Ocala, Florida — The inscription on the memorial plaque in front of Evergreen Cemetery in Ocala, Florida, reads as follows:
“Reserved on July 8, 1850, as the first public burial ground for Ocala. Here are graves of those who founded the County seat, of others here during its early years, and of Confederate and Union veterans of the Civil War. Nearby are interred Negro residents, both slave and free. They too in loyal service shared in the up-building of the city.”
Ocala’s first public burial ground is a large piece of history in Ocala and holds memories from a time when citizens fought for freedom.
Now, the historical cemetery lies in ruins. The deplorable conditions of the cemetery have been described as sickening and disheartening by many Marion County residents. Overgrown shrubbery, grass, and trees cover what are mostly vandalized, unmaintained, and decaying gravesites. The cemetery shows significant signs of vandalism. Headstones are broken, many completely removed, and the fencing appears to have been purposely destroyed. Veterans, civilian citizens, babies, and young children now rest in graves that have become nothing more than a pile of rubble.
Unlike a common burial ground, a cemetery is meant to hold a certain sacredness — a resting place that holds the identity of the deceased and should protect, as well as celebrate the individual identities of those laid to rest.
Residents say there is absolutely no reason this cemetery should have been left unmaintained. The fact that this has happened shows laziness, as well as a complete lack of responsibility and respect on the City of Ocala’s part.
According to the Historic Ocala Preservation Society, 10 years ago they arranged for volunteers to clean up and restore the cemetery, even though it was and still is the responsibility of the City. The cemetery has not had any upkeep since that time.
Property records show the property name as Cemetery Evergreen and owned by the City of Ocala. Tax bills are sent in care of, Real Estate Officer, 201 NE Third Street, Second floor, Ocala, 34471.
Ocala Post contacted the City of Ocala, as well as Mayor Guinn, to find out why the cemetery — and part of Ocala’s history — has been left to ruin.
As of today, Ocala Post’s questions have not been answered.
Whether you have an ancestor who is buried in Evergreen Cemetery and want answers, or just want to see it cleaned up, you can use the following contact information to express your concerns to City of Ocala officials.
Mary Rich at firstname.lastname@example.org, John McLeod at email@example.com, or Mayor Guinn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As taxpaying citizens of Marion County, you are entitled to answers.
Evergreen Cemetery is located on NW 8th Street in Ocala.
Ocala Post wants to hear from you. If you have a story surrounding the Evergreen Cemetery, or just want to express your thoughts, please share it.
[–Jenny Ann Treece contributed to this story–]