The Cemetery at Atsena Otie

Cedar Key is located just south of the mouth of the Suwanee River in the Big Bend area of Florida’s Gulf Coast. It’s a delightful get-away destination for those who want to enjoy Florida’s natural beauty and an active artists colony. We’ve spent the last couple of days lounging on the back porch at the Cedar Key Bed & Breakfast when we weren’t browsing the shops or exploring the state parks and other sights along the lower Suwanee River.

Yesterday we enjoyed a cruise in the waters surrounding the town including the rookery at Seahorse Key and a stop at Atsena Otie. This island was the original Cedar Key and was a bustling center for milling lumber products to be shipped off to parts north. That began to decline in the late 19th century as more railroads moved further and further down the Florida peninsula. The last straw was a devestating hurricane in 1896 that destroyed almost everything on the island. From then on, the town of Cedar Key has been located at its current location closer to the mainland.

Today, when you visit Atsena Otie, you will be greeted by swarms of mosquitos as you walk the sandy paths across the island. Ruined foundations of once-busy sawmills are crumbling on the beach. But, back in the hammock is the surprisingly-well preserved remains of the old cemetery.

Looking west across the cemetery

There are a few burials dating after 1896 – for relatives of those already buried here – but most are from the boom days before the hurricane. These pictures tell the story better than I can.

Mrs. Matilda Parr

A fenced lot

Broken Schmidt monument

Justine Bozeman


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