Tim jokes (and so does my brother) that if there is an old cemetery within 10 square miles of where we are, I will find it. And the more we travel the more its seems that they aren’t far from the truth. I never really set out to find them, though. They seem to find me.As we drive down old high ways and state roads I am always the first one to see a historic marker. It is understood, too, that unless we have to be somewhere there will be a pit stop or possible detour.
Old State Roads and Cemeteries
Some of my fondest memories with my grandfather as a little girl were us just driving in his truck. No real destination or itinerary, just driving until we felt like turning back. I couldn’t even tell you how long we would drive for. Our adventures always felt like hour long journeys that were over in the blink of an eye, all at the same time. And it is probably because my grandfather fascinated me. Everywhere we went he had a story, some sort of historic fact or story.
My grandfather was the kind of man who knew everything it seems, which could be attributed to a young admiration. But looking back as an adult and seeing bad ass pictures of him standing 4 feet away from a Black Bear in Smokey Mountain National Park, I have convinced myself that he was really just as wonderful as I thought him to be as a kid.
My love of old roads, abandoned houses, and cemeteries that are centuries old came from him and our weekend drives. We could go down windy roads that once lead to majestic old plantations, drive toward historic town squares, and make our way onto slave cemeteries lost and forgotten in the woods of Mississippi.
He was the first person that I loved unconditionally, and subsequently lost years later. While I explore these old sites I happen to come across, I feel for a moment like I never lost him and nothing has changed. And I find comfort in knowing that the place where he was laid to rest is exactly the kind of place we would have stumbled upon.
Another part of my love for old abandoned places also comes from a love of history. And as creepy or weird as some people think it might be, you have to admit that cemeteries are quite literally filled with history. When you come across one that is miles away form the nearest town, almost lost and disconnected from today’s modern influence it feels like you are going back in time. And you suddenly have a personal connection and moment with people you never met and whose story you will never truly know.
Pine Level: Florida’s Forgotten Town
A few weeks ago, Tim and I were driving (much like I would with my grandfather) with no real destination in mind when I saw an old, very faded historical marker. It was for the Pine Level Camp Grounds Cemetery and naturally we stopped to explore.
Having done some homework, it seems that Tim and I stumbled upon a good old fashioned Florida Ghost-town! Apparently Pine Level, Florida was quite the western saloon town in its heyday complete with vigilante gang and street side shooting duels. It was founded in 1850! Today, the only things left are the church, cemetery, and supposedly the “hanging tree” where justice was served. Pine Level was a town that was too far from Bradenton and then lost itself to Arcadia.
It is so weird to think about how where there once was a town and established population is now only empty fields with tombstones left to tell the story. Just like an old house stripped to the bones, I always wonder what stories they would tell if they could talk. How many of the things they would say would leave you mouth opened with awe? I get goosebumps as I write this and think of it. The same kind of goosebumps I get when I see these place in person.