Sunday, December 10, 2017
News Roundup

USF researchers scan Tampa's Oaklawn Cemetery for lost graves

TAMPA

The city's oldest cemetery is the final resting place for at least 1,000 early Tampa residents — pioneers, Confederate soldiers, victims of yellow fever, pirates, 13 mayors and slaves — but there might be even more.

So this week, anthropologists and students from the University of South Florida brought ground-penetrating radar and other equipment to Oaklawn Cemetery and the adjacent St. Louis Catholic Cemetery to search for and map unmarked graves.

"This is like an outdoor museum," said Jeff Moates, regional director of the Florida Public Archaeology Network. "You come here and you learn about Tampa, how the city was founded, all the people that had a role and played a part."

Oaklawn was designated as a public burial ground for "White and Slave, Rich and Poor" in 1850, when the city's population was about 500.

But many of the original grave markers were carved from cypress or other wood and rotted or disappeared over time. Tampa didn't get rail service until 1884, so importing granite headstones for the earliest graves required bringing the heavy monuments into town by some combination of sail, steamship and wagon.

What's more, during the Civil War an 8-inch shell landed in the cemetery during a naval bombardment of Tampa in 1862.

After the war, the original map of the cemetery was lost. And Oaklawn contains two mass graves — one for 102 soldiers and early settlers at Fort Brooke, which was abandoned before Oaklawn was dedicated, and another for at least 88 victims of five outbreaks of yellow fever between 1853 and 1887.

The result is a partial but colorful mosaic of local history.

One grave marker says simply:

Charles Owens

Hanged

1882

Perhaps Oaklawn's best-known headstone is for former city clerk William Ashley, who was white, and Nancy Ashley, an African-American servant and longtime companion. Historians say Oaklawn is one of the few graveyards in the nation where slaves and slave owners can be found in the same plots.

The Ashleys' marker says:

Here lies

Wm. Ashley and Nancy Ashley

Master and servant

Faithful to each other in that relation in life, in death they are not separated

Stranger, consider and be wiser.

In the grave all human distinction of race or caste mingle together in one common dust

USF researchers are using ground-penetrating radar and a magnetic gradiometer to spot anomalies in the soil or bits of metal from coffins or clothing that could mark lost graves, and GPS technology to map the site.

"What happened here happened a lot of places," said Tom Pluckhahn, an associate professor and archaeologist in USF's Department of Anthropology. "This cemetery is 150 years old. Headstones get knocked over. We've also got slave graves here that were probably never really marked very well. . . . So over time, the location of the graves becomes obscure."

The search comes amid ongoing city-supported efforts to restore the historic cemetery, including pressure-washing the stone wall surrounding Oaklawn and clearing away trash left by vagrants.

Preservationists also want to petition the National Park Service to bestow national historic landmark status on the graveyard.

Data compiled by the USF team over the next few weeks will go into a database of the site, at 606 E Harrison St. on the northern edge of downtown.

"There's an opportunity for us to bring this back and let people understand the history that is here, and how significant this cemetery is," Buckhorn said Friday.

And, for the mayor, it also was a chance to revel in a spot where history and politics come together.

Asked to roll a piece of ground-penetrating radar equipment over an area of possible unmarked graves, Buckhorn asked, "If we identify them, can we get them registered to vote?"

Contact Richard Danielson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times

   
Comments
Live blog: New, analysis, photos and more from today’s Bucs-Lions game

Live blog: New, analysis, photos and more from today’s Bucs-Lions game

Follow our live coverage of the Bucs’ game against the Detroit Lions, today at Raymond James Stadium. You’ll find news, analysis, photos, video and more from Times reporters, columnists and photojournalists — all in real time. Find it below:Sign up f...
Updated: 17 minutes ago
This radio segments asks listeners to guess the race of criminals

This radio segments asks listeners to guess the race of criminals

ST. PETERSBURG — On the night of Oct. 25, a St. Petersburg woman reportedly propositioned an undercover officer.In return for oral sex, she wanted $5 and a Beanie Baby bear, according to a police report.Is she black? Or is she white? It’s a question ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
As tax plan gained steam, GOP lost focus on the middle class

As tax plan gained steam, GOP lost focus on the middle class

The GOP tax plan on the cusp of becoming law diverges wildly from the promises President Trump and top advisers said they would deliver for the middle class — an evolution that shows how traditional Republican orthodoxy swamped Trump’s distinctive br...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Sting rocks the house with old and new hits in Florida Orchestra gala

Sting rocks the house with old and new hits in Florida Orchestra gala

ST. PETERSBURG — In some ways, the Florida Orchestra’s gala with Sting looked like other concerts of a mega-star. Most of the fans who packed the Mahaffey Theater bought their tickets the day they went on sale. They cheered and sang along at the open...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Florida professional wrestler arrested, charged with battery of his wife, also a professional wrestler

Florida professional wrestler arrested, charged with battery of his wife, also a professional wrestler

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Wrestler Rich Swann is being held without bail in a Florida jail after he was arrested and charged with battery and false imprisonment. Swann, who is 26 and a former WWE cruiserweight champion, was arrested Saturday. According to ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
It’s so cold outside that it snowed in Florida

It’s so cold outside that it snowed in Florida

Usually the words "snow" and "Florida" don’t go together.But a cold front over the weekend has proved that rule wrong for shivering Floridians, bringing in a dusting of snow across the western Panhandle late Saturday night into Sunday morning.As temp...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Forecast: Parts of Tampa Bay under freeze watch as cold temperatures linger

Forecast: Parts of Tampa Bay under freeze watch as cold temperatures linger

Bundle up, Tampa Bay: It’s a chilly Sunday. 10News WTSPThe latest Tampa Bay-area radar 10News WTSPFeels-like temperatures around the Tampa Bay area The skies are clear and there’s little-to-no chance of ra...
Updated: 5 hours ago
The Sound-Smarter-Than-Your-Friends Guide To Lions-Buccaneers

The Sound-Smarter-Than-Your-Friends Guide To Lions-Buccaneers

A 9-7 record should be something to celebrate.That will earn some teams a playoff spot.Maybe, though, it’s not the achievement we think it is.Maybe it’s a curse.Take, for instance, the Bucs and Lions, who play Sunday at Raymond James Stad...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Updated game story: Lightning’s Brayden Point credits luck, opportunity for OT winner vs. Jets

Updated game story: Lightning’s Brayden Point credits luck, opportunity for OT winner vs. Jets

TAMPA — His coach says he plays every game as if he doesn’t play his best, he’s going to be sent down. That is not the case with Brayden Point, but who doesn’t want that kind of effort from a second-year player who has more than established himself i...
Published: 12/09/17
Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield wins Heisman Trophy

Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield wins Heisman Trophy

NEW YORK — Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night, completing a climb from walk-on to one of the most accomplished players in the history of college football. Mayfield won a lopsided vote to become the sixth Okla...
Published: 12/09/17