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Now browsing: Hometown News > News > Volusia County

Cemetery hunters uncover lost plots
Rating: 2.28 / 5 (71 votes)  
Posted: 2012 Sep 28 - 00:08

By Patrick McCallister

For Hometown News

There are an untold number of small cemeteries throughout Volusia County that are forgotten, lost or neglected. But there are a handful of cemetery hunters that find and help preserve them. Bill Morgan of DeLeon Springs is one.

"What we are is what we made of ourselves, and you always want to look back at your ancestors and what they made of themselves," Mr. Morgan said.

Julie Adams Scofield, the county's historic preservation officer, aims to get more folks to remember and care for neglected and lost cemeteries.

"There's one in Orange City that you have to hike it," Ms. Scofield said. "Most of the small ones were on a little piece of ground that was in front of a church."

On Friday, Oct. 5, people can learn about finding, reporting and caring for historic cemeteries and human burial sites - legally and properly. The county will host a cemetery preservation workshop from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Volusia County Historic Courthouse, 125 W. Indiana Ave., DeLand. It's presented by the Florida Public Archaeology Network and West Volusia Historical Society. Seating is limited to 25.

Amber Grafft-Weiss, outreach coordinator for the archaeology network, said cemeteries tell us much about ourselves, making them worthwhile to visit and protect.

"I've seen headstones that have just brought me to tears," Ms. Grafft-Weiss said. "I saw one with no name or dates, but just said, 'For my sister.'"

Among his numerous finds, Mr. Morgan uncovered the family cemetery of Volusia County Sheriff William Aaron Cone, who died in 1889. Sheriff Cone - who fought as a private for the Confederate States of America - has a gravestone today. His old one, if he had one, was lost. The grave marker is surely within yards of where he was buried near Seville.

"I was looking for him, because I'm a member of the Sons of the Confederacy in DeLand," Mr. Morgan said. "I was looking for him, and calling people in Seville, and no one knew where he was."

Mr. Morgan said he tracked down the family cemetery by combing newspaper archives and finding out where the sheriff's wife had been buried. Old newspapers said Mary Hagan Cone was laid next to her husband, "On their homestead."

That was the break Mr. Morgan needed. Next stop was old property records to find that homestead. A fernery now sits there and it's owned by Pasco Cade. Mr. Morgan talked to him and found out Mr. Cade knew about the small cemetery on his property. He'd fenced it in and planted around it. He didn't know one of the county's top cops was buried there.

Another find for Mr. Morgan was the Pine Ridge African American Cemetery in South Daytona.

"These were black railroad workers buried there," Mr. Morgan said.

The cemetery opened in 1899 with a land gift from Thomas and Martha Johnson. It was deserted by the 1920s and, by the 1960s, the elements and possible vandalism made headstones illegible. In 1966, the city declared the cemetery abandoned and designated it as park land. There are now ball fields and tennis courts over that cemetery.

When Mr. Morgan was going through old funeral-home records, he kept coming across an unfamiliar name, the Town of Blake. People were buried there, but the Town of Blake no longer existed. He combed through old government records and figured out where it was, and about South Daytona's 1966 decision.

Mr. Morgan used funeral records to assemble a partial list of who'd been buried at the Pine Ridge African American Cemetery, and the city erected a plaque commemorating the cemetery in 2007.

As cemetery hunters, such as Mr. Morgan, uncover human burial sites, they report them to Ms. Scofield. She makes certain they're added to the Florida Master Site File, a state inventory of historical places. Ms. Scofield said Volusia had 25 cemeteries and human burial sites listed with the state. She's added another 20, and aims to add 20 more by winter. Ms. Scofield said cemeteries are often the only physical marker we have of the past.

"They're really interesting," she said. "In many instances, that's all that remains of a settlement."

To report a suspected forgotten cemetery, or register for the cemetery workshop, contact Ms. Scofield at 736-5953, or jschfield@co.volusia.fl.us. To learn more about Volusia's historic cemeteries, including many Mr. Morgan uncovered, visit http://www.volusiagenealogy.net/cemindx.htm. The workshop is $15.

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