GROVELAND, Fla. — Officials working to restore an abandoned African American cemetery in Groveland have uncovered an infamous grand oak tree on the grounds.
What You Need To Know
- The grand oak that an African American cemetery is named after was uncovered during restoration
- Groveland city officials have learned about 215 people are buried there
- Among the headstones they have discovered is one of a WWI veteran
- The city is waiting on a survey to continue cleanup efforts
During each step of the restoration of the “Oak Tree Union Colored Cemetery of Taylorville,” Groveland Fire Chief Kevin Carroll and Deo Persaud have discovered something new.
Recently, they learned that about 215 people are buried at the cemetery. They now have 180 death certificates to learn more about them.
“The headstone over here by the pink flag, that is Joe Green — a World War I veteran,” Carroll said. “Joe’s gravesite probably hasn’t seen sunshine in more than 70, 80, maybe even 100 years.”
Just in the last week, they found the grand oak that was the centerpiece of the cemetery after which it was named. Carroll said he had always heard of the tree but never set eyes on it until they started clearing trees and debris from the back of the cemetery, where they found it.
“Back in the day, this would have been the biggest tree before these invasive trees behind me here finally took off,” Carroll said.
He and Persaud plan to preserve the oak by having a local resident make something out of it, just one type of backing the restoration project is starting to get.
To Carroll and Persaud, the cemetery is no regular piece of land. They have vowed to ensure it is fully restored. The city now owns the cemetery, which is currently gridlocked. It’s finalizing buying land from a private owner to allow an entrance to the once-abandoned cemetery.
“A beautiful pavilion with informational kiosks right in this area here,” Carroll said, as he described what’s to come on the property. “Parking over in this area. Beautiful landscaping throughout the whole property, when it’s all finally completed.”
“Every tree we take down, every stone we turn, every site we identify, it’s really a victory for this community to do this project,” Persaud said.
But for Carroll and Persaud, this project starts with the community, and they plan to end this project with the community.
“When it’s all down, we’ll be able to view and see and enjoy and learn, which is important, about the life, the history, and the contributions of all of these people here who have been forgotten,” Carroll said.