Living on the Dead
Published May 9th, 2012
Most cemeteries are usually in a gated area where people can see them, but that's not the case sometimes.
"This use to be a cemetery. we've always heard that," said Alvyne Wilson who lives in New Gainesville.
His aunt bought the property back in 1959.
He said his neighbors always talked about about a cemetery, but he's never found any evidence.
"I have never ran across any stones in the years and I have covered every inch of this years as a child growing up here," said Wilson.
One man who has spent the last 10 years documenting cemeteries believes before the 1950's there was a so-called colored cemetery in this area.
"In the D- book we show a plat that shows a Jewish cemetery over in Waldo and University and shows a larger colored graveyard at this spot right here and since the Jewish cemetery is still there this should still be here, but it's not," said Jim Powell.
What is here now are homes.
Powell is the founder of the Alachua County Virtual Cemetery Project.
His son James has asked neighbors if they know anything about the graveyard that once was on this property.
"One elderly lady told him that she remembered them bringing trucks out and removing the stones," said Powell.
While some know about this, others were surprised when we told them there's a chance they could be living on what was once a graveyard.
"It makes me now want to you know look up and want to research it and just find out what was really here in this area," said Robert Aldridge Jr. who is Wilson's neighbor.
Other cemeteries in Alachua have not been built over, instead they just haven't been preserved.
A perfect example is grove park cemetery right off State Road 20. The tombstones lay right in this backyard.
"They thought it was a forever thing when they put it out here and now everything is toppled over or grown over, people live right there on top of it and no one cares," said Powell.
We knocked on the door to ask why they haven't maintained the cemetery, but no one answered.
Powell said he is glad he documented Grove Park 10 years ago.
"It's really gotten worse than it was 10 years ago and it's a really good thing we took pictures of it when we did, but now it wouldn't be the same," said Powell.
He told us how one woman called saying her great uncle had moved to Florida and she didn't know where he might have gone.
"All of a sudden up popped his stone on our website," said Powell.
The woman now knew that great uncle Adoniram Crane Jr. ended up in a someone's backyard.
Not all cemeteries in Alachua County are mistreated.
When the Trinity Methodist Church on 53rd ave was being built, workers came across an unmarked cemetery.
After historic research and field work, they discovered the area use to be a large cemetery between 1880 and the 1930's.
"Now you go out there and it's respectful again," said Irene Sylvester who is a volunteer of the Virtual Cemetery Project.
Some cemeteries like the one Wilson may be living on may never get the chance.
"Who did what with them or did anybody move or whatever happen to them, I couldn't say," said Wilson.
If you come across a unmarked cemetery contact Jim Powell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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