoted husband, and a loving father--ever willing to lend to the poor and afflicted. He will be sadly missed by those whom he assisted in times of distress."

The funeral services took place Tuesday morning. The cortege left at 10 o'clock for Greenwood Cemetery, where after the Masonic ritualistic burial service, the interment was made in the G.A.R. burial ground. Undertaker Carey Hand was in charge of the arrangements.

The deceased was in his seventy-seventh year. He moved her to what was then Orange County from Saco, Maine. He is survived by his wife and two daughters, Mrs. J.W. Osteen of Altamonte, and Mrs. J.M. Tracy of Colville, Wash.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Who is this blogger?!

All the details that are fit to print may be found in this introduction:

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Why did she get the nicer stone?!

Today, we rabbits hop north of Orlando to visit Longwood Memorial Gardens, just east of Ronald Reagan Boulevard.

Longwood was one of the communities in this little corner of heaven that was founded by Northerners after the railroad came in the 1880s and opened the region for settlement. In fact, it was named for a suburb of Boston. But, I digress . . .

The oldest gravemarker yours truly could find here was this finely-cast stone belonging to a Civil War widow.

Here's the transcript, in case your eyes fail you:

Wife of
Jun 22, 1847
Oct 15, 1903

Not too far away this much simpler, government-issued stone marks her husband's final resting place. It gives the unit he served in during the Civil War, but no vital dates whatsoever.

I did a little sleuthing and found Mr. Moore was born in September 1834. He and Drusilla lived at Centre in Perry County, Pennsylvania, before moving to this little corner of heaven in the late 1800s. As a young man, he worked as an egraver, but eventually turned to farming. They had 7 children, though only 4 survived to adulthood.

We rabbits get so used to seeing matching stones for married couples, or even one stone bearing the names of both husband and wife. Isn't it a little odd that the Moores should have such very different markers?

* 1870 Census, Perry County, Pennsylvania, page 30a.
* 1880 Census, Perry County, Pennsylvania, page 181b.
* 1900 Census, Orange County, Florida, page 36b.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Bone Mizell's odd sense of post-mortem justice

Yesterday's post about the practice of disinterring folks who were already at rest and shipping them up north reminded yours truly of a story told about local legend Morgan Bonaparte "Bone" Mizell. (Yes, he was kin to the Mizells mentioned in previous posts!)

Anyway, Bone had two buddies die on him at about the same time, back when Central Florida was a rough and tumble frontier. One of them was an old "cracker" named John Underhill. The other was a sickly young man from a wealthy New Orleans family who ironically came down here seeking to improve his health, whose name has been lost to history.

Both of Bone's buddies were laid to rest next to one another, but neither grave site enjoyed the benefit of a fancy marker. So, when the sickly fellow's family came down here to dig up the young man and take him back north, they had to ask Bone where his remains were buried.

Well, as Bone saw it, the young man had left New Orleans for a reason and wouldn't want to go back there if he could speak for himself. And, old John Underhill had never seen much of this world beyond Florida, much less enjoyed a train ride.

So, you can guess what happened next . . .

If you'd like to read more about the exploits of Bone Mizell, check out Jim Bob Tinsley's book "Florida Cow Hunter." (ISBN 0-8130-0985-5)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Not-so-final resting place

If nasty weather prevents ye rabbits from visiting a graveyard today, allow yours truly to encourage you to hop online and visit this site:

There you may find a wonderful collection of records pertaining to the history of this little corner of heaven.

Given the scope of this blog, I would particularly point out the digitized records of Carey Hand Funeral Home.

In browsing that collection, I was surprised to find the number of folks who were laid to rest in area cemeteries "in the long, long ago," only to be disinterred later and shipped to points north.

Case in point, do a search at this site for a Spanish American War veteran named ARTHUR WHIPPLE who had brought his wife and 2 small children to these parts to work as a telegraph operator with the railroad . You will find the poor fellow died of TB at his parents' truck farm out in Oakland on 14 May 1912, and was apparently buried there. Flash forward just over 15 years, and somebody up in Malden, Massachusetts, paid good money to have his remains dug up and put on a northbound train.!

It makes one wonder how many open spaces in cemeteries around here were not always empty, doesn't it?

1910 Census, Orange County, Florida, page 171b.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

An early account of a haunting at Greenwood Cemetery

A century ago, many of Orlando's black residents lived in a settlement dubbed "Jonestown." It lay east of the city limits, between Colonial Drive and Gore Street, and as far east at Bumby Avenue.

But, soon after the 1900 census enumeration, most of Jonestown's residents moved west of the aptly-named Division Street.

Now, as I continue reading Kena Fries' old local history, I believe the following first-hand account (slightly edited) indicates that a supposed "haunting" at Greenwood Cemetery scared the people away . . . conveniently vacating a lot of valuable acreage for real estate development:

"We'd all been living there in brotherly accord and love for a powerfully long time and the ghosts never gave any trouble til they put up a fine tombstone over the man who gave the land for the burying ground. Since then, every night when the town clock goes "bong, bong" twelve times, he creeps out of his grave and sits atop the stone pointing his gun at the gate, and he sits there til our roosters crow three times in the morning, then he creeps back in the ground til the clock goes "bong, bong" twelve times the next night. I saw him, and my father-in-law saw him, and all the rest of us have seen him sitting there."

Friday, December 5, 2008

In the long, long ago . . .

Back in 1938, Kena Fries (whose stone pictured here may be seen at Greenwood Cemetery downtown) published a book on the history of Orlando.

I thought ye rabbits would appreciate what she wrote about early funerary practices in this neck o' the woods:

"In the long, long ago, when a death occurred friends of the family made a rude coffin or box, and the corpse was lovingly laid to rest on the very best sheet and pillow the family owned. The body was taken to the grave on a wagon drawn by a mule or oxen. A pine board, or light wood marker was placed on the spot. The interment usually took place under some large tree, magnolia, cedar, or oak, on the homestead. The first public grave yard was situated at the corner of Main and Pine. When the street was clayed, notice was printed in the papers requesting all bodies be removed. At the end of six months those remaining with some form of marker were disinterred and buried in a common grave in Greenwood."

Note, she doesn't mention what happened to those remaining *without* a marker!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Mark your calendars, local rabbits!

Once again, venerable Greenwood Cemetery in Orlando will be hosting a moonlight tour:

Next Friday - December 12th - 9pm - 1603 Greenwood Street

This is the perfect opportunity to see some of the things yours truly has been blogging about here at the CFGYR.

Couple of suggestions from past personal experience:

1. Wear comfortable walking shoes. The tour is about 2 miles long.

2. Bring a flashlight.

For more info and tips, please feel free to call the sexton's office: 407-325-6269.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Victorian Cemetery Design

A few days ago, yours truly mentioned a fellow named Samuel A. Robinson, whose name should be heralded by all local graveyard rabbits.

It was Mr. Robinson who came up with the original design for Orlando's beautiful municipal graveyard: Greenwood Cemetery.

Here is a basic map of the modern cemetery's layout, but it has been expanded and modified significantly since Mr. Robinson first took pen to paper back in the 1880s. In his day, rabbits entered from Gore Street, on the south (see the red dot between sections J and G). That is why most of the earliest burials here are clustered from that point to sections A and H.

Unlike modern planners who seem more interested in utility and aesthetics, Robinson was a true Victorian. His three purposes were pragmatism, amenity, and morality.

By pragmatism, I mean his primary intent was to provide the city with a sanitary means of handling human remains. Imagine how important a concern that was in his day, especially given Florida's subtropical climate.

By amenity, I mean he also wanted to create a space that would be as inviting as a city park. He intended the grounds to be used for more than just funerals, and expected his design would to welcome both individual citizens seeking a refuge from the bustling urban center as well sizeable civic gatherings on important dates.

By morality, I mean Robinson expected visitors to receive important messages about mercy, virtue, and patriotism . . . and from the other side of the coin: vice and selfishness, too. A section was mercifully set aside for the indigent. The virtue of the family unit was reinforced with multigenerational plots. The patriotic values of the city founders are reflected by the placement of all the veteran sections at the front, where they could be clearly seen by those traveling along Gore Street. (Confederate veterans in section J, Union veterans in section I, and later Spanish American War veterans in section W.) Vices would be decried in the monuments that sprouted up when the grounds were opened. But, there would be none of the selfish old iron fences surrounding individual plots and interrupting what was intended to be a broad, open, and tangible moral lesson.

Robinson's intentions are all but lost on modern visitors to Greenwood, who enter thru the new gate on the west side of the property . . . especially since most turn north after passing the cemetery office and head toward the more active sections that crowd up against Anderson Street and the new "urban wetlands."

But, now, at least ye rabbits know a lot of thought was put into designing this little corner of heaven, and the heavy thinking was done by Sam Robinson!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Was Orlando named for a grave?!

The simple answer is "maybe."

But, the origins of the name Orlando have been the cause of a lot of contention in this little corner of heaven.

If you believe this downtown marker by Lake Eola, the city was named for a soldier named Orlando Reeves who was killed in action during the Second Seminole War.

Despite extensive research at the National Archives, Tallahassee, and in Gainesville, though, yours truly has never been able to find any record of a soldier from that era who bore any name even somewhat similar to the one on this marker.

And, the only clash with the Seminoles in these parts took place several miles south of downtown Orlando, at Hatcheelustee (now Disney property).

I did find a plantation owner named Orlando REES who lived at Spring Hill in nearby Volusia County in the years leading up to the Second Seminole War. But, he fled back to his native South Carolina when the fighting started.

Still, the earliest American settlers in these parts claimed to have encountered the word "Orlando" carved on a tree near the shores of Lake Lawsona, just east of Lake Eola. They assumed it marked the resting place of some poor soul by that name, and took to referring to the area around it as "Orlando's grave." In time, this moniker was shortened to simply "Orlando."

Of course, that's just legend, too. I haven't seen any surviving photographs of the carving in question, only the second-hand account by local historian Kena Fries who wrote about how distressed her father (surveyor J.O. Fries) was when the tree was felled.

I believe the carving was made by Mr. Rees in the 1820s or 30s. He was a friend of famous naturalist John J. Audubon, who visited him at Spring Hill and explored the Central Florida wilderness with him. Audubon had adopted a habit learned from Daniel Boone, whereby he periodically carved his name or a symbol in a tree trunk to mark his wanderings and thus make retracing his steps a little easier. It seems entirely likely that the ORLANDO the early settlers spotted in that trunk near Lake Lawsona was such a guidepost, not really a grave marker

Still, the legends are very entertaining . . . which is probably why they seem to last a lot longer than trees and gravemarkers!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Pioneer undertakers

Further to yesterday's post about Orlando's earliest graveyard, I would like to introduce ye rabbits to the city's earliest undertakers.

Until the arrival of Edgar A. Richards, a carpetbagger from Massachusetts, most folks in this little corner of heaven oversaw the burial of their own family and friends.

Mr. Richards made things easier on the grieving survivors, though, with his ready supply of coffins at his furniture store . . . not to mention a willing shovel.

But, it wasn't until 1887, when Elijah Hand came to these parts that embalming of bodies was introduced to our funerary customs.

Before Hand's arrival, there was a custom that anyone who died before noon had to be buried by sundown. Anyone who died after noon would be buried the next morning.

But, with Mr. Hand's introduction of embalming fluid, funerals could be postponed a few days . . . a very convenient thing when you consider how difficult travel conditions could otherwise restrict turn-out for a good wake.

After a couple of years in competition with each other, Mr. Richards and Mr. Hand teamed-up to serve the community.

Ironically, while Mr. Richards' fine obelisk may still be seen at Greenwood Cemetery southeast of downtown Orlando, Mr. Hand (father of local embalming) was himself embalmed and sent back to his old hometown of Shelbyville, Indiana, for burial!

That being said, Mr. Hand's son Carey remained in Orlando and it is his name that has become synonymous with the funeral business right up to the present day.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Not a vestige of anything left . . .

Those were the words Orlando pioneer Samuel A. Robinson used to describe the city's first graveyard when he was interviewed by the local newspaper back in 1915.

According to Mr. Robinson, it was where "Samuel Russ and many others" were originally buried. But, it may not be their finaly resting place. Or, maybe it is . . .

The roots of the vanished cemetery date way back to 23 November 1857, when my ancestor John Patrick deeded one acre to the local Baptist congregation to build a church. I suspect his generous gift followed the death of his father Wright Patrick, Orlando's first postmaster and quite possibly the first person buried within the bounds of the modern city block bounded by Church Street on the South, Rosalind Avenue on the East, Pine Street on the North, and Magnolia Avenue on the West.

It was certainly being used as a graveyard by 1869. But, it wasn't until 1872 that the locals got around to building an L-shaped log church on the site. (Pictured above.) It was used not only by the Baptists, but also by all the other congregations in the city until they were able to build churches of their own. Thus, it was known as the "Union Free Church." It also did double duty as a public school building.

In 1880, when Greenwood Cemetery was established southeast of downtown, the old graveyard fell into disuse. The union church building was absorbed by the nearby Tremont Hotel, but was ultimately condemned by the city in 1891. Two years later, the Baptists wanted to expand their new church complex. So, they disinterred all the grave sites they could identify and moved the remains to Greenwood. But, as ye rabbits are well aware, sometimes it's hard to spot all the graves in a graveyard. And, they apparently missed more than a few!

Who knows who may yet remain buried under this bustling block in the heart of downtown Orlando: Samuel Russ? Wright Patrick? Their names certainly don't appear in the sexton's records at Greenwood . . .

Think about that the next time ye hop down to one of the hot spots at Church Street Station, and a chill might just run down your spine!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Aluminum marker in flood zone

Hopping along US 192 from Holopaw to the coast will take ye rabbits to the vicinity of Deer Park and the Bull Creek Wildlife Management Area.

Few know there is a small cemetery in the WMA.

Those who do, call it by a variety of names. Some call it the Lanier Cemetery for a pioneer family. Others call it the Bull Creek Cemetery for the WMA. But, I've always known it as the Crabgrass Creek Cemetery.

Anyway, the terrain here is "Old Florida," replete with scrub oak and white sugar sand. You'd really be well advised to take a 4x4 if you're seriously interested in visiting this graveyard in person. But, you will be richly rewarded with some of the greatest natural scenery in these parts.
Unfortunately, the area is prone to some pretty serious flooding. This may be why only the sturdiest grave markers have stood the test of time. Several have evidently been washed away, and one in particular was replaced with one of those little funeral home markers experienced rabbits will recognize from previous excursions.

This marker caught my attention, because it was so small and had so few clues as to the identity of the person who rests beneath it.

It bears aluminum letters that blend into the aluminum background of the sign, making it a little difficult to read in this picture. But, I can tell you they spell out: LAVONIA PLATT.

I wondered who she was, and wondered (based on the flag) whether she might have been a Confederate widow. So, I decided to do a little research.

It didn't take me long to discover information on Lavonia (3 Nov 1876 - 24 July 1935) posted on a website maintained by Christopher G. Tanner of Maitland. According to him, this poor woman was accidentally killed by a train along the Florida East Coast Railway in nearby Melbourne.

A very sad story, made even sadder by her marker . . . still haven't figured out the Stars and Bars connection . . .

Friday, November 28, 2008

Nice stone for a not-so-nice graveyard

Whereas yesterday found us in one of the most-manicured graveyards in Central Florida, today we hop along US17-92 in Fern Park to discover one of the more neglected cemeteries in this little corner of heaven.

Only a small white sign with green lettering explains to shoppers at the nearby Winn Dixie why there is such a large open area in the midst of an otherwise busy and crowded mix of residential and commercial buildings.

Even the most casual observer will conclude this graveyard is home to far more burials than there are gravemarkers. You can see numerous depressions in the ground.

Perhaps the best looking marker belongs to a childless married couple who were born into slavery and lived near their final resting place when the entire town was known as "Woodbridge."

Now, only the cemetery carries that name.

In case you can't make out the inscription in this photo, it reads:

DIED NOV 16 1919
AGE 65
DIED JULY 31 1919
AGE 68
(Ref: 1900 Census, Orange County, Florida, page 52a.)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Willie's second wife

Happy Thanksgiving, ye rabbits!
Our turkey day plans had us hopping up to Apopka, right past Highland Memory Gardens at 3329 East SR 436.
It's actually in the neck o' the woods most of us natives call Forest City. But, the mailing address says Apopka nowadays.
Ironically, on the grounds of this graveyard, I discovered a perfect follow-up to yesterday's posting about the mysterious missing wife.

This marker was placed to honor the memories of Willie E. Chapman (1887-1978) and his wife Ollie O. Chapman (1893-1971).
Seems pretty cut and dry, doesn't it?
But, when I did a little sleuthing, I discovered Mr. Chapman had been married to a lady named Maggie before leaving Kentucky to settle in this little corner of heaven. This per the 1920 Census. (Also discovered Ollie's maiden name was Pigg . . . no joking!)
So, the question remains, where did Willie bury his first wife?
* 1920 Census, Floyd County, Kentucky, page 238a.
* 1920 Census, Lawrence County, Kentucky, page 147b.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Where is Virginia?!

If ye rabbits have ever taken Glenridge Way behind fashionable Baldwin Park until it dead-ends at Lakemont Avenue in Winter Park, you have no doubt come face to face with this sign at Pineywood Cemetery.

Traffic in this little corner of heaven is . . . well . . . less than heavenly, which has prevented yours truly from visiting this particular graveyard. This despite the fact that I used to live within walking distance.

At any rate, once inside, I stumbled across a stone that sparked a mystery.

I'm sure experienced rabbits have encountered this situation before.

The stone in question was evidently placed to honor the memory of a couple named Thomas and Virginia Spellman.

Mr. Spellman evidently predeceased Mrs. Spellman, in 1956.

The year of her death was never completely carved on the stone.

So, where is she? If still alive, she would be nearly 130 years old!

More likely, she is buried elsewhere . . . or, could she be buried here after all, just nobody got around to completing that date?

I did a little sleuthing, but couldn't find anything. If any of ye rabbits can figure out where Virginia is, a reply post would be appreciated!

(And, don't tell me Virginia is between North Carolina and Maryland!!)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Where did they come from?!

Today's post will be a bit of a departure for the CFGYR, because we won't be visiting any particular cemetery.

Rather, the statistician in yours truly thought he'd share a very unscientific study he undertook using the local obit pages.

We've pretty much always had a transient population in this little corner of heaven.

I don't mean we're a region of ramblers, per se. But very few folks buried around these parts were actually born here. I wondered just what portion of the current graveyard populations were natives, and where all the other folks came from. So, over a period of 30 days, I kept a tally sheet.

342 obituaries later, I give to you this map as a graphic representation of the results. (If your eyes are as feeble as my own, you may need to double click and expand its size.)

In a nutshell, only 35 folks were actually born in the Sunshine State . . . just over 10%.

A whopping 125 made no reference to a birthplace at all! (about 39%)

78 came from Midwestern states (23%).

36 came from southern states other than Florida (about 11%)

Pennsylvania accounted for 19, the largest number of any state besides Florida. (about 6%)

The next step of this little project will be to get a hold of some old copies of the Orlando Sentinel to see how these ratios have changed over time . . .

OK, enough of the number crunching for now. We'll get back to cemetery hopping in tomorrow's post!

Monday, November 24, 2008

My grandma's graveyard rabbit

Today, I take ye rabbits back to Woodlawn Cemetery out in Gotha, because I want to introduce you to my Grandma G . . . otherwise known as Ruth Norton Gleeson (7 Dec 1919 - 13 June 1995).

Her name was brought up several times today as we celebrated my mom's birthday, so it's only appropriate.

You will appreciate this photo of her grave marker at Woodlawn, because it includes a small flower basket with a white rabbit in it.

No, the basket wasn't placed there for Easter. And, you can see from the dates that Grandma G passed away several years before our GYR association was formed. So, why the rabbit?

Well, the Gleesons have a family tradition called "white rabbit." Those are supposed to be the first two words out of your mouth on the first day of the month to ensure good luck.

Grandma G would sometimes call us at 12:01 am on the first to try to trip us up. Sometimes, she'd get us, because we were half asleep and would answer her call with a groggy, "Hello?!" Then, she'd laugh and reply, "White rabbit!" So, she'd have all the luck in the family for the rest of the month.

It's funny how rabbit-centered traditions stand the test of time, isn't it?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Geezer at rest

On Bruton Boulevard, just a little bit north of L.B. McLeod Road, ye rabbits will find Orlando's historically black cemetery.

Buried within its confines is one Howard E. Porter, Sr. (31 Aug 1948 - 25 May 2007).

But, those who knew him, didn't call him Howard. They called him "Geezer."

No, he wasn't an old fuddy-duddy.

The name was a corruption of the word "geiser," which was the best description his classmates had of his leaping ability on the basketball court.

That ability got Geezer a scholarship to Villanova, where he led the basketball team to the NCAA finals back in 1971.

Then, he went to the NBA and played center and power forward for the Bulls, Knicks, Pistons, and Nets.

Later, he settled in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he worked as a parole officer, and where he was mysteriously abducted and beaten to death last year.

Sadly, this Geezer died too young.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Iconic tree branches

Today, we rabbits hop east of Orlando on Highway 50 until we reach Christmas.

I know, we're more than a month ahead of ourselves to be talking about the holiday.

I'm referring to the Town of Christmas, which was named for a fort established in this little corner of heaven during the Second Seminole War.

A replica stands just north of 50 on State Road 420. And, just before you reach the park grounds that are home to the modern incarnation of Fort Christmas, you will see this sign for the town's cemetery.

Inside, the oldest stone I could find was that of Mrs. Sarah Ann E. Rucker (nee Starling).

If you can't make out the inscription, don't feel bad. It's hard to read. Here's a transcript:

S.A.E. Tucker
Nov. 16, 1827
June 29, 1899

There also appears to have been some inscription on the base of the stone, but my feeble eyes were unable to make heads or rabbit tails of it.

At the top of the stone are some fairly intricate tree branches. They're not the weeping willow types I've seen so often in area cemeteries. Instead, they stretch up . . . almost mimicking the real moss-laden oak trees that abound on the cemetery grounds. I guess, Mrs. Tucker wanted us to think about life everlasting instead of grief when we visited her stone.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Lake Mary's biggest cemetery

The next time ye rabbits are zipping east along Interstate 4 thru Lake Mary, take a glance to the right and you will see a rather large graveyard ripe for the hopping.

Oaklawn Memorial Park at the corner of State Road 46A and Rinehart Road is very well-maintained, with a green rolling lawn. It's most prominent feature is a trio of white crosses in the back of the property, near the tree-line border.

It is not an old burial ground. In fact, the oldest marker I could find belonged to a fellow named Alanson Lathrop Rowe (2 March 1869 - 23 Sept. 1958).

From what I've uncovered about him so far, Mr. Rowe was a native of Catskill, New York, the son of Ira Rowe and Margaret Lathrop; never married; operated his own wood mill; and lived with his older brother John at 144 Water Street in Milford, Pennsylvania, before retiring in this little corner of heaven.

* 1880 Census, Catskill, Greene County, New York, page 115A.
* 1910 Census, Milford, Pike County, Pennsylvania, page 69B.
* 1920 Census, Milford, Pike County, Pennsylvania, page 266A.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pets are people, too!

I thought today we'd take a bit of a departure and visit a PET CEMETERY!

Greenbrier Pet Cemetery is located on West Kelly Park Road, between Plymouth-Sorrento Road and Round Lake Road, northwest of downtown Apopka.

I was a bit curious to see if I could discover any real graveyard rabbits buried here, but only found a bunch of dogs and cats.

However, I was surprised to discover quite a few pet owners had chosen their final resting place with their animal companions.

One of them was Betty J. Williams (1925-1998), whose marker declares her "Our Beloved Sister."

I couldn't tell which pet she "belonged to." But, she must have been pretty devoted!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It means "little bear"

If ye rabbits hop south along State Road 15 behind the Orlando International Airport, you will eventually cross the line into Osceola County and come across the little town of Narcoossee.

Funny name, isn't it? Well, it's supposedly derived from the Seminole word for the little bears that still inhabit this neck o' the woods.

Anyway, I headed down here for two reasons. The first was to find the old Pine Castle Union Church, which was moved to Narcoossee decades ago to make room for all the "progress" we see on Orange Avenue.

The second was to locate the final resting place of a fellow named Owen Simmons (16 Feb 1822 - 5 June 1894) who is buried in the little cemetery just east of SR15 in Narcoossee. (There is a sign on the highway that clearly points out the turn-off.) You will find it nestled amongst a fairly thick woodland. And, it is full of that white sugary sand that we are so famous for in this little corner of heaven.

Established back in 1887, town records show the cemetery wasn't officially platted until 1911. Sadly, as was so typical back then, it was designed as a segregated burial ground. There are 227 souls laid to rest here--64 white and 163 black.

My interest in Simmons stemmed from his name appearing alongside those of my ancestors on a local muster roll from the Third Seminole War. When I finally found his stone, I noticed someone had placed a small Confederate flag next to it. And, when I got back home and ran his name thru the previously mentioned Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database at the NPS, I found a William Owen Simmons who served in Company F of the 7th Florida Infantry Regiment. Perhaps, he was the same guy, but I'll have to do more digging to be sure . . .

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The nineteenth hole

I know that phrase generally refers to the clubhouse at a golfcourse, but today it refers to the perfect final resting place for any duffer: The Doctor Phillips Cemetery in Orlando.

To find this graveyard, rabbits can hop south on Apopka-Vineland Road and look to your right just before you get to the entrance of the Bay Hill Golf Club.

There are plenty o' Dubs buried on the grounds, but there is at least one famous name: William "Payne" Stewart (30 Jan 1957 - 25 Oct 1999).

He was a two time winner of the U.S. Open, and died tragically when the cabin of his charter jet lost pressure shortly after take off and crashed several hours later.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A hidden treasure

Experienced graveyard rabbits know appearances can be deceiving.

Case in point: The Partin Settlement Cemetery down in Kissimmee.

From the road, all you see is an old orange grove.

But, if you can muster enough courage to go poking thru the underbrush, you will find a bunch of really great old stones in this sadly neglected graveyard.

The one pictured here is hard to deciper, so here's a transcript:

daughter of
S.C. & T.G.
Aug. 31, 1888
Oct. 22, 1888
Another little darling babe
is sheltered in the grave.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ask Carl Dann!

That was a piece of oft-heard advice to tourists in this little corner of heaven about a hundred years ago.

Hanford Carl Dann, Sr. (15 Sept. 1884 - 1 Sept. 1940) was practically a one man chamber of commerce back then.

I bring him up today, because I am preparing to open my home in the College Park neighborhood to a couple hundred expected visitors on the annual Historic Homes Tour.

You see, Mr. Dann once owned the property on which my home was evenutally built. He subdivided it, and sold it off to another developer--something he did no fewer than 60 times.

His own home was at the corner of Colonial Drive and Orange Avenue, just north of downtown Orlando.

Today, though, you rabbits may find him at Greenwood Cemetery in downtown Orlando.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Colonel Allen drowned in the Kissimmee River

Well, rabbits, to thank Steve Rajtar for his moonlit tour of Greenwood Cemetery in downtown Orlando last night, I'd like to introduce you to one of the notable fellows buried there.

This is Colonel Robert T.P. Allen (26 September 1813 - 9 July 1888) who was born to Irish immigrants in Baltimore, Maryland.

After graduating fifth in his class at West Point in 1834, he came to this little corner of heaven with the U.S. Army during the Second Seminole War.

In 1845, he established the Kentucky Military Institute, over which he presided for many years--except from 1849 to 1851 when President Zachary Taylor sent him out west to organize the postal system in California and Oregon.

In 1857, he moved to Texas to establish another school, the Bastrop Military Institute. And, it was there he raised the 4th Texas Infantry Regiment at the outbreak of the Civil War. They took the field as part of Hood's Brigade, but Colonel Allen was not a popular commander. So, he was sent back to Texas to oversee a POW camp near Tyler.

After the war, he returned to the Kentucky Military Institute. But, in 1877, when his son John was elected Orlando's second mayor, he returned to Florida.

Sadly, he drowned while swimming in the Kissimmee River near "Allendale," where his son had established a steamboat line after completing his term as mayor.

His body was retrieved from the rushing waters, and hauled up to Orlando to be laid to rest beneath this sizeable marker in the Allen family plot.

Friday, November 14, 2008

One little girl's grave marker

Today, we rabbits head south of Orlando to the former town of Taft.

I say "former," because Taft is no longer officially incorporated, though the name persists along with a sense of identity amongst residents.

The town was formerly known both as Newellton and Smithville until 1909, when entrepreneurs from Orlando and Kissimmee got together to buy-up 6,000 acres in this little corner of heaven to establish "Prosper Colony."

They subdivided the land and advertized extensively in the Saturday Evening Post. More than a thousand folks eventually bought farmsteads here, though they chose to rename their "colony" for President William Howard Taft.

One of the remaining vestiges of the defunct municipality is its cemetery, established in 1920 at what is now designated 501 Landstreet Road.

Among the earliest stones here belongs to a little girl named Alice Hayes (19 Dec 1917 - 23 Nov 1922). It caught my attention for two reasons. First, it has a really interesting carving of a dove on the top face. Second, it has a nasty crack obscuring the poor little girl's vital dates.

I checked some of the local census records, so can tell you Little Alice was the daughter of a fellow named Sydney Hayes (1871-1932), who is buried nearby. Mr. Hayes was a black teamster who came to Florida from his native South Carolina in the early 1900s, and evidently worked in the region's thriving turpentine industry.

*1910 Census, Pine Castle, Orange County, Florida, page 191a.
*1920 Census, Taft, Orange County, Florida, page 193a.