Monday, March 27, 2017
The San Sebastian Cemetery Recording Project is now complete! We began this project in October 2015 and had our final field day last month (February 2017). Breaks were taken for summer and for weather (a large break was taken last Fall - thanks Hurricane Matthew!) But, with the help of volunteers, a snap shot of this precarious and amazing sacred space has been recorded.
I'm sure your mind is now swirling with questions! I shall attempt to answer a few of them....
What work was done during the project?
- 431 - Individual Markers were transcribed, measured, assessed and photographed
- 104 - 10 x 10 Meter Blocks measured and mapped
- 31 - Field days worked
- 23 - Volunteers worked in cemetery at some point
|San Sebastian Cemetery recording volunteers|
San Sebastian is a cemetery established around 1884 for exclusive use by St. Augustine's African-American Protestant community. It's located a mile outside of St. Augustine's historic district, following the national trend of replacing crowded churchyards with spacious rural cemeteries.
What's important about this cemetery?
San Sebastian contains the graves of many prominent African-American citizens and is home to veterans from the Civil War to the Korean War. At least three Union soldiers are buried here who served in the U.S. Colored Infantry during the Civil War.
|One of three Union Army Soldiers buried in San Sebastian Cemetery|
And, of course, San Sebastian is also home to hundreds more who were not prominent, but still were a beloved friend or family member. You can walk through the cemetery today and see the efforts made to remember them and wonder about their stories:
Then there are the remnants of other markers that are losing their race with time:
|Samuel M Sevillie, 1842 - 1917|
|Last existing wooden marker in San Sebastian Cemetery|
There was a time when San Sebastian was so overgrown you couldn't even set foot in it! There were several caring volunteer groups over the year that cleaned it up, but of course Florida vegetation will not be kept at bay without constant vigilance. Most recently, in 2013, the National Guard and Operation Restore Respect (headed by Mark and Teresa Frank) started the enormous project of cleaning out the cemetery. So one reason we recorded now is because we could!
In addition to physical access, St. John's County took possession of San Sebastian for a couple of years and then transferred the deed to the West Augustine Improvement Association in 2014. In order to assist West Augustine Improvement Association in developing a long-term management, we provided a base-line picture of the cemetery as it now stands.
Why does San Sebastian look so different from it's next door neighbor?
Although only separated by a fence, San Sebastian is a world away from it's neighbor, Evergreen Cemetery. Evergreen, a privately owned commercial cemetery, is meticulously maintained and registered in the National Registry of Historic Places. Established in 1886, Evergreen became the region's largest white Protestant cemetery during the turn of the century.
|Entrance to Evergreen Cemetery|
|Entrance to San Sebastian Cemetery|
For other articles on San Sebastian Cemetery check out:
Unsung Heroes - St. Augustine Record, Clean Up - St. Augustine Record
Flagler College Gargoyle
FPAN Blog - May 2013
FPAN Blog - June 2014
FPAN Blog - Jan 2016
Text and Images by FPAN Staff; Robbie Boggs