Oct. 1, 1887
Mission of Nombre de Dios
St. Augustine, FL
The large plant behind the grave marker is a crinum lily, also known as a hurricane lily because it blooms during hurricane season.
Oct. 1, 1887
This small plot on the grounds of the Mission of Nombre de Dios contains the graves of six of the founding Sisters of St. Joseph in St. Augustine. In 1866, eight Sisters arrived in St. Augustine from their Motherhouse in France. Their mission was to teach the children of slaves freed as a result of the Civil War. These first Sisters lived and taught from a house on Aviles Street. In 1874, they opened St. Joseph Academy for white students and in 1898, St. Benedict the Moor School opened for black students. Cathedral Parish School opened in 1916. St. Benedict the Moor School closed in 1968 when Florida schools became integrated, but both St. Joseph Academy and Cathedral Parish School continue to thrive.
The Sisters buried here are:
The plaque posted behind their plot states:
Following the civil war, the Sisters of St. Joseph came to St. Augustine to teach the liberated slaves. Interred in this holy ground are six members of their congregation.
References and Resources:
This beautiful park located just north of downtown St. Augustine is not a graveyard although there are many graves to be found here. Here is where the Spanish colonists first landed in what would become the oldest permanent city in the United States. Here is where the first mass was celebrated and where the first mission was established. The photo above shows a statue of Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales celebrating that first mass in September 1565 and beyond him is the 200-foot stainless steel cross commemorating the 400th anniversary of the Catholic Church in the United States.
Although there are some burials dating back to the 1850s, the majority of graves here date between 1880 and 1900 – the period immediately following the closing of the Catholic cemetery located inside the city limits. An online inventory of the site is available courtesy of the St. Augustine Genealogical Society.
Scattered around the grounds of the Mission of Nombre de Dios are several simple headstones marking the graves of members of various units of the United States Colored Troops. Each stone is the same size and design as this one for Simon Williams. None of the stones show birth or death dates – only name and unit. From Florida History Online:
During the Civil War thousands of enslaved Floridians escaped from their owners and found refuge in the Union-occupied towns of Fernandina, Jacksonville, St. Augustine, and Key West, where they were considered “contraband of war” and were not returned to their former owners. They found work on the abandoned plantations in the area controlled by Union forces, built fortifications, worked as teamsters for the Federal troops. As soon as Union policy permitted, more than 1000 self-liberated men from northeast Florida farms and plantations who settled into the swelling refugee camps outside the coastal towns, began joining three Union regiments organized at Hilton Head, South Carolina. Known originally as the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd South Carolina Loyal Volunteers, these regiments were officially mustered into the Union Army as the 33rd, 34th, and 21st regiments of United States Colored Infantry. For the remainder of the war these once-enslaved black men fought to free their families and other Africans Americans from bondage, and to bring a permanent end to slavery in the United States of America. By the end of the Civil War, 186,017 African American men from all over the divided nation had enlisted as “Colored Troops” in the Union army.
According to the cemetery records in the files of the St. Augustine Historical Society, the following veterans of the United States Colored Troops are buried at the Mission: