Wednesday, December 30, 2015

100-year-old graves rest in middle of Flagler County Airport (KFIN), Palm Coast, Florida

Head stones and a monument mark the White Family Cemetery at the Flagler County Airport in Palm Coast.

PALM COAST — While aircraft buzz over one of the busiest general aviation airports in Florida, the final resting place for at least two members of the White family lies below.

The tiny graveyard occupies a small knoll on the sprawling Flagler County Airport property. Only three headstones can be seen in a little clearing. While one of the headstones is hard to read because the name on it was written in sea shells, many of which have fallen off, two headstones more clearly mark the graves of Robert and Julia White, both of whom died in 1914.

Robert White was a Union officer in the Civil War who served as a lieutenant in the Second Regiment of the Kansas Cavalry, according to the Flagler County Historical Society.

Sisco Deen, the historical society's archivist, said it's likely there are more remains buried in or near the small graveyard, but workers building the U.S. Navy airfield on the site during World War II saw only two headstones with a small fence around them and assumed those were the only graves.

Known as the White Family Cemetery, the area now is maintained by Flagler County government.

“We go out there from time to time to maintain and show respect for the area,” said airport manager Roy Sieger. “We actually keep the area as a protected site. We don’t intend to build anywhere in that area.”

Sieger said when he gives talks about the airport to local community groups, residents are surprised to learn about the cemetery. He said for one talk he gave a few years ago on All Saints Day — the day after Halloween — he started the program with a slide showing the cemetery markers.

“People are pretty astonished about that,” Sieger said.

Deen said a few old family cemeteries remain in Flagler County, but others were lost to development.

“While uncommon today, family cemeteries were a matter of practicality during the settlement of present-day Flagler County,” Deen said. “Since municipal or church cemeteries had not been established, settlers would seek out a small plot of land, often in wooded areas bordering their fields, to begin a family plot. Sometimes, several families would arrange to bury their dead together.”

Deen said many family cemeteries were forgotten after family members moved away or died. Others were relocated as the county's population grew. But a few remain.

“The DuPont Family Cemetery in northern Flagler County is still maintained by family members, as is the Strickland Cemetery in Korona,” Deen said.

Discovering forgotten cemeteries "happens more often than you think," said Emily Jane Murray, public archaeology coordinator with the Florida Public Archaeology Network Northeast Region. "Florida has a long history of transient populations. A lot of times, families move away and they're forgotten about."

Murray said organizations like hers work to document and preserve cemeteries.

"The first line of defense is the Florida Master Site File," she said. That's an inventory of the cultural resources in the state that "lets the state know the resource is there."

In addition, the FPAN works with local groups to develop cemetery management plans and conducts workshops on how to clean up and document previously forgotten cemeteries.

Sieger said he wasn’t surprised to learn about the cemetery on airport property.

“The last airport I worked at there were a couple cemetery plots on it as well,” he said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if there are more out there that are unmarked.”

Sieger said the county placed a third marker in the cemetery for members of the Sundquist family, near the headstones for Robert and Julia White.

Deen said that marker was given to him by Norma Durrance Turner to mark the grave of her great grandfather, John Sundquist.

"Norma said that he was buried in the small Durrance Cemetery that was on present-day airport property but was plowed over when they built the airport," Deen said.

Deen said the Durrance Cemetery may have been located near the White Family Cemetery but the exact site is lost to history, so the marker was placed near the headstones for Robert and Julia White.


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