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.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What's in a name?

If ye rabbits ever hop down the Orange Blossom Trail to Home Road in Kissimmee, you will see a neat little cemetery with an even neater angel-topped marker waiting to greet you.

But, yours truly was a little perplexed on a recent visit to discover what I had always known as "The Howard Cemetery" is now apparently known as "Pine Ridge Cemetery."

I guess the latter name is more appropriate since the place is no longer exclusively used by the Howard family.

The Howards established this as their final resting place back in 1903, but the oldest marker I could find was a few years later. Here's the inscription if you can't read it in the picture posted here:

wife of
Henry Howard
Aug. 25, 1907
Age 52 Yrs.
"Gone but not

Back in the late 1920s, when the Orange Blossom Trail was widened in this neck of the woods, the roadway cut straight thru the cemetery grounds.

By the 1980s, it was overgrown with palmettos and weeds, in truly deplorable condition.
Then, local civic activist Buster Lesesne stepped up to the plate to set things straight. He is evidently the fellow responsible for placing the aforementioned angel marker.
But, I wonder if he is also responsible for the name change?
A bit disconcerted now, so will sign off until tomorrow. Til then, happy hopping!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A former slave at Boston Hill

A rabbit who wishes to remain anonymous pointed out that yours truly had overlooked an unassuming little cemetery near Oviedo's town hall up in Seminole County.

Boston Hill Cemetery is on Alexandria Boulevard, and has only a little wooden sign near the entrance.

According to the cemetery records, the earliest burial here was a 5-month-old infant named Lucille Allen, who died 20 April 1924. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any more information on her.

The second oldest burial here was a Clascow [sic] Robinson (1857-1926), "age 69."

That first name was unusual, so I tried several variant spelling when I began searching federal census records.

I successfully located Mr. Robinson in Oviedo in both 1910 and 1920, though his name was spelled both times as GLASCO. They indicate he was a black man, give his birthplace as South Carolina, and show he worked first as a cooper at a turpentine factory and later as a laborer on a truck farm.

I couldn't find anything beyond 1910, though.

He *may* have been the Glasgow [sic] Robinson, age 20, who was listed as a black farm laborer in Walterboro, South Carolina, in 1870--though, the cemetery record would indicate "our" fellow would have only been 13 years old at the time.

There also *may* be a connection to a Glasgow [sic] Robinson, age 49, who was listed as a black farmer in Grahamville, South Carolina, in 1870--though that man only had two daughters living in his household that year.

The case of the Boston Hill freedman serves as only the latest example of the difficulty in tracing the roots of former slaves we rabbits have encountered in this little corner of heaven.

I welcome any additional information ye readers may be able to uncover!

*1870 Census, Grahamville, Beaufort County, South Carolina, page 84b.
*1870 Census, Walterboro, Colleton County, South Carolina, page 43a.
*1910 Census, Oviedo, Orange County, Florida, page 151a.
*1920 Census, Oviedo, Seminole County, Florida, page 246b.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Armistice Day came too late for poor Ben Brown

While seeking out Jack Barber's grave at Greenwood Cemetery in downtown Orlando for yesterday's post, I also paused to pay my respects to the many service men and women buried in the American Legion section.

As today is Veteran's Day, I thought it would be a good time to introduce you to one of those servicemen: Private Ben B. Brown (1896-1918), who gave his life for this country in the Aisne-Marne offensive in France during the First World War.

I wanted to learn more about Brown, and quickly found his funeral record in the Carey Hand archives at

It tells us that he was a native of Spartanburg, South Carolina. He enlisted 8 August 1917 in Orlando to serve in Company C of the 2nd Infantry, Florida National Guard. That unit was sent for training at Camp Wheeler, then shipped to France on 20 June 1918.

Poor Ben was killed in action just one month, one week, and one day later.

More tragically, he fell less than four months before Armistice Day.

While I hope all ye rabbits take a moment today to honor all veterans of all our nation's wars, please remember the holiday was originally declared to commemorate the end of the First World War--the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918--an important moment that far too many young men like Ben Brown did not live to see.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Jack Barber's bloody lip helped spark a feud

Yesterday, I introduced ye rabbits to Violett Roberson Barber, the first wife of Andrew Jackson "Jack" Barber (9 July 1839 - 18 Aug 1916).

Today, I want to introduce you to his second wife Nancy Hull of Orlando, whom he married only four months after burying Violett down in Kissimmee. As you can see from the photo here, their's was a May-December romance.

While married to Nancy, Jack became a respected member of the community, faithfully attending the Baptist church and building-up his cattle herds and citrus groves.

But, it was during his first marriage to Violett that he gained legendary status, at least amongst local history buffs.

As his grave marker at Greenwood Cemetery in downtown Orlando attests, Jack served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. (Company G of the 5th Florida Cavalry Battalion, to be precise.)

His greatest claim to fame, though, came as a primary catalyst of the bloody Barber-Mizell feud.

His uncle Moses Barber, patriarch of the clan, already had a beef with the scalawag Mizells--pun intended. He resented the way they seized cattle from his herd to pay the ridiculously high property taxes levied during the dark days of Reconstruction, and even went to jail for threatening one of Sheriff Mizell's deputies. (George Bass was his name.)

Anyway, during the following year, Jack Barber was riding the range. To his surprise, he discovered one of his prize heifers in the midst of a herd of Mizell cattle feeding on that very same range. Well, he did the only logical thing and reclaimed his wayward property. The sad result was a prison sentence to equal his uncle's.

Uncle Moses had recently returned from serving his own time behind bars, and insisted upon accompanying Sheriff Mizell as he escorted Jack up to the prison in Palatka. They went by steamboat out of Mellonville, modern-day Sanford. And, it was a long journey.

Jack thought he'd kill time chewing some tobacco, but couldn't reach his pouch because his hands were tied. So, he asked the sheriff to lend a helping hand. Annoyed, the sheriff took a large wad of the weed and shoved it in Jack's mouth so hard that it bloodied his lips.

This was the last straw, as far as Uncle Moses was concerned, and he warned Mizell that he had "started down the road to hell."

Within a year, the sheriff was dead and buried at what is now Leu Gardens in Orlando.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Barbers' side of the story

Not too long ago, I posted some details of the Barber-Mizell feud.

My ancestors didn't have a dog in that fight, to borrow an old Cracker alliteration. In fact, we were the law and order types who stepped up to the plate after things got out of hand.

So, I want to perpetuate our history of neutrality. And, since I already gave the details on the Mizells buried in Conway at Leu Gardens, I feel it only fair to tell you rabbits something about the cantankerous Barber clan.

To do so, I take you down to Kissimmee today, to a little cemetery on Hilliard Isle Road, just a few blocks east of Boggy Creek Road. It's a small burial ground, hemmed-in by suburban sprawl. I don't think it contains more than a dozen or so graves . . . at least graves with markers.

The most impressive stone, in my humble opinion, belongs to Violett S. Barber (6 Sept. 1841 - 8 June 1894). It bears the following poetic inscription:

Thou art gone away, our loved one.
Life's toilsome journey is over.
Sweet songs shalt thou sing with the angels,
On the beautiful golden shore.

Violett (nee Roberson) was the first wife of Andrew Jackson "Jack" Barber, whose uncle Moses Barber was the head of the clan at the time of the 1870 feud. The two of them had to flee to Texas when the law clamped down on the violence, leaving their wives and children to fend for themselves.

While Moses never returned to Florida, Jack did come back to live with Violett by 1880. After her death, though, he married a girl from Orlando and is buried with her at Greenwood Cemetery downtown.

More to come, when I get back to Greenwood!
*1870 Census, Orange County, Florida, page 456a.
*1880 Census, Orange County, Florida, pages 456b & 457a.
*"The Way Hit Wuz," by Mary Ida Bass Shearhart.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Share and share alike

Today's graveyard excursion takes us to fashionable Winter Park.

Ye rabbits have probably already experienced the chic shopping and cultural opportunities up and down Park Avenue, or maybe even attended the renowned annual Sidewalk Art Festival here in the spring.

But, just a hop, skip, and a jump away from those hot-spots is the Palm Cemetery at 301 West Webster Street.

The stone that caught my attention on this visit belonged to the Richmond family. It is somewhat hard to read in this photo, so I'll type out a transcription for you:

Andrew Richmond
Nov. 18, 1819
Aug. 31, 1906
Eliza H. Sullings, wife of
Andrew Richmond
Mar. 19, 1828
Jan. 1, 1914
Edgar Richmond
Feb. 26, 1852
Mar. 2, 1888

Squeezing all this genealogical info onto one stone tells me either this was a very frugal family, or they just liked to share!

Lucky Andrew got his name on the stone twice.

I didn't want to assume that Edgar was the son of Andrew and Eliza, since his relation is not specifically stated. So, I did a little sleuthing, and found that was indeed the case according to the 1860 Census.

Evidently, the Richmonds were one of the many Yankee families who flooded into Winter Park after the arrival of the railroad in 1880. They and their cohorts are the reason Winter Park still has the feel of a New England town.

Mr. Richmond was a dry goods merchant by trade--though he did try selling fire insurance in the Chicago area for a while. He and Eliza retired to Winter Park by 1900, but Edgar was down here as early as 1880 and had a wife and at least two daughters. I wonder where they are buried . . . maybe, they're here with the rest of the Richmonds, but there's just not enough room on this crowded stone to tell us?!

*1860 Census, New Bedford, Bristol County, Massachusetts, page 620.
*1870 Census, Ashford, Windham County, Connecticut, page 299b.
*1880 Census, Evanston, Cook County, Illinois, page 317a; and 3rd Division, Orange County, Florida, page 439a.
*1900 Census, Winter Park, Orange County, Florida, page 40a.
*1910 Census, Winter Park, Orange County, Florida, page 205a.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Another historically-black cemetery

Today's excursion takes us up to the little Seminole County town of Geneva, where ye rabbits may find the Stewart Memorial Gardens at the corner of West Osceola Road and Little Fawn Road.

I wouldn't say it's been neglected, but it certainly has a less-than-welcoming sign at its entrance. A bit off-putting, no?

Anyway, as the name implies, this burial ground was established by Charley Stewart (not the perennial Congressional candidate) back in 1921. That was the year his father, Charley, Sr., a Jamaican emigrant, died.

I didn't find the Stewart family plot, but did find this moldy old stone belonging to one Eddie Demps (9 March 1885 - 2 Dec 1941).

Mold seems to be as big an issue here as it is in the not-so-distant Drawdy-Rouse Cemetery we visited in a previous post.

I still haven't received a completely-satisfactory solution (pun intended) for cleaning mold off old tombstones.

Anyway, if you can zoom-in on the image of Mr. Demps' stone, you'll see why it caught my eye. It looks like his name and vital dates were hand-carved. What do you think?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A couple of mysteries in Eatonville

Further to yesterday's post, I ask ye rabbits to jump just across Interstate 4 from Maitland to a little cemetery that you've probably seen many times as you've flown along that highway north of Orlando.

Today's hopping ground will be the Eatonville Memorial Gardens in America's oldest black-incorporated township.

Sadly, this is not a very restful spot due to the proximity to all the interstate traffic.

I was intrigued enough to visit, though, because my research indicated there is a Confederate veteran buried on the site: David C. Shaw (1838-1895), who served in Company A of Holcombe's South Carolina Cavalry Battalion during the Civil War. Unfortunately, I never did find his gravemarker. Perhaps it no longer exists. It would certainly be an oddity to find a Confederate memorial in this little corner of heaven.

As so often happens in graveyard hopping, though, I did stumble across another interesting marker.

It reads simply MARAGRET BREWING (1818-1929).

Note the spelling of the first name MarAgret, NOT MarGaret.

If the dates on her marker are accurate, this lady lived to the advanced age of 111 years!

I have not as yet been able to find any additional information on her. So, would like to issue a challenge to ye loyal followers of this blog!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A lesson in separate but not-so-equal

In light of the history made at the polls yesterday, I thought today would be an appropriate time to introduce ye rabbits to the Maitland Cemetery.

Way back in 1891, the Packwood family sold 10 acres of their homestead lands on Lake Lucien to the fledgling city for a municipal cemetery.

Today, it is an urban oasis, just a hop, skip, and a jump from the bustling to-and-fro of Interstate 4. And, Maitland has become one of the busiest "satelite cities" in metro-Orlando--home to a pack of mid-rise office buildings and the RDV Sportsplex.

One of the lucky few enjoying his eternal rest in this idyllic setting is Josiah C. Eaton (1827-1892).

His stone notes that he was a native of Calais, Maine.

What it does not note is that he is the namesake of nearby Eatonville--the oldest black-incorporated town in America.

How did this happen? Why did the freemen name their new settlement after this white guy?

Well, another thing his stone doesn't tell us is that he was a Union veteran of the Civil War who came to this little corner of heaven with several of his former comrades-in-arms. They wanted to incorporate Maitland back in 1884, but state law required 30 registered voters within the proposed boundaries. So, they turned to their black neighbors--former slaves--for help.

The unexpected consequence was that the newly-registered black voters outnumbered the white Union veterans. And, when the newly-incorporated town of Maitland held its first municipal election, the black majority elected a black mayor and a black town marshal.

That's when the amicable relations between the black and white residents deteriorated.

To solve the "problem," the aforementioned Mr. Eaton agreed to sell 22 acres of his homestead lands so the black residents of Maitland could establish their own town. And, thus began official segregation in these parts.

My, what a different world we live in today, no?!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A senator in the cemetery!

Well, rabbits, this fine Election Day had yours truly pondering about all the public officials who found their final resting place in this little corner of heaven. And, I wondered, which of them had attained the highest elective office.

My mom told me the former first couple Ike and Mamie had a home in Winter Park. (Back in the 60s, she helped them select the pillows for their master bedroom there.) Of course, neither of them was actually buried down here. Like so many residents today, they wanted to be buried closer to "home."

So, I turned to my database, and am now pleased to reveal the answer:

U.S. Senator Charles Oscar Andrews (1877-1946)

Andrews was one of the many folks who poured into Central Florida in the heady days of the 1920s real estate boom. In fact, he was general counsel for the Florida Real Estate Commission (1925-1928) and Orlando's City Attorney (1926-1929). He also served as our local state representative in 1927.

His national prominence was achieved several years later, in 1936, when Senator Park Trammell died in office. Andrews was appointed to completed his term, and was re-elected in his own right in 1940. Ironically, Senator Andrews himself died in office, and is buried beneath a humble marker at Greenwood Cemetery in downtown Orlando.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Trust but verify

That's what Ronald Reagan had to say about our tenuous relationship with the former Soviet Union.

The maxim also applies to obituaries.

In a post a couple of days ago, I mentioned a survey of recent local obituaries in which I found reference to three supposed burial sites in Central Florida that I had never heard of in all my hopping around this neck of the woods.

Well, as it turns out, they don't exist. Whoever prepared the obituaries in question must've gotten a little careless with the facts. The three sites mentioned were evidently the locations of some memorial services:

* Congregation of Reform Judaism -

* San Pedro Catholic Retreat -

* Temple Israel -

The two Jewish burials probably occurred at either Ohev Shalom or in the Beth Israel section at Woodlawn.

The Catholic burial could have taken place just about anywhere, I guess . . .

Bottom line, don't trust everything you read in the obituary column!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A good source for Osceola County rabbits

This fine Sunday morning has us hopping down to Osceola County Memory Gardens at 1717 Old Boggy Creek Road in Kissimmee.

This is not an old cemetery.

It's one of those boring new ones where they don't let you place upright gravemarkers, because it makes it easier to mow or some such nonsense.

The result is a distinct lack of character, but that's just me editorializing again . . .

I don't know when exactly this place was founded and I didn't do a thorough search of all the grave markers, but I didn't find many that predated 1970. Most, in fact, are quite recent. As noted in yesterday's post, this is one of the most active burial sites in this neck of the woods.
The oldest one that caught my eye belonged to a US Marine named Charles Gail Batton (1924-1964)--and it was not too far from a US Airman named Merle G. Batton (1919-1968).

I wondered if these two servicemen might have been brothers.

So, when I got back to the old rabbit den, I did a little searching on the internet.

I never succeeded in connecting these two Battons, but did stumble across a great website for any of you with roots in Osceola County:

Searching for "BATTON," I came across two obituaries:
- Mrs. Josepine I. "Josie" Battton (1995)
- Annabelle Batton Stinebaugh (2000)

Unfortunately, neither yielded any clues for this particular case . . .