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Kanapaha Cemetery
Karen Kirkman - A Brief History and Cemetery Policy

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Photo by Hank Conner

The Kanapaha Cemetery is among the oldest historical sites in Florida.  Situated along the western edge of Kanapaha Prairie, it holds the resting places of many of Alachua County's earliest pioneer familes. 

Maintenance of the cemetery relies upon volunteers from Kanapaha Presbyterian Church, with gracious and welcome support from the families of those interred here, as well as from volunteers from the non-profit historical preservation group, Historic Haile Homestead. 

The cemetery continues to this day to serve the members of Kanapaha Church and their immediate family, as well as descendants of those who have been buried there.

A survey of names follows:

Daughters of the American  Revolution  Kanapaha Cemetery Survey

Alachua County Virtual Cemetery Project (Most recent study including 1960's DAR surveys, Ground Penetrating Radar survey 2014, and Historic Haile Homestead research)

April 2015 Article-  "News from Kanapaha"

Church History and Cemetery . . . by Kaley Behl & Karen Kirkman

On Saturday, April 25th at 11 am, the Veteran's grave marker for John D. Young (1825 -1885), one of the founders of Kanapaha Presbyterian Church, will be rededicated by the Madison Stark Perry Camp #1424, Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) at the Kanapaha Presbyterian Church Cemetery.


John D. Young Gravestone Photo


Mr. Young's marker was found in a field in Osprey, Florida last year when land was being prepared for development. The origin of the marker was a mystery until a TV station in Sarasota aired the story. Several members of the SCV in the area saw it and were able to trace the marker to the KPC cemetery, thanks to the Alachua County Virtual Cemetery Team which had photographed the cemetery in 2013 and put the photos on line. After they contacted the church, elder Karen Kirkman drove down and picked up the marker. This is now the second Veteran's marker found in two years which had been removed from the KPC cemetery. Thomas Haile's marker was discovered in a creek bed in east Gainesville a couple of years ago and rededicated.

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A Short History of Kanapaha Cemetery

After the completion of the building in April 1859, the church was formally organized, with 12 members and two elders, viz: Dr. W. H. Stringfellow and Mr. Joseph A Scott, with no deacons.  In November of that year, Kanapaha was united with the Presbytery of Florida at Jacksonville.  The first independently-standing Kanapaha Presbyterian Church was a starkly utilitarian structure roughly following the same dimentions as its subsequent namesake. 

It stood at the western edge of that parcel of land presently occupied by the Kanapaha Presbyterian Church Cemetery, located past Kanapaha Botanical Gardens on SW 63rd Blvd in Gainesville. Kanapaha Prairie lies just to the back of the property, and it is said that on the edge of this prairie, a white man named Colson whipped an Indian for stealing a horse (or for having rustled cattle, depending on the folklore): this episode is supposed to have started one of the Seminole wars (22). This parcel was donated to the church by the Moses Ramsey family at the time of the church's inception, although the deed was not transferred officially until 1903.  The original church was dedicated on the first sabbath in May of 1859 on this site.  The church had suffered neglect throughout the civil war years, as many left to serve the confederacy.  The Reverend McCormick himself joined as a chaplain to preach to the warriers in tented fields (24) .  Finally, in 1864, McCormick returned to resume service at Kanapaha. History is sketchy during these years, however, documents indicate a wedding was scheduled at the original church for Nov. 26, 1878.  Sermon transcripts make  a reference to the building's existence as late as 1883.  Finally, journal entries from Serena Haile note the following: 


"Fri Nov 7th [1884] Clear & bright morn - Cold - Clouded up around 11 am - Drizzly all day - raw & uncomfortable - George & Bennet went to Churchyard to sweep out church."  Serena's previous references to the "churchyard" had to do with the cemetery. (k) Another entry from Mrs. Haile's journal logs the following: "Sunday Nov 9th [1884] a cloudy raw day - 'Mr Baker' here - Preached at Kanapaha Church - A Good Sermon - every body liked him - a large Congregation.  Meeting for subscription for Minister's salary. Mr Baker staid the night - with us - Preached 4 pm at School house"  (k)

Based on the above accounts, it appears that the original Kanapaha Church remained in use at least until the beginning of 1885.  During 1885, it is important to note that the Archer Presbyterian Church had just been completed, its design serving as the model by which many, including Kanapaha's replacement, would be crafted.  Knowing that the Kanapaha Church had been yearning for a position closer to the railroad, that the condition of the original church following the war was said to be unsafe, that the congregation had begun to meet more frequently at the School house accross the railroad on the North side of the Edward Haile property (30), and that the Archer congregation had just freshly completed their model Presbyterian church, the timeline strongly suggests that the original Kanapaha Church was not lost accidentally in a fire, as rumored, but was very deliberately decommissioned.  As the Kanapaha congregation continued to divide its services between the old church and the school house, elders purchased the site of the new Kanapaha Church, adjacent to the Kanapaha Station, in June of 1886. The new structure was dedicated in October of 1886.  Given that people of this era typically wasted nothing, it is plausible that valuable timbers and other materials would have been salvaged for use in constructing the new church.  The debris remaining at the old site was likely burned away, seeing as this site was to continue as the church cemetery.  This may account for the rumors of the old church having burned.


Kanapaha Presbyterian Church Cemetery Policy

View of the new iron gate and board fence which was donated to the Cemetery by the Rancourt family.

Kanapaha Cemetery is located at 4101 SW 63rd Blvd. 
(63rd Blvd is on the North side of Archer Road, approximately one mile East of the Church. The cemetery is at the end of 63rd Blvd.)

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Kanapaha Presbyterian Church is a 501c3 Non-Profit.  Charitable Donations are tax deductible