Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Just In Case

           When you were a kid, did you ever hold your breath when passing a cemetery?

           Why was that?

            I vaguely remember an older cousin telling me to hold my breath so I didn’t breathe in a ghost, but I couldn’t tell you if that’s why we did it. I do remember holding my breath every time we passed Woodlawn cemetery in West Palm Beach on our way to or from my grandparents' house in Delray Beach.  I made sure my brother did, too. If the car was slowed down by a car in front, we’d turn beautiful shades of pink, red, and then blue and almost pass out rather than give in and take a breath.

          I recently asked my mother if she remembered us doing that and she said.” Yes.” But then she shook her head and said, “You always did have a quite the imagination.”

            While driving down Lantana Road from Dixie on the way to I-95 a few weeks ago, I caught a glimpse of something I didn't expect to see along that busy road. Behind a high iron fence, one big banyan tree and some stones were sitting abandoned on a corner lot.

            "Wait!" I called out. "What was that?" But we were already past it and there was no time to turn back that day. 

            I've been up and down Lantana Road thousands of times from childhood on and never noticed that lot. The next time I drove through that area I slowed down a little and peered out the windshield trying to figure out what was there. It was a graveyard sitting beside the street. And I’d been driving past it all these years without once holding my breath.

            Since I can't stand driving by something unusual or old and not finding out about it, I did some research and eventually worked my way back again with my camera.

            The Evergreen Cemetery has been on the corner of Lantana Road and Arnold Road since 1892 when the Evergreen Cemetery Association was formed. Some of Lantana's early settler's are buried there and it continued to be was used for burials up until 1950.  The last person to be buried there was Dan McCarley, the Barefoot Mailman of the area who later served as the first police chief.

            “Pioneer Life on the Shores of Lake Worth” by Mary Lineham, now out of print, states there are around forty graves in this little cemetery and most of them are unmarked. The first burials were those of two sailors who washed ashore on a nearby beach after their ship wrecked. Only a few gravestones are left and the engraving on those is hard to read. Wind and weather have conspired to erase names and dates, leaving only eroded stones to indicate that someone’s loved one lies beneath the soil. The headstones try to stand up straight even as plants and bushes planted in remembrance try to shove them over. 
The lawn is mowed, but there is nothing fancy here. I drove by again on a recent rainy day and noticed that someone had placed flowers on several of the graves. The flowers were splashes of color against the grass and rainy day gray drizzle. It was nice to see that someone comes by to honor these people who could easily have been forgotten in the decades since they were laid to rest in Evergreen
            The Lantana Historical Society is working to complete iron fencing around the cemetery. For a small donation to this 501(c)3 organization, you’ll receive a certificate and the satisfaction of helping to preserve a part of local history. Their address is 1445 West Branch Street, Lantana, Florida 33462. Make sure you indicate your donation is for the fence project.

            Evergreen Cemetery is a peaceful place, even with cars zipping by on Lantana Road.  I parked on Arnold Road the day I went exploring and walked by the fence to get to some of the remaining headstones. I don’t think I need to hold my breath past a cemetery anymore, but I still think walking over a grave is not a good idea.

          Just in case.

This blog article was originally printed as my column titled "The Florida You Don't Know" in the papers distributed in Palm Beach and Martin Counties  by Seabreeze Publications, Inc. The blog article has slight revisions as more information came to light in between the newspaper publiation and now. But, wait! There's more! The full story which is way too long to post here will be one of the stories published in my book, "The Ghost of Sir Harry Oakes: Tales of Growing Up in Palm Beach County" which I continue to work on feverishly. (Ok, not feverishly. But I AM working hard on it!)

Copyright (c) 2012 Ruth Hartman Berge


  1. What a great lead-in to your historical and extremely interesting post about the Evergreen Cemetary. Lovely writing.

    1. Susan: I'm so glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for stopping by and thank you for the compliment. It means quite a bit coming from someone with your talent.