It’s been called Pinewood Cemetery, Peninsula Cemetery, and my personal favorite- Boot Hill Cemetery, because right across the street from the gate is the Boot Hill Bar, catering to bikers and anyone wearing leather within a fifty mile radius (or more). This cemetery is fascinating, but loud. I’ve never been to a loud cemetery before but on the Sunday afternoon when we visited the bar was in full swing, the people outside the bar were getting fairly drunk, and our visit was punctuated by shouts, revving engines, and catcalls. I was not charmed, but the bikers have been instrumental in raising funds to protect this place. News articles from 2004 mention them holding fundraisers to help raise the 90,000 dollars needed to restore the cemetery, and I have learned in the last year that any money can make a difference when you’re dealing with preservation.
When we drove in and parked on the sandy shoulder next to the drive we noticed an entire troupe of ragged men and women hanging out to the left of us; they had set up a comprehensive camp and there were clothes drying on the walls. The guys were shirtless, the women in short shorts and tank tops. Hard to tell if they were homeless or if they were bar patrons that had come over to rest in the shade. They never moved while we were there.
If I’d been alone, I would have left immediately. Not because they were threatening in any way, but it’s a really private cemetery surrounded by a wall and walking around there with a bunch of people observing me wouldn’t be my thing. There is also a single drive in and out of the cemetery that loops through, and there is no place to turn the car around. This place is packed with burials and family plots. Shawn and I gave the group space and walked through the right side of the property.
When I hopped out of the car the first thing I saw by my feet was a fish head. A big, toothy one, eaten down to the bone by the elements and whatever brought it here in the first place. The ocean is close by and birds sometimes make nests in cemeteries and fling their trash around. We’d noticed the same thing in Titusville on another visit.
The cemetery dates back to 1877 when landowner John Smith buried his daughter on the property. Eventually the rest of the land was broken up into plots, passed from owner to owner, and sold off for burials. The last burials took place in the 70’s, but to be honest with you, I never even noticed them. The cemetery is full of beautiful old funerary art and has some unique headstones, crypts, and mausoleums. The design is also unique for Central Florida which is full of flat, sandy graveyards. This one is terraced and walking through the cemetery includes climbing meandering steps and walking along crooked paths. I loved it.
One of my favorite vaults was for ‘John H. Abraham and Wife’, which is added below his name as an afterthought, probably because she outlived him by 2 years. John Hamilton Abraham was born in Pennsylvania, and his wife fortunately DID get her own name on Find A Grave- she was Eliza. He was buried in 1927, and she followed in 1929. The whole vault has been covered with thick plaster and only has the name plate for identification.
I wanted to know what was underneath that plaster.
John Abraham was listed as a landlord in 1920 and an artist in the 1880 census. He lived a long time. When I found the census where he was 7 years old I saw the he was one of 10 children in a household of 12 people. Being a landlord probably came very naturally to someone who grew up with lots of people in the house.
I love this cemetery and plan to visit again. If you’re doing research about it online there are large numbers of paranormal groups who have posted the results of their investigations. I’m pretty sure that was before the gates started being locked at night. The city is trying to protect this treasure. Go visit if you can!