Friday, November 30, 2012

Baxter Family Monument.Picture is of  Oran Baxter 's side.
In October, FPAN Northeast issued a cemetery challenge asking for photographs and stories of our favorite cemeteries. For this intern, Clifton Cemetery immediately sprang to my mind. It is a small cemetery set amidst a historic Arlington neighborhood.  The cemetery has old oak trees, billowing with Spanish moss, and is ringed by flowering shrubs. It is also full of urban wildlife, especially birds and squirrels. They are the source of continuing cheerful background music, adding to the tranquility of the place. Many of the burials are of prominent Jacksonville citizens from a bygone era in the city’s history. Wife to Zephaniah Kingsley, Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley, along with her daughters, Mary and Martha are interred at Clifton Cemetery. Anna's grave site is unmarked. Mary married John Sammis and Martha married Oran Baxter. Many of the couples’ children are also buried near their grandmother, Anna. The Baxter family monument, the cemetery’s oldest from 1841, is for Julia Baxter, age 6, the daughter of Martha and Oran Baxter. Nearby the cemetery, is the privately owned, historic 1850’s Sammis home overlooking the St. John’s River.

Here is the inscription for young Julia on the Baxter Family Monument. Sadly,  her mother was laid to rest last, and and her side was never engraved.

The Baxter Monument is on the left.

    Clifton Cemetery is well cared for, however the ground is rapidly reclaiming many of the  headstones. The Sammis grave markers in particular are knocked over and in bad condition. Their deterioration has happened in the past decade, as photographs from that time show them all upright, with little cracking. The last official recorded update on the Historical Cemetery Form filed with the state of Florida was in 2001 and 25 markers were documented. There may be missing or buried stones since that time. On my most recent visit, I could easily spot only about 18 markers. This cemetery is full of historic significance for the city of Jacksonville. For these reasons, I am nominating the cemetery for a Cemetery Resource Protection and Training (CRPT) Workshop by FPAN to clean and document the cemetery! 

Emile V. Sammis, and Martha Sammis, son and daughter of Mary and John Sammis. Both of these Sammis children died as young adults. Emile was 21, and Martha was 28.

In this picture is the tombstone of Lizzie Sammis, married to Edward Sammis, and her daughter Maude. Lizzie was about 28 years old. It seems the case that she and her daughter died due to complications from childbirth. It is  the only standing headstone of the Sammis series of headstones.

The Sammis headstones are the foreground. Lizzie's standing headstone is on the right. The Baxter Monument is in the background.

Learn More:

To find out more about the Kingsley family and why Kingsley Plantation is truly an insight into the plantation period of Northeast Florida, here’s a link to last week’s blog post by Amber.

Interested in attending a CRPT workshop? Read all about it here first.

Read Anna’s story in the book by historian Dr. Daniel L. Schafer Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley,African Princess, Florida Slave, and Plantation Slaveowner (2003).

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