Central Florida Cemeteries

The entire Central Florida area was part of Orange County when Florida became a state on March 3, 1845. Originally named Mosquito County, Orange County was formed in 1824 from St. Johns. The early boundaries of Orange County extended from just below Matanzas Inlet near St. Augustine, south past Melbourne, west to approximately Bartow, north to Lake George, and then diagonally northeast back to the Atlantic coast.[1] Over time, other counties were set off from Orange, with Seminole County being the last partition on April 25, 1913.[2]

Orange and Seminole counties are included in the current metro-Orlando area, and smaller towns, such as Apopka, Maitland, and Oviedo, are now suburbs of Orlando. These towns—and many others in the area—now maintain cemeteries begun by the founding families of each town. For example, the earliest tombstone in the Ocoee Cemetery is from 1879 and is for Fannie Sims and her infant son. Fannie was the wife of Captain Bluford M. Sims, one of the original settlers in the Ocoee area after the Civil War.[3]

Seventy cemeteries were identified and surveyed for this project— forty-six in Orange County and twenty-four in Seminole County.[4] These cemeteries range from small family cemeteries with less than twenty burials to large commercial enterprises with over 65,000.[5] Other cemeteries exist in the survey area but no longer have any grave markers.[6] Memorial gardens, usually residing in the courtyard of a church complex and interring only cremated remains, were excluded from this project. Of the seventy surveyed cemeteries, only seventeen have aboveground tombs.

Map of Central FL showing cities and cemeteries with / without mausoleums.

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[1] William Fremont Blackman, Ph.D.,LL.D., History of Orange County Florida (Deland, FL: The E.O. Printing Company, 1927):19–20.

[2] Caroline Mays Brevard, A History of Florida (New York: American Book Company, 1919): 213.

[3] The City of Ocoee has a brief history of Captain Bluford M. Sims and the naming of the town. (http://www.ci.ocoee.fl.us/General/History/BlufordMSims.asp)

[4] Cemeteries were found via various sources such as the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) of the U.S. Geological Survey, ePodunk.com city profiling site (epodunk.com), the Seminole County government website (www.seminolecountyfl.gov), Google Maps (maps.google.com) and Kathryn London Stirk and the Central Florida Genealogical Society, Tombstone Registry of Central Florida (self-published, ca.1998).

Two cemeteries in Orange County were inaccessible. Magnolia Cemetery in Lockhart was entirely overgrown, and it is unknown if there were stones in the brambles. Also, the small Williams Cemetery in MetroWest is deep in a corporate orange grove with “No Trespassing” signs at the only entrance gate to the grove.

[5] The Mizell Family Cemetery on the grounds of Harry P. Leu Gardens, Winter Park has fifteen burials and Woodlawn Memorial Park in Gotha has over 65,000.

[6] The Seminole County Government website lists forty-two cemeteries in the county, of which fifteen no longer have markers. The book by Kathryn London Stirk and the Central Florida Genealogical Society, Tombstone Registry of Central Florida (self-published, ca.1998), lists fifty-eight cemeteries in Orange County. However, fourteen only inter ashes, and four no longer have markers or they have been lost.