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In search of lost cemeteries

A number of cemeteries forgotten through the years across the Tampa Bay area came to light during 2019, most of them final resting places for African-Americans. The new attention to old burial grounds springs from a Tampa Bay Times report in June that revealed the first and largest of them – Zion Cemetery in Tampa.

Archaeologists Kelsey Kreiser, Rebecca O'Sullivan, Eric Prendergast and Jeff Moates survey an area of Robles Park Village where they believe graves from Zion Cemetery may be located in Tampa, Monday, June 22, 2020.
Archaeologists start the process of ground truthing on segregation-era cemetery land.
Jun. 22, 2020• History
To catch you up on what’s happened, here are answers to questions about all the burial grounds that have come to light in 2019.
Dec. 31, 2019• Hillsborough
Four lost black cemeteries have been found in the last year. There could be more. What does this say about the Tampa Bay area’s history?
Jun. 5, 2020• News
Archaeologists discovered at least 70 graves that were left behind when a Clearwater cemetery was moved in the 1950s.
Jun. 3, 2020• News
  1. This small section of land at Woodlawn Cemetery was designated for Black burials more than a century ago. It was staked off in 1900 to separate it from white burials during that era of segregation.
  2. This historic marker now denotes the the location of the erased College Hill Cemetery. The burial ground for Black and Cuban residents is now the Italian Club Cemetery's parking lot. It was erased after 1941. There are no records of the bodies being moved.
  3. The parking in the northeast corner of Oaklawn Cemetery and the fellowship hall to the north of the church across the street are within the footprint of property that was deeded as a Black cemetery in 1883. It's unclear if anyone was buried there.
  4. Aerial view of where four homes and a church parking lot in East Tampa's Montana City Subdivision might have been built on top of the St. Joseph Aid Society Cemetery.
  5. Salesia Smith-Gordon comforts her mother Jeraldine Williams, center, in front of a memorial during the funeral service for her great-great-great grandmother Anna Wyche, who is among those buried at the erased Zion Cemetery, where Robles Park Village now stands in Tampa.
  6. Mayor Jane Castor speaks at a news conference at Memorial Park Cemetery to address the city’s role in the upkeep, care and protection of privately owned and city cemeteries.
  7. Archaeologists Mary Maisel, left, and Erin McKendry, with Cardno, excavate sand in March while working to confirm graves from Clearwater's erased St. Matthews Baptist Church Cemetery.
  8. Pasco County historian Jeff Cannon says this concrete slab marks Eugenia Osburn Howell's grave still located on land that was once Prospect Cemetery.
  9. A view of the Showmen’s Rest Cemetery at 3541 N. North Blvd. in Tampa. A developer wants to buy an unused portion of Showmen's Rest Cemetery for circus and carnival workers and build up to 15 single family homes on the land.
  10. Angela Alderman has on a decade long search for her great uncle's grave in College Hill Cemetery that was located where the Italian Club Cemetery's parking lot is today. Alderman is holding her uncle's death certificate in the parking lot.
  11. Parking lot 1 at Tropicana Field where Oaklawn Cemetery was once located on the corner of 16th street and 5th Ave. S.
  12. A small number of grave markers remain in place at Whispering Souls Cemetery on South Drive in Clearwater. For decades the cemetery, which dates to the 1800s, has sat abandoned as neighborhoods were built up around it. Recently, a judge granted ownership of the cemetery to a nonprofit.
  13. Angela Alderman poses in the Italian Club Cemetery's parking lot, which is the possible site of the erased College Hill Cemetery. She is holding a copy of the death certificate for her great uncle, Frank Martinez, who died in 1917 and was buried in College Hill Cemetery. Pictured rear is the Italian Club Cemetery mausoleum.
  14. Cardno Archaeologist KC Allen uses a trowel as she explores a possible grave shaft at the erased Zion Cemetery in Tampa.
  15. This portrait of Robert Meacham was taken around 1870. Meacham was an enslaved man who was later elected Florida senator.
  16. Cardno Archaeologist KC Allen uses a trowel as she explores a grave shaft at Zion Cemetery in Tampa in June  2020.
  17. Tampa's Black neighborhood known as the Scrub as it looked in the 1930s. The downtown neighborhood was later razed.
  18. This retention pond, next to the the Italian Club cemetery at 2520 E 24th Ave, in Tampa, is where a mass grave was allegedly witnessed in the 1970s when the city was digging there.
  19. A conceptual design of what the Zion Cemetery memorial park could look like.
  20. A plat from 1887 of a Cuban burial section located on land that today is used as a parking lot by the Italian Club Cemetery
  21. Robert Irvin and Yvette Lewis with the the Hillsborough County NAACP, walk across a grassy field believed to once hold burial sections for Cubans and Blacks. Lewis would like the Italian Club, who owns the cemetery, to pay for ground penetrating radar, at the Italian Club Cemetery located in College Hill in Tampa.
  22. A pedestrian is seen at Memorial Park Cemetery in Tampa. The cemetery opened in 1919 and was recently cleaned up by the City of Tampa after the former owner had died and left the grounds in disrepair.
  23. Cardno Archaeologist KC Allen uses a trowel as she explores a grave shaft at Zion Cemetery in Tampa.
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