Monday, March 3, 2014

#99 Riverside Cemetery (100 Great Things about Jackson County, Florida)

Riverside Cemetery in Marianna, Florida
This is the second post in a series on "100 Great Things about Jackson County, Florida."  Click here to see all of the posts as they come online.

#99 on our list of great things about Jackson County, Florida, is historic Riverside Cemetery. You may not think of a cemetery as a "great place," but this one is special.

Part of the original plan of the City of Marianna, Riverside Cemetery was laid out by Robert and Anna Beveridge when they surveyed the future community in 1827. The two developers moved down to Florida from Baltimore, Maryland, where Mr. Beveridge had been a successful merchant. Wealthy and with strong political connections, they selected the modern site of Marianna and were its original owners and promoters.

Grave of Arthur Lewis
Killed in the Battle of Marianna
All planned communities needed space for a cemetery, so the Beveridges designated a hilltop just to the southeast of their planned town for that purpose. With the fevers and illnesses that then routinely swept over Florida and the Gulf Coast, the burial ground quickly came into use.

Sadly, one of the first people buried there was Mrs. Beveridge herself. Only 24 years old but already the mother of three children, she came down with the fever and died on March 24, 1830. She was buried in Riverside Cemetery, likely in one of the brick crypts still seen there today, but the exact location of her grave has been lost to time.

The old section of the cemetery includes some of the most ancient oak trees in Marianna and is nestled on a hilltop surrounded by nearly 190 years of graves. The former slave section is just downhill from the historic crypts and markers. The wooden markers that once designated the burial places of African Americans who lived and died either as slaves or in Marianna's small antebellum community of free blacks have long since rotted away, but the indentations in the ground that mark their graves can still be seen.

The burial trenches where Confederate soldiers who died at the Marianna Post Hospital in 1863-1865 are marked by small headstones. Nearby rest several of the local citizens who died in the Battle of Marianna.

Monument to Lt. Isaac Adams, 2nd Maine Cavalry
Separated from both the old slave plot and the area of oldest graves is a single monument to Lt. Isaac Adams of the 2nd Maine Cavalry. A Union soldier, he was mortally wounded in the Battle of Marianna. He no longer rests at Riverside, but his monument remains.  Adams and the other Union dead were exhumed during the late 1800s and their remains taken to Barrancas National Cemetery near Pensacola.

His grave, however, played a key role in the Reconstruction era confrontations that rocked Jackson County. Several young girls - relatives of men and boys killed in the Battle of Marianna - removed the flowers from Lt. Adams' grave and scattered them in the dirt. They were hauled before a military court, but showed up with backing from almost the entire community. The Carpetbagger officials who ruled Marianna after the War Between the States (or Civil War) backed down in the face of this show of support and released the girls. The incident is remembered today as the "Battle of the Flowers" and was the beginning of the local uprising that eventually drove out the occupying force that controlled Jackson County from 1865-1876.

Riverside Cemetery today is a peaceful and beautiful place. In the spring, when the azaleas and dogwoods bloom, it takes on a surreal charm. A walk through its acres and acres of stones and graves is a walk not just through the history of Marianna and Jackson County, but through the history of Florida, the South and the Nation.

The main entrances to the oldest part of the cemetery are on Franklin Street, two blocks south of Jackson Street, in Marianna.


Anonymous said...

Isn't there a cave in the cemetery? Can you tell me anything about the cave?

Dale Cox said...

Hi there, Yes, there is a small cave in the eastern half of the cemetery at the base of the hill. Access is closed to the public. Called the "Crypt Cave" due to its location in the cemetery, it actually is a smaller entrance to a larger nearby cave.