GROVELAND, Fla. — The slow, steady march of time had all but erased a plot of land in Groveland. While neighborhoods sprouted up on all sides and tall grass reclaimed the earth, the lives that were lived and the people who were buried there all but faded out of memory.
“I’ve found pieces from one side of the cemetery to the other,” said Nigel Rudolph as he scans the ground. “That was done by human hands.”
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Rudolph is with the Florida Public Archeology Network. For the next two days, he and his team will be scanning the ground with sonar at the Black cemetery, finding what was forgotten.
“It’s certainly one of the most significant projects I’ve worked on in my history of working with historic African American cemeteries in the state,” Rudolph said. “We’re trying to tell the story of this community that existed at a time when they weren’t counted necessarily as being valuable to the community.”
Read: Groveland works to restore the community’s original Black cemetery
It’s estimated that more than 200 people were buried there between the late 1800s and early 1900s. And while some of the graves still have a headstone, others have been lost to time with only a patchwork of records showing the lives lived in this community, and the people laid to rest in this ground.
“The street today called Blue Street is because some of the Blues are buried out here,” said Groveland resident Samuel Griffin.
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Griffin has been working with Groveland Fire Chief Kevin Carroll to restore the historic cemetery, which will eventually be renamed the “Oak Tree Union Colored Cemetery of Taylorville,” a reference to the name of the community that once existed in what is today known as Groveland.
The work to restore the cemetery and identify those buried here is a mix of volunteers and funding from the state, which allotted up to half a million dollars for the project.
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