First Plots?

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAYou are looking at the southwest corner of the St. Augustine National Cemetery.  The marble slab on the ground in the corner is plot 1 and contains the remains of Lieut. Stephen Tuttle.  The nearer slab is plot 4 and contains the remains of John Winfield Scott McNeil.  If you are thinking these were among the first burials in this cemetery, you would be wrong.

This cemetery served the U.S. Army Post of St. Augustine long before it became a National Cemetery in 1881.  The first interment was 1828 with most of the early graves resulting from casualties of the Seminole Wars.  Most notable among these was the Dade Monument [ see article at Graveyard Rabbit of Moultrie Creek].

TuttleStephen Tuttle was a 1st Lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers and was serving in St. Augustine on a huge project to rebuild and extend the seawall protecting the town.  He died in 1835.  J.W.S. McNeil served with the 2nd Regiment of Dragoons and died in 1837 of wounds received in action at Mosquito Inlet.  Both were originally buried at the Huguenot Cemetery just outside the city gates and reinterred at the National Cemetery many years later.

McNeilSome time back, I received a call from Greg Moore, Command Historian for the Florida National Guard, wondering if I had run into these two officers as part of my Huguenot Cemetery research because he thought they had been buried there first.  Sure enough, looking at a cemetery inventory from 1892 published in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register (see Huguenot inventory ), we found both men with descriptions of the graves and the inscriptions on their tombstones.  These tombstones match the descriptions from the Huguenot inventory.

A search in Google Books turned up an Annual Report from the Secretary of War published in 1916 stating:

“During the year the following remains of soldiers were removed from fields and abandoned cemeteries and reinterred in national cemeteries:   . . .  2 known officers from old Huguenot Cemetery, St. Augustine, FL to the St. Augustine (Fla.) National Cemetery; . . .”

Huguenot Cemetery had been closed in 1884 and there are many reports of various efforts to clean up and restore the cemetery.  The first serious project didn’t begin until 1946 so from the Army’s perspective this cemetery may well have been a concern for the veterans interred there.

So, why were these Soldiers initially buried in the public cemetery instead of the post cemetery?  What were the circumstances of their move?  And, how did they become the first plots at the National Cemetery?  This mystery will take a lot more research to unravel.

The plots thicken.

References:

  • Leeds, B. Frank.  Inscriptions in the Old Protestant Graveyard at St. Augustine, Fla., The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Vols. 37-52. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1883-98.
  • United States War Department.  Annual Reports of the Secretary of War. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1916.
  • Florida. St. Augustine National Cemetery Index and Biographical Guide: (Preliminary Abridged Edition). Special archives publication, no. 44. St. Augustine, Fla: State Arsenal, St. Francis Barracks, 1980.

Minorcan Research

In 1763 the British took control of Florida. The British saw the economic potential of the area and encouraged colonists with land grants to come and settle in the colony. Among those settlers was Andrew Turnbull. In 1768 he arrived with more than 1200 indentured colonists to build a settlement on the coast south of St. Augustine. He named the colony New Smyrna.

The colonists were recruited from Greece, Italy and Turkey, but most of them came from Minorca, one of the Balearic Islands off the coast of Spain. Collectively they are referred to as Minorcans.

Life in the New Smyrna colony was difficult. In addition to illnesses and Indian raids, the colonists were mistreated by Turnbull and his overseers. They revolted in 1777 and walked to St. Augustine where they asked the govenor for santuary. When Florida returned to Spanish control in 1783, the Minorcans remained.

Below are a number of research resources available for Minorcan research. Note that links to books point to WorldCat. Use WorldCat to find the closest library holding the book.

San Lorenzo Cemetery

When the Diocese of St. Augustine was established in 1870, Tolomato Cemetery was serving the local Catholic community. The City of St. Augustine ordered Tolomato and the public burying ground (Huguenot) closed in 1884. Catholic burials were then held at the Mission of Nombre de Dios. Because its location on the water was not ideal for a permanent cemetery, the diocese continued to look for a more appropriate cemetery location.

San Lorenzo Cemetery photo
San Lorenzo Cemetery, St. Augustine, from the author’s collection at Flickr

Also at this time St. Augustine was enjoying a boom in tourism thanks to Henry Flagler’s railroad and elegant hotels. City fathers wanted the new cemeteries away from the primary tourist areas. Evergreen Cemetery, the new public graveyard, was located across the San Sebastian River in what was then called New Augustine (now West Augustine). The diocese also chose a spot west of town, but further to the south. San Lorenzo Cemetery opened in 1892 and is the oldest cemetery still operated by the Diocese. It continues to accept burials today.

Bishop's house photo
Bishop’s house at San Lorenzo Cemetery from the author’s collection at Flickr.

A mortuary chapel was built in 1924. It is often called the Bishops House because Archbishop Josephy Hurley and Bishops John Moore, William Kenny and Patrick Barry are interred there. Surrounding the chapel are the graves of nuns from the Sisters of St. Joseph and priests who have served the diocese.

The cemetery is operated by the diocesan Office of Catholic Cemeteries and is located between U.S. 1 and Old Moultrie Road just north of the K-Mart shopping plaza.

Sources:

  • Julie Conrey, At the Hour of Our Death, St. Augustine Catholic Online, November 2006.
  • Charles Tingley, presentation at the T’omb It May Concern conference on the historic cemeteries of St. Augustine, June 11-13, 2009.

William Jenkins Worth Monument

The Seminole Wars in Florida dragged on for decades and became hugely unpopular and a political hot potato.  In 1841, then Colonel Worth took command of the Florida army and in May of 1842 President Tyler decided it was time for this war to come to an end.  Colonel Worth made that happen – officially.  In reality, sporadic skirmishes with the Seminoles continued until the beginning of the Civil War.

Promoted to brevet brigadier general for his Florida accomplishments, Worth went on to become a hero in the Mexican-American War for his actions at Matamoros, Monterrey and Veracruz.  He died in San Antonio of cholera in 1849 while commanding the Department of Texas.  His popularity continued to grow after his death.

In 1857, Worth’s remains were re-interred with much pomp and ceremony in New York City at what is now known as Worth Square.  Below is a copy of the commemorative booklet printed for the occasion.  After his death, his widow, Margaret Stafford Worth, returned to St. Augustine where she lived until her death in 1869.  She is buried in the St. Augustine National Cemetery along with her daughter, Mary Worth Sprague who died in 1876.  Colonel Sprague, Mary’s husband, served as Worth’s adjutant during the Florida campaign and was the military governor of Florida during Reconstruction.

A copy of this booklet has been passed down to my family – through our Worth cousins in Savannah – and was donated to the Worth Museum in Texas by my father.

Wm J Worth Monument Commemorative Booklet 1857

References:

  • The Handbook of Texas Online. “Worth, William Jenkins“, accessed 2 November 2008.
  • The Handbook of Texas Online. “Sprague, John Titcomb“, accessed 2 November 2008.
  • Edward S. Wallace, General William Jenkins Worth, Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1933.

Evergreen Cemetery

Untitled

After the City of St. Augustine closed the Protestant (Huguenot) Cemetery, a new location west of the city was selected as its replacement. Evergreen Cemetery opened in 1886 and soon became the largest Protestant cemetery in northeast Florida. The plan for Evergreen was influenced by the Rural Cemetery Movement of the 19th century. The National Register Bulletin describes this style:

In the early “rural” cemeteries and in those which followed their pattern, hilly, wooded sites were enhanced by grading, selective thinning of trees, and massing of plant materials which directed views opening onto broad vistas. The cemetery gateway established separation from the workaday world, and a winding drive of gradual ascent slowed progress to a stately pace. Such settings stirred an appreciation of nature and a sense of the continuity of life.

The older sections of the cemetery are shaded with old palms and live oak trees. Spanish moss sways in the breeze and many azalea and camilla bushes will provide color from now into the Easter season. A meandering pond splits the cemetery in half and adds to the tranquility. The newer sections are a stark contrast – flat with almost no shade.

Among the cemetery’s notable residents is Randolph Caldecott, the 19th century British artist noted for his beautifully illustrated childrens’ books. Mr. Caldecott died suddenly on February 12, 1886 while visiting St. Augustine and was one of the first burials at Evergreen.

The cemetery office is located just inside the gate and the staff was very helpful, providing maps and information on the cemetery’s history and features. This map provides an aerial view of the cemetery as it looks today. A cemetery survey is available at the St. Augustine Genealogical Society site.

References:

Flickr for Maps

We already know that Flickr is more than just a photo-sharing platform. It has also become an impressive online gallery for a growing number of the world’s prestigious institutions. You can find some truly amazing things here – like these historical maps. If you are looking for historical maps and images to support your research, take a look at the very searchable collections in Flickr Commons.

1783 Map of US Eastern Seaboard
Image taken from page 58 of ‘History of the United States of America: … to the present time by T. P. Shaffner. From the British Library’s collection at Flickr Commons.

Click the map image to view its page at Flickr and you’ll discover even more goodies – including a link back to the library where you can download a PDF copy of book containing this map and others.

Map of Drake's raid.
Baptista Boazio’s Map of Sir Francis Drake’s Raid on St. Augustine (published in 1589) by Florida Memory, on Flickr Commons.

This map is the earliest engraving of any city or territory now part of the United States. Other Flickr collections from Florida Memory include maps of the Spanish land grants in Florida at the time it became an American colony.

The number of institutions using Flickr to display collections continues to grow. The Internet Archive has posted more than 2.5 million illustrations from books in their book images collection and The British Library has more than a million images online with a good number of them maps.

St. Augustine National Cemetery

National Cemetery at St. Augustine, FL
A view of the St. Augustine National Cemetery

The cemetery adjacent to St. Francis Barracks in downtown St. Augustine served the military post here from Florida’s first days as an American territory. The earliest burials were soldiers killed in the Florida Indian Wars. In 1881, this cemetery was designated the first National Cemetery in Florida. Although the cemetery size was expanded twice in the early 20th century, it is now closed to new interments. The superintendent’s lodge, shown here on the right side of the photo, was built in 1938.

Each Memorial Day, veterans groups, civic groups and citizens gather to honor those who gave their life in battle and those local veterans who have passed away since the previous Veterans Day. An arched coquina stage located at the northern edge of the cemetery property with an open grassy area between it and the flag pole provides enough space for an impressive massing of colors and seating for local dignitaries. Some seating is available in the walkways, but most participants choose to bring chairs or blankets to sit under the live oak trees around the property.

Current Information

The St. Augustine National Cemetery is located at 104 Marine Street, St. Augustine, FL 32084. There is no information kiosk or onsite management personnel at this location. Information inquiries should be made to the Jacksonville National Cemetery at (904) 766-5222. The cemetery is open daily from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. You can search for burial locations for veterans and their family members online at the VA National Gravesite Locator.

The Florida Department of Military Affairs published an index and biographical guide to the St. Augustine National Cemetery in the 1980s. It is more than just an index – there is also a lot of biographical material included. You can view this document online at the University of Florida Digital Collection. A printed copy is available in the genealogy section of the Southeast Branch of the St. Johns County Public Library.

References:

St. Augustine Historical Society

The St. Augustine Historical Society began as a study group in 1881 and was formally organized in 1883 making it the oldest continuously operating historical society in Florida. Today the society owns several historic buildings including the Gonzalez-Alvarez House – known to visitors as the Oldest House – and the Seguí-Kirby Smith House which houses the society’s research library.

The society maintains an impressive collection of manuscripts and pictorial material as well as printed, microfilmed and digital items. A searchable online catalog is available at no cost. The library is open Tuesday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. It is located on Aviles Street one block south of the city plaza. Library staff will perform research at a charge of $25.00 per hour. Copies begin at 50¢ per page and $1.00 per page for microfilm copies. A complete list of fees is available at the site.

In addition, a number of publications related to St. Augustine’s history can be purchased through the society’s online store.

War Department Report 1904

Between the Florida Wars with the Seminoles and the Civil War, the U.S. Army spent a lot of time in St. Augustine during the 19th century, but by 1904, they didn’t have much use for our city. Here’s the Annual Report of the War Department from June 1904:

The military reservations in the vicinity of St. Augustine, Fla., are as follows:
” A.” Powder or magazine lot, containing an area of 11 acres.
” B.” The St. Augustine National Cemetery, formerly the post cemetery, containing an area of about fifty-eight hundredths of an acre.
” C.” The St. Francis Barracks and hospital lot, containing about 5 acres.
” D.” Two islands, near St. Augustine, in the main channel of the Mantanzas River, containing about 2 acres.
” E.” Fort Marion, an old Spanish work said to have been commenced in 1565 and completed in 1756, under the name of Castle of St. Mark. The fort and adjacent land contain about 22 acres.
” F.” Anastasia Island Military Reservation, containing about 700 acres.

The national cemetery contains the remains of the officers and enlisted men killed in the Dade massacre and Florida wars from 1835 to 1842.

Old Fort Marion serves no useful purpose, but is attractive as a relic. If a portion of this reservation could be set aside as a national cemetery and the remains moved from the present cemetery it would seem advisable, for historic and sentimental reasons, to retain the Fort Marion Reservation, marking accurately and properly its boundaries as determined by proper surveys, or selling to the parties who are located thereon under revocable licenses such portions of the reservation as they hold, carefully bounding and marking the remaining portion and prohibiting any further encroachment or trespass thereon. Then the lands embraced in what is now St. Francis Barracks, the adjoining hospital lot, national cemetery, and the powder or magazine lot might be disposed of.

The buildings at St. Francis Barracks are going to ruin, the post will probably never be occupied again, and it seems useless to expend any money for repairs. An ordnance-sergeant alone is in charge of these reservations, and has a care taker for the Fort Marion Reservation and one for the national cemetery. The sergeant manages all affairs and attends to all his duties in a very satisfactory and businesslike way. His relations with the city authorities and all concerned seem very cordial.

St. Augustine Historic District

That ordnance-sergeant was quite a character, St. Francis Barracks is now the headquarters for the Florida National Guard, the St. Augustine National Cemetery honors those who served throughout the 19th and 20th century and this is what that old “relic” looks like today as a national monument.

Reposted with permission from Moultrie Journal.