The Palms-Woodlawn Cemetery may be the oldest cemetery in the south end of the county. Silvergreen, in Princeton, which was established by Gaston Drake for his African-American workers at the Drake Lumber Company, may be older. This cemetery’s first name was the South Dade Cemetery and it was maintained by the South Dade Cemetery Association, which held annual May Day celebrations at the Pioneer Guild Hall in Redland to support the cemetery. The land for the cemetery was donated by the Model Land Company, Henry Flagler’s real estate development company. A deed restriction in the documents that established the cemetery prohibited the burial of African-Americans for 50 years. That restriction expired in 1963.
There is a wide-spread myth that there was an “old Homestead Cemetery,” located somewhere close to the site of what became the Homestead Grammar School in January of 1914. That school is now known as Neva King Cooper School. There was indeed a burial ground on the site - it was located at the southeast corner of the 5 acre site, at the northwest corner of N.W. 1st Avenue and N.W. 5th St. However, the burial ground was never a legal cemetery; it was only a place where the bodies of the many transient men who worked on the Key West Extension of Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway were buried. Homestead was a rough town in those days and many of the burials were the result of accidents at work or fights in the bars. These men (and perhaps women) had no known relatives who could claim the bodies so they were buried in this location. As Homestead developed, the neighboring parcels became valuable for housing subdivisions, two of which were owned by Dr. John B. Tower. He was most likely the originator of the story about the “old Homestead Cemetery” and his reason for moving the bodies, because of the health risk (it is doubtful that any of the bodies were embalmed - there were no funeral parlors in Homestead at the time), is dubious at best because he was in the real estate business. A nearby burial ground for unclaimed bodies was not a good selling point for real estate. Thus, the bodies were exhumed and reburied in an unmarked mass grave at Naranja, probably at the same time that the Homestead Grammar School was being built.
Prior to the establishment of the South Dade Cemetery in 1913, bodies were either buried in the Miami City Cemetery or they were sent back to where the deceased person had family in other locations in Florida or in other states. For many years after 1913, people who died in Homestead were buried in cemeteries in Miami, usually the Miami City Cemetery or Woodlawn. Some were buried in Miami Memorial Park as late as the 1940s.
GPS Coordinates: 25.5167, -80.4342
- Added: 1 Jan 2000
- Find A Grave Cemetery: #72424
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