Discovering New History From Old Tombstones

By Valeria Rodriguez and Kayla Hartigan

Florida is a state full of history and there many ways to learn about it. Flagler Professor Emily Murry is encouraging people to learn about history through cemeteries.

Cemeteries are full of headstones that can be used as primary sources for demographics like names and ages of individuals. They can also be admired from an aesthetic view point, looking at their style and architecture. Headstones also reflect the class, religion and economic status of the people buried. All this can tell us a lot about the area in which the cemetery was built.

 

Cemeteries are viewed differently by cultures around the world. Some people, cemeteries are known as a place to celebrate their ancestors. And for others they are creepy place that should be avoided at all costs.

Murry said that the modern cemetery movement started as something different. They were established as public parks where people were welcome to visit and walk around. Cemeteries as we know them today started in the 1800s and were built with trails for Carriages and people to walk around.

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Photo by Valeria Rodriguez

Paola Rengel is a taphophile, that is someone that loves cemeteries. Her favorite cemetery is the Old City Cemetery in Downtown Jacksonville. She said that cemeteries are very beautiful peaceful places. They are the prefect place to enjoy an afternoon walk. Depending on what your mood is there are several different cemeteries you can visit. St. Augustine has great guided tours of their cemetery that dates to the Spanish American War. While Jacksonville has small cemeteries perfect to snap pictures and enjoy the view.

Ironically, cemeteries can die too, and they are among the most at-risk sites in Florida. They can be discontinued either from development, climate change, or just neglect. A visited cemetery is a safe cemetery. There some things the public can do to ensure the history of cemeteries is not lost. Here in North Florida there are a few organizations that are heavily involved in cemetery preservation like the Tolomato Cemetery Reservation Association and the Friends of Bosque Bello. They offer workshops and tours for anyone interested in learning more about cemetery preservation.

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Photo by Valeria Rodriguez

If you decide that you want to go to a cemetery there are a few things that you can keep in mind to get the most out of you visit. Murry said the basic rule is to, “take only pictures and leave footprints, try to think of the impact you are leaving, don’t leave behind trash, don’t litter.”

Cemeteries are full of monuments that are hundreds of years old, so you must careful as you walk through them. Whatever the reason for your visit remember to have a respectful attitude and have fun with it.