BRANDON — Of the estimated 64,000 daily drivers who traveled through the Lithia Pinecrest Road/Pinewood Avenue intersection on Brandon Boulevard last year, few probably gave more than a passing glance toward its northwest corner, the site of the historical Brandon Family Cemetery.
But the cemetery has drawn more attention in recent weeks as workers prepare the approximate one-half acre of land for the placement of the 106-year-old Confederate monument that until recently stood outside the old Hillsborough County Courthouse.
Community founder John Brandon acquired the property in the 1850s and the oldest marked grave — that of Susan Carson, the mother of John Brandon’s first wife, Martha — dates back to 1857.
In the years that followed, multiple other Brandon family descendants have likewise made the cemetery their final resting place, including beloved patriarch John, who died in 1886.
Now the cemetery is getting a bit of a makeover, with the county erecting several new brick piers along the perimeter of the property that will connect wrought iron fencing and a gate to encase its many graves, plus the components of the 27-piece monument scheduled to be delivered and installed once the fence is finished.
The Brandon family agreed to the relocation provided private dollars paid for the enhancements.
According to Hillsborough County Media Relations Strategist Michelle Van Dyke, new landscaping will be added in mid-January to finish out the project.
Those plans, however, don’t include adding a sidewalk. The one-foot-wide stretch of curb separating the property from the busy Brandon Boulevard by a mere seven inches is an issue that’s been front and center on the minds of all four Brandon family siblings who live close to one another in Riverview, as well other concerned citizens in the greater Brandon community.
Former county commissioner and state senator Ronda Storms is among those worried about pedestrians who choose to use that walkway.
"The narrowness of it is absolutely confounding and it’s flabbergasting to me," said Storms, a longtime Valrico resident. "It’s a basic meat-and-potato safety issue."
Ken Brandon, Jr., the family’s 81-year-old spokesman, agreed, but said in order for the Florida Department of Transportation to acquire the easements necessary to widen the walkway it would require the approval of every living Brandon family member whose name is on the cemetery’s deed.
However, that’s an impossible task he said, considering John Brandon remarried following the death of his first wife, creating two sides of the family and a myriad of cousins, many of whom live out of state with no known addresses.
"The DOT has been trying to get the sidewalk widened for years and we — including Bob Brandon, a descendent from John Brandon’s second wife — are all for it," Ken Brandon, Jr. said. "But we’ve finally given up on getting everyone to sign off on it."
As disappointed as they are in not being able to connect with long lost family members, it’s likely to be a mute issue now that the fence piers are in place at the edge of the property, which could have been used to widen the sidewalk and lessen the danger people face when walking so close to the heavy traffic.
"We can all be very thankful nobody has been killed there," Storms said.
Contact Joyce McKenzie at [email protected]