With just a few hundred people, family plots and churchyards were more the norm for burials until the mid-1800s, said Shannon Palmer, director of the Cemetery Recovery and Preservation Trust of Jacksonville, a nonprofit organization that works to preserve and catalog historic cemeteries in Jacksonville.
Old City Cemetery on East Union Street was created in 1852. Evergreen Cemetery, which also had designated plots for various "ethnic and heritage groups," conducted its first burial in 1881.
The first cemeteries, such as Old City and Evergreen, were all-inclusive but rigidly separated inside. A century later, it's hard for the untrained eye to tell who's who.
In the early decades of the 20th century, cemeteries grew, in a way, more segregated. The African-American community sought to open its own cemeteries instead of being relegated to the black-only sections of white cemeteries. That led to the creation of cemeteries such as Sunset Memorial, established along with two others by a now-defunct company.
Most of Jacksonville's more than 120 cemeteries have been abandoned or fallen into disrepair, with no one to protect and preserve them, Palmer said.
"It's sad," she said: Historic cemeteries have much to tell the city about its past.
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At Grave Mappers, we are genealogists, researchers, historians, hobbyists, and cemetery lovers who have something in common—we want to preserve the priceless records found in cemeteries. Each of us has done this in our own unique way—walking through small deserted cemeteries and transcribing the headstone information; photographing headstones and sharing them on the internet; indexing and publishing burial listings from the cemeteries we visit.