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.