The disinterment of human bones on the southeast side of the island, where excavations were being made for public improvements a few years ago, gave rise to the impression that a public burying ground had once been located in that vicinity. These remains, however, were those of the Africans who were en route to Cuba on the slave ships Wildfire, William, and Bogota which were intercepted by the US Navy in 1860; a number of those Africans died here, and were buried some distance from the barracoon, at the place where the bones were found.
The African cemetery appears on an 1861 map drawn by the US Army Corps of Engineers located in an uninhabited tract of land, along the beach what is now called Higgs Beach. On the map, it is labeled "African Cemetery," with nine small X's to represent the location of the graves. Later, a Martello tower was constructed in the same location about the time of the Civil War.
According to maps, 295 graves were under the West Martello structure, and extended out onto the beach towards the East. Ground Penetrating Radar was used in an archaeological survey that tested the theory of the location. On the beach, approximately 40 feet from the fort walls, rows of grave-like features were found. At this location, 2 to 3 feet below the surface were a series of 5 to 6 foot long oval holes exactly where the African Cemetery was mapped in 1861. Nine of these are very clear, and another six are there, but not as well defined. These features are closely spaced, and form three rows. The images recorded of these features match exactly with other known gravesites found by using GPR.
There has now been constructed a memorial to those who died as a result of the conditions on the slave ships.
GPS Coordinates: 24.54745, -81.78539
- Added: 29 May 2005
- Find A Grave Cemetery: #2144331
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