Thursday, May 30, 2013
Cemetery Log Date: May 30, 2013
The iconic cement crosses of today's CaDiM post graced the cover of the "Written in Stone: Cemeteries of St. Johns County" poster back in 2009. San Sebastian Cemetery was established for members of the African-American community of St. Augustine. The oldest known grave dates back to 1879. San Sebastian adjoins another African-American cemetery, Pinehurst. While located across the fence from the privately owned commercial Evergreen cemetery, it only takes a second to comprehend these two cemeteries are worlds apart. The ownership of San Sebastian is uncertain, hence the maintenance has fallen on voluntary stewards of the cemetery. The West Augustine Improvement Association, including stewards Willie Cooper and Linda Murray, have long advocated for cleaning up the grounds. The cemetery was recently cleaned by a 4H club (with young Isaac Turner, age 11, leading the charge after applying for grant in aid) and over Memorial Day by a new organization, Raise the Dead, sent out an answered call for volunteers and continued clearing dense vegetation (see articles below).
The clean up efforts are to be commended, but they don't solve the long term problem of ownership and sustained stewardship. A Friends of the San Sebastian/Pinehurst Cemetery 501c3 needs to be formed; a board of descendants, residents, preservationists, historians, archaeologists, and volunteers need to work together to develop a long term management plan; and the issue of ownership needs to be resolved, most likely by St. Johns County.
Who: Unresolved, officially abandoned
What: Early African-American burial grounds with significant markers and monuments
Where: On Pearl Street in West Augustine
When: Dusk till dawn 365 days a year
- Early African-American traditions observed in headstone and crypt design
- Vernacular hand carved cement headstones
- Coontie ferns, conch shells, and other markers unique to Florida burial customs
- The more people are aware and visit the cemetery, the safer it will be from vandals
For more information about the cemetery:
2004 Newspaper article featuring Linda Murray and Willie Cooper interviews
2013 Record article featuring interview with Raise the Dead founder Kristi Kridel
Link to FPAN-NE Facebook album featuring 2013 4H clean up day with Home Depot
Find a Grave: San Sebastian
Text and 2009 Images: Sarah Miller, FPAN staff.
For previous posts search: Cemetery a Day in May or #CaDiM
Intro, May 1: National, May 2: Oakdale, May 3: Murphy's Creek, May 4: Mt. Olive, May 5: Bosque Bello, May 6: Old City, May 7: Espanola, May 8: Tolomato, May 9: Pacetti, May 10: West View, May 11: Magnolia Springs, May 12: St. Peter's, May 13: Gravely Hill, May 14: Pilgrim's Rest, May 15: God's Little Acre, May 16: Dummet's Grave, May 17: No Name, May 18: St. Monica, May 19: St. Joseph's, May 20: Old St. Joseph's (Duval), May 21: Sampson, May 22: Fernandez Reserve, May 23: St. Ambrose, May 24: Sons of Israel, May 25: Sanksville, May 26: Huguenot, May 27: Nombre de Dios, May 28: Beresford, May 29: Jones, May 30: San Sebastian/Pinehurst