Sunday, June 25, 2017

Riverside Cemetery turns 190 years old

The old section of historic Riverside Cemetery in Marianna.
Riverside Cemetery is a historic burial ground in the southeast corner of the charming old city of Marianna, Florida. It turns 190 years old this year.

Riverside was laid out by Robert and Anna Beveridge in 1827. They new that their soon to be developed town would need a public burial ground. They selected a spot on a separate hill just beyond their planned community.

The Beveridges had come down to Florida from Baltimore, Maryland. Mr. Beveridge was a successful merchant and with his wife possessed strong political connections. Their investors included many prominent allies of Andrew Jackson.

Grave of Arthur Lewis
Killed in the Battle of Marianna
Sadly, one of the first people to be buried in the cemetery was Mrs. Beveridge herself. She was only 24 years old but already the mother of three children when she came down with the fever and died on March 24, 1830.

She was buried in Riverside Cemetery, but the location of her grave site has been lost to time. It is certainly possible that she is buried in one of the ancient brick crypts in the oldest part of the cemetery.

The section includes some of the oldest oak trees in Marianna.

The former area where both slaves and free African Americans were buried is just downhill from the crypts and markers of Marianna's earliest white settlers. The wooden markers that once designated the burial places of early African American residents have long since rotted away, although indentations in the ground still mark their graves in the southwest corner of the oldest part of the cemetery.

Burial trenches of Confederate soldiers at Riverside Cemetery.
Two burial trenches contain the remains Confederate soldiers who died at the Marianna Post Hospital in 1863-1865. Most of these men were the victims of illness or infections and their graves are marked by small headstones. Near them rest several of the local citizens and soldiers who died in the Battle of Marianna on September 27, 1864.

Separated from the area of oldest graves is a single monument to a Union soldier, Lt. Isaac Adams of the 2nd Maine Cavalry. He was mortally wounded in the Battle of Marianna.

Adams no longer rests at Riverside, but his monument remains.  He and other Union dead from the battle were exhumed during the late 1800s and their remains taken to Barrancas National Cemetery near Pensacola.

Monument to Lt. Isaac Adams, 2nd Maine Cavalry
The lieutenant's grave 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 is a peaceful and beautiful place. The azaleas and dogwoods bloom each spring, giving the cemetery a surreal charm.

A stroll through its acres and acres of stones and graves offers you the chance to 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, Florida. It is open to the public during daylight hours.

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