Category Archives: Graves

The Monson Plot

The Monson family plot

The Monson family plot in St. Augustine’s Evergreen Cemetery.

The three stones shown in this photo mark the graves of Anthony Vincent Monson (1855-1915), his two wives and his daughter. Monson would become the proprietor of the Monson House hotel in his later years. Buried with him is his second wife, Florence Young (1866-1920). Their daughter, Winifred (1892-1902) is buried in the grave marked with the curved-top stone. His first wife, Mary, died in 1899 and is buried behind and between the other two markers.

Col. Charles W. Bulow

Ledger stone covering the box tomb of Col. Charles W. Bulow.
Photo from the author’s collection at Flickr.

this stone
are deposited the remains of
of Charleston So. Ca.
who died on the 1st of May
aged 44 years.

A prominent native of Charleston, South Carolina, Bulow came to Florida during the transfer of government from Spain to the United States. He purchased more than 4,000 acres about 30 miles south of St. Augustine where he raised sugar cane, cotton, indigo and rice. He also owned a house on the bayfront in St. Augustine.

Col. Bulow did not get to enjoy watching his holdings grow and prosper because he died in 1823 (May 1st on his grave, but May 7th in his published obituary). His son, John, who was 17 and studying in Paris at the time of his father’s death, would take over the Florida enterprise and turn it into the largest sugar mill in east Florida. In 1836, the plantation was destroyed by Seminole Indians.

Today it is protected as Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park – part of Florida’s state park system.

Hurricane Fury

1935 Hurricane Monument

Florida Keys memorial to the victims of the 1935 hurricane. Photo courtesy of David Hawkins and Wikipedia.

On Labor Day, September 2, 1935, a category 5 hurricane struck the upper Keys destroying most of the buildings on the island of Islamorada and killing more than 400 people. This monument not only honors those people, but also serves as their crypt as the ashes of many of them are buried here. The plaque reads:

The Florida Keys Memorial, known locally as the “Hurricane Monument,” was built to honor hundreds of American veterans and local citizens who perished in the “Great Hurricane” on Labor Day, September 2, 1935. Islamorada sustained winds of 200 miles per hour and a barometer reading of 26.36 inches for many hours on that fateful holiday; most local buildings and the Florida East Coast Railway were destroyed by what remains the most savage hurricane on record. Hundreds of World War I veterans who had been camped in the Matecumbe area while working on the construction of U.S. Highway One for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) were killed. In 1937 the cremated remains of approximately 300 people were placed within the tiled crypt in front of the monument. The monument is composed of native keystone, and its striking frieze depicts coconut palm trees bending before the force of hurricane winds while the waters from an angry sea lap at the bottom of their trunks. Monument construction was funded by the WPA and regional veterans’ associations. Over the years the Hurricane Monument has been cared for by local veterans, hurricane survivors, and descendants of the victims.

At the time, the Florida East Coast Railway was the primary route through the Keys although the veterans mentioned above were working to build what is now U.S. 1. They were hired for this project in an effort to employ members of the “Bonus Army” that had marched on Washington in 1932. They lived in tents on Matecumbe and as the storm strengthened, a train was sent to evacuate them and others living in the area. The rescue train arrived just as the hurricane reached its peak strength. A tidal wave hit the train, knocking all but the locomotive off the tracks. Many drowned inside the cars.

Rescue train swept off the tracks by the 1935 Labor Day hurricane

Rescue train swept off the tracks by the 1935 Labor Day hurricane. Courtesy of the State Library and Archives of Florida, on Flickr.

This hurricane was the first of three category 5 storms to hit the United States in the 20th century (Camille in 1969 and Andrew in 1992) and still holds the record as the only U.S. storm with a central pressure below 900 mbar. Bodies from this storm were found as far away as Flamingo on Florida’s southwest coast. Heat and the large number of casualties forced the need for cremation and a central burial site.

This was the end of the “overseas railroad”. The railroad never rebuilt the track destroyed by the storm. The highway was completed and is still the only road into and out of the Keys.

Evacuating the Keys when storms threaten continues to challenge Florida’s emergency operations system. The memory of those hundreds who died 75 years ago remind us all what a hurricane can do.

Originally posted at Moultrie Creek Journal.

Moses J. Lee, Jr.

Moses J. Lee, Jr. headstone

Moses J. Lee, Jr. at Pinehurst Cemetery. Photo from the author’s collection at Flickr.

Moses J. Lee Jr.
July 12, 1910
May 7, 1949
In Loving Memory

Pinehurst Cemetery, St. Augustine, Florida

Moses was a carpenter who lived in the North City neighborhood just south of the Mission property. He was survived by his wife, Viola, but found no record of them having any children.

Tombstone Tuesday: Coquina Edition

You won’t find much in the way of stone here in Florida.  As a result many of our historical graveyards either have tombstones imported from elsewhere – Savannah and Charleston, for example – or wooden tombstones which have long since rotted away.  A third option uses our local shell-rock, called coquina.  This view of Huguenot cemetery offers a good representation of the uses – and limitations – of coquina in the graveyard.

Huguenot Cemetery, St. Augustine, Florida

The box grave in the foreground has a coquina foundation and is topped with a marble gravestone.  The coquina shows a lot of wear as corners easily break off from the weather.  The matching crosses on the left were also fashioned from coquina.  Both show wear, with the one on the left especially worn.  Coquina’s natural roughness makes it unsuitable for carving.  As a result, often coquina was used to frame a marble plaque containing lettering.  A sample of this appears in front of the crosses.

Huguenot CemeteryAlthough generally unsuitable for tombstones, coquina had its place.  It was often used to build walls around family plots and to provide the foundations to tombs and tombstones made of other materials.

Coquina is a unique material that holds a special place in our history thanks to the two Spanish forts built of it.  Neither fort was captured in battle – a record held in part to this porous rock.  Unlike most stones which shattered when hit by cannonballs, here they either bounced off or were sucked into them as if a sponge.

When you visit this area, you will see many creative uses of our special shell-rock.  Our graveyards offer a few of their own.