Historic Archer cemetery uncovers generations of Black history

Historic Archer cemetery uncovers generations of Black history
Published: Feb. 14, 2022 at 6:28 PM EST
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ARCHER, Fla. (WCJB) -A historic Black cemetery is coming back to life thanks to residents.

“This is the oldest person, she was born in 1796 I think,” said Roberta Lopez, the President of the Bethlehem Methodist Episcopal Cemetery Restoration.

The cemetery was once paired with a church that bore the same name dating back to 1873. Now, the non-profit, BMECRO, is repairing what’s left.

“My dad’s sister is buried out here, I have a brother buried out here and a niece and many, many others,” said Archer resident, Pat Wiggins.

World War One veterans, former slaves, pastors make up those who are buried on the property. More than 125 people have been identified for a monument that will be dedicated to their contributions but that’s not the only plan for the property.

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“We are getting a marker, a state marker and they also put us on what you call an 11 save list and that protects abandoned properties and historical properties and stuff like that,” said Lopez.

“So no one will ever be able to remove this.”

Some of the headstones and markers recovered so far date back to the 1800s, one even shows the late 1790s. Although, there are at least 65 unmarked graves so far that could date back even further.

“My great, great great grandfather donated the first portion of this property,” said Wiggins.

Part of the group’s goal is to also repair all of the broken headstones and markers. Cemetery clean-up is a continuous project for the group as is the work to identify remains in unmarked graves. It’s a community effort, sponsored in part by the city of Archer, University of Florida and others.

“My great, great great grandfather was a part of this and so it’s history and to know that we enslaved people out here,” added Wiggins.

“You know, it’s just, it’s home.”

A home for generations of Black history to live on.

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