Evergreen Cemetery’s first headstone still sits on the 53 acres of historical land.

Elizabeth Jane Thomas, a 10-day-old baby, was laid to rest under the withered stone in February 1856.

On Feb. 21, the cemetery will celebrate the 160th anniversary of its first burial.

“It’ll be Sunday after church, so it should be good,” said Gary Smith, the cemetery coordinator.

Starting at 2 p.m., the cemetery, situated at 401 SE 21st Ave., will host history talks, walking tours and musical performances.  

Burton Brown, the president of the Evergreen Cemetery Association, said the event will promote the Babyland Renewal Initiative and celebrate what he called a cultural landmark.

The cemetery is the burial site for several prominent figures in Florida’s history, including Maj. James B. Bailey, a major proponent of moving the Alachua County seat to Gainesville in the mid-19th century, and Robert Cade, who led the research team that invented Gatorade.

The renewal project is meant improve an area of the cemetery called Babyland, where infants who died between 1939 and 1960 are buried, according to a cemetery brochure.  

Rows of concrete cylinders stick out from the ground, marking the final resting place of more than 200 babies.

Most of the graves remain unmarked.

“It was not uncommon not to mark an infant,” he said. “It was just an additional expense working families didn’t undertake.”

The main goal of the project is to dig out the 2-foot-tall cylinders by hand and replace them with individualized markers, which cost about $50 each, Smith said.

Both Smith and Brown said they also hope to unveil a granite monument that signifies all of Babyland.

In the meantime, Brown said he is looking forward to Sunday’s event.

“The cemetery is us,” he said. “It’s our community. It’s our people.”

(1) comment

chantel66

I take it this cemetery is in Gainesville?

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