Saturday, April 2, 2016

Walking Tour of Evergreen Cemetery - Jacksonville, Florida

Back when I was a teacher I used to take my students on a field trip for a walking tour of Evergreen Cemetery. The tour was a scavenger hunt of sorts with a map with picture clues and directions to follow. Along the way the students would learn to not only follow directions but some of the history of our city as told through those early burials.

On this tour some of the grave markers were chosen for the historical significance or to show the meaning of tombstone icons other markers were chosen simply to keep the kids on track. The goal was to get out of the classroom, have fun and hopefully learn something along the way!

Evergreen Cemetery is the oldest, fully operating cemetery in Jacksonville, It's also the largest with 170 acres that includes a large Catholic and Jewish sections. The first burial took place on April 8, 1881. The year before on October 26, 1880 a right of way through the cemetery was granted to the Jacksonville-Fernandina Railroad and a depot was built on the grounds complete with holding vaults for bodies awaiting burial. The train still runs through the cemetery but the depot is gone and the holding vaults are no longer in use but the long history of Evergreen is just waiting to be explored.

Here's a few highlights from the walking tour:

William Sherman Jennings
Jennings was the 18th Governor of Florida serving 1901-1905

Rev. Dr. Robert J. Bateman
Died in the sinking of the Titanic 

Bateman born in England, became a Baptist minister at age 21 and later moved to Jacksonville.  After visiting relatives in England Bateman and his sister-in-law, Mrs. Ada Balls, embarked on the Titanic traveling second class. 
As the ship began to sink Rev. Bateman put Ada into the last lifeboat. Later Ada recalled her brother-in-law's words: "Brother forced me into the last boat saying he would follow later. Brother threw his overcoat over my shoulders as the boat was being lowered away and as we neared the water he took his black necktie and threw it to me with the words, "Goodbye, God bless you!"
Bateman's body was recovered by the cable laying vessel the Mackay-Bennett. On May 6, 1912 his body was sent to Jacksonville and interred in Evergreen Cemetery

Calvin E. Knight
Steamboat Captain

By the 1870's steamboats were busy on the St. John's River between Jacksonville and Palatka. The boats carried freight and an influx of settlers to Florida as well as tourists coming to view the exotic scenery and wildlife. After the arrival of the railroad in the 1890's the steamboats on the river slowly declined and became obsolete. 

Joshua L Burch

Victim of the Yellow Fever Epidemic

The first case of Yellow Fever was confirmed in Jacksonville in July of 1888. The disease causes liver damage and jaundice and could kill a person in a matter of days. By August 1888 Jacksonville was under quarantine. Nothing and no one was allowed to leave the city, not even mail could be sent off. We now know that Yellow Fever is spread by mosquitoes but at the time they believed it spread person to person. On September 12, 1888 twelve prominent business men and government official died of Yellow Fever. That day was referred to as Black Friday.  By December of 1888 over 5000 people had been ill and 400 had died as a result of the Yellow Fever Epidemic.

Napoleon B. Broward

Broward served as Sheriff of Duval County and then he served as Governor of Florida from 1906-1910. One of the largest bridges in Jacksonville is named for Napoleon B. Broward. 

Henry DuPre Bounetheau 
Died May 3, 1901

Bounetheau was one of the seven victims of the Great Fire of 1901 that ravished the city of Jacksonville. The fire began when a spark ignited drying moss at a mattress factory. It quickly spread from one wooden building to another to destroy 146 city blocks. By the time the fire was brought under control over 2300 building were destroyed, 10,000 people were homeless and seven residents were dead. 

Henry thought the fire wouldn't reach his home and if it did he could escape to the river. He did leave his home but returned to retrieve a photograph of his mother because it was the only one he had. His body was found days later floating in the river. 

Cummer Mausoleum 

Ninah Cummer is best known for the Cummer Art Museum and Garden that she founded on Riverside Ave. in Jacksonville. This Egyptian Revival Mausoleum was constructed for Ninah and Arthur Cummer's baby daughter DeEtte who died in 1909 at 17 days old. 

This is just a small look at the history that can be found in Evergreen Cemetery.

Take a walk and visit a local cemetery and see what you can learn about your town. 


  1. What a smart teacher! Now this is the way learn! Thanks for taking me along on the trip.

    1. Thank you Tom! Some days I really miss my time as a teacher and I miss my kids. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Thanks, many thanks for this lesson.

    Graciel·la Vidal from AM3

    1. You're so welcome! Thanks for dropping by.

  3. i enjoy all historical burial plots, so educational to see. we enjoy it while we travel all the time. very fun. ( :

    1. We always take time to visit cemeteries where ever we go.

  4. Interesting subject. You never know what you'll discover. In Vienna you can find Mozart's name on two gravestones, one in St. Marx and one in Zentral Friedhof. Personally, I doubt he is in either of them. Also nobody knows where Vivaldi who died in Vienna is buried.

    Recently in the news there was a story that they x-rayed Shakespeare's grave in Stratford Upon Avon and found that his head is missing.

    The grave of Little John (giant friend of legendary outlaw Robin Hood) in Derbyshire is interesting. X-rays show that there is actually a man's body nearly 9 feet long in the grave.

    The gravestones are one thing. What is under them may be quite another.

    1. As for Rest in Peace, you might like to know that Beethoven and Schubert were moved from their graves in one part of Vienna to graves in a more touristy part of Vienna.

    2. Poor Shakespeare. I wonder where his head went?? It's true you never know what's under the markers. My granddad died back in 1955 and was buried in a double plot . The marker was set in place with his name and the other side was just waiting for my grandmother. When she passed 40 years later they discovered my granddad wasn't there. They actually found him a hundred yards away. They said the stonemason had set the gravemarker in the wrong place! We're still not sure they really found poor granddad.

  5. Very interesting cemetery and some great history

    1. Thanks Bill. I really love a good walk through a cemetery. So interesting.


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