Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

One woman won't let neglected Samford Cemetery be forgotten

RIVERVIEW — At Samford Cemetery, moss-draped oak trees shade the headstones. The afternoon sun casts long shadows, and the air is still and quiet.

Yet this spot, the final resting place of some of Riverview's pioneer families, is far from a place of beautiful repose. Broken pieces of headstones and monuments cover the ground. Tall grass obscures some graves, and litter abounds. For years, the elements have been slowly obliterating names from some grave markers.

It wasn't always this way. In the 1850s, members of the Duzenbury family began burying loved ones in their namesake cemetery. It later became the Peru Cemetery, sharing a name with the tiny phosphate mining settlement —Peru — that would one day become Riverview.

Samford Cemetery holds the remains of some of the area's first prominent residents: Samuel B. Mayes, who helped settle Peru; Urban S. Bird, an early minister of Riverview Methodist Church; and Alexander Samford, a well-known 19th century minister for whom the cemetery was ultimately named.

Not all the graves are from the 19th century: Hattie Bailey, died Sept., 27, 1985. Mary Conaty, died Feb. 1, 1997. Betty Fellion, died July 18, 1983.

Valerie Gosa buried her stillborn son at Samford in 2001. Back then, the grass was cut and the trees were trimmed. Now, visits to the cemetery off Cone Grove Road east of U.S. 301 require her to park along the driveway entrance. The grass is so tall that she's afraid of accidentally driving over a grave. Erosion has overwhelmed some graves with soil and caused parts of others to reappear with heavy rain.

"Nobody cares. I've called just about everyone asking for help, even some of the local churches," Gosa said. "We have at least three ministers buried there."

Gosa said she's willing to pick up where Susan Bunting left off. Bunting formed a cemetery association in the early 1990s to keep the place up. For a few years, she got prison inmates to clean the grounds twice a month.

"That was until the governor thought it was a waste of money," Bunting said.

Volunteers from the cemetery association also did upkeep for a few years.

"It's just too much for only a few people," Bunting said.

A perpetual-care fund was never established because the cemetery is so old. Its small size and the fact that it no longer sells plots means Samford is exempt from state oversight, according to the Florida Department of Financial Services.

Gosa is holding a cleanup day at 9 a.m. Saturday and is asking the community to help.

Those who turn out will get to help save a piece of Riverview history. Bunting's great-aunt, who was of Russian nobility, is buried there, though the iron cross that marked her grave is gone.

It's unknown how many burial spots have been compromised from the estimated 300 graves that were added when a local funeral director oversaw the cemetery's upkeep several decades ago.

Information about the history of Samford Cemetery was obtained from Temple Terrace resident Chuck Matson, who is writing a book about Hillsborough County cemeteries, and his Web site, www.hillsborough

Samford Cemetery cleanup

9 a.m. Saturday

10101 Cone Grove Road, Riverview. For more information, contact Valerie Gosa at 241-7903

• • •

Who's buried at Samford Cemetery? Log on to

One woman won't let neglected Samford Cemetery be forgotten 01/15/09 [Last modified: Thursday, January 15, 2009 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Danny Rolling killed five in Gainesville 27 years ago this week


    The following story appeared in the St. Petersburg Times on October 26, 2006, the day after Danny Rollings was put to death. Also included are photos covering the period from the time of the murders to the day of Rollings execution.

    Rolling Executed

  2. Hernando commissioners propose tax-rate reduction as budget talks continue

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The typical budget battle between the Hernando County Commission and Sheriff Al Nienhuis has largely been averted this summer, except for a dust-up over how the sheriff has accounted for federal inmate money. But a minor skirmish did break out this week.

    Hernando County Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes has suggested a small rollback in the proposed property tax rate for the 2017-18 fiscal year and proposes that it be equally shared by the county's operations and the sheriff.
  3. Trigaux: As Florida seeks top 10 status as best business state, red flag rises on workforce


    In the eternal quest to appeal more to business than other states, Florida's managed to haul itself out of some pretty mediocre years. After scoring an impressive 8 among 50 states way back in 2007, Florida suffered horribly during and immediately after the recession. Its rank sank as low as No. 30 only four years ago, …

    Florida's trying to make strides in preparing its high school and college graduates for the rapidly changing skill sets of today's workforce. But the latest CNBC ranking of the best and worst states for business gave Florida poor marks for education, ranking No. 40 (tied with South Carolina for education) among the 50 states. Still, Florida ranked No. 12 overall in the best business states annual ranking. [Alan Berner/Seattle Times]
  4. Florida: White man who killed black person to be executed

    State Roundup

    GAINESVILLE — For the first time in state history, Florida is expecting to execute a white man for killing a black person — and it plans to do so with help of a drug that has never been used previously in any U.S. execution.

    This undated photo provided by the Florida Department of Corrections shows Mark Asay. If his final appeals are denied, Asay is to die by lethal injection after 6 p.m. Thursday. Asay was convicted by a jury of two racially motivated, premeditated murders in Jacksonville in 1987.  [Florida Department of Corrections via AP]
  5. Ex-TPD sergeant LaJoyce Houston takes plea deal in stolen tax refund case


    TAMPA — LaJoyce Houston, a former Tampa police sergeant accused with her husband in a federal tax refund fraud scheme, has agreed to plead guilty to receiving stolen government property, court records state.

    Former Tampa police officers Eric and LaJoyce Houston walk into the Sam Gibbons U.S. District Courthouse on Oct. 28, 2015, to face charges relating to stolen identity tax refund fraud. [SCOTT KEELER    |      TIMES