Saturday, March 26, 2011

Pinewood Cemetery

Erwin Road
Coral Gables, Florida

It’s hard to imagine among all the modernity that is South Florida that this area has been settled for many centuries. Native Americans lived here until pressure from the government and white settlers began forcing them out starting in 1822, just after Florida became a state. With most of the Native Americans gone white settlers began building cabins and farming, some with slaves. The area would remain a quiet backwater until Henry Flagler began shaping Florida’s new image in the latter part of the century and speculators and developers began buying land.

Bit by bit, the old Florida began to vanish under the developer’s vision and old Florida disappeared under development or the scrub pines and yucca grew to cover it. Pinewood Cemetery, a piece of Old Florida, disappeared in a forest its tombstones and graves weathering and later broken and vandalized by hoodlums in search of a thrill. The cemetery was forgotten by most of the living and left for some time to the vigilant care of the cemetery’s own spirits.

Pinewood Cemetery’s air of desolation and dereliction has spawned mysterious stories and legends. A 2006 article on the cemetery in The Miami Herald mentions that neighbors have spoken of midnight burials in the cemetery. Ghost tales have also emerged telling of shadow people, strange noises and, more commonly, odd feelings. One paranormal investigation discovered a large cleared circular patch where nothing was growing, possible evidence that late night rituals may also be held there. The group’s psychic investigators felt that some animal sacrifices may have been conducted there. Regardless, according to evidence gathered by investigators, most of the spirits in the cemetery seem to simply be curious residents intending no harm to the living.


Before the establishment of the large City Cemetery (which may also be haunted) in Miami and the city’s official incorporation in 1896, Pinewood was the main cemetery south of the Miami River. Once the city cemetery established, most of the burials north of the river were removed there, while Pinewood remained quietly in its forest home. Some legends speak of the Pinewood site as originally a burial ground for the area’s Tequesta Indians, though there’s no hard evidence of this. The first pioneer burials are said to have occurred around 1855 and included some of the area’s earliest settlers. The cemetery’s “official” history does not appear in the historical record until the land was deeded to the Trustees of Pinewood Cemetery in 1897.

Over the next 30 or so years the cemetery accepted burials. Included among those buried during this time were Dora Perry Suggs, a young mother who disappeared during a walk from the local general store. Her body was discovered in deep woods by a search party and she was interred in Pinewood in 1905. The cemetery was cleaned up following the great 1926 Miami hurricane, a category four storm that did considerable damage and caused between 250 and 350 deaths. Over time, the cemetery was neglected and trees and legends grew up around it.

Some notice was taken of the cemetery’s plight in the 1960s, but no action was taken. Development also began to encroach on the 4 acre cemetery. Stories have appeared of construction workers finding bones as they dug foundations adjacent to the cemetery. At the time, only a small portion of the possibly 250 burials in the cemetery were even marked, many tombstones having been stolen or broken. In 1983, the City of Coral Gables created an advisory board to oversee the cemetery and steps have been taken to preserve and restore the cemetery. Headstones have been erected to replace missing stones. Interestingly, current plans leave the cemetery in its wooded, natural state rather than clearing it. This preserves the more park-like setting and creates a place where local students and residents can explore nature and Old Florida history side by side.

Sources
1926 Miami hurricane. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
     Accessed 26 March 2011.
Bonawit, Oby. “History of Pinewood (Cocoplum)
     Cemetery.” Tequesta: The Journal of the Historical
     Association of Southern Florida. Vol. 1, No. 38.
     1978.
Del Marmol, Sebastian. “Spend a Spooky Morning
     at Pinewood Cemetery for Pioneer Day This
     Saturday.” Miami New Times. 18 March 2011.
Herrera, Ana I. “Pioneers remembered at Pinewood
     Cemetery celebration.” GablesHomepage.com. 20
     March 2011.
History of Florida. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
     Accessed 24 March 2011.
League of Paranormal Investigators, Inc. Investigation
     25 March 2011.
McGrory, Kathleen. “Pioneering Spirits.” The Miami
     Herald. 27 August 2006.
Miami. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed
     25 March 2011.

8 comments:

  1. Sounds beautiful. I love cemeteries wih history. I'm glad they preserve the park like setting. Cemeteries are often the only pieces of nature in urban landscapes

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  2. My husband and I sort of stumbled upon Pinewood Cemetery on our way home from the Fresh Market ... it is a beautiful, peaceful place . We were overcome with a feeling of calm as we paid our respects and visited the graves . Many of the tombstones are very informational - giving insights on the lives and deaths of the people who are buried there .

    If you are ever in the area, I would highly recommend a visit . It is a lovely place to rest, for the living and the dead .

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  3. Wow! What a wonderful blog you have!

    I couldn't believe it when I discovered your post on Pinewood Cemetery. I've been there, and there is a definite "odd" feeling at the place. Ever since I saw the place, I tried to get information about it because it just fascinated me. I wasn't able to find much, and then I stumble upon your fabulous blog!

    Thank you for posting this!

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  4. Just came back from there, very strange place, very old, peaceful. I grew up in Miami and live in Coral Gables, I have done the South Beach things, not interested in it anymore. This place is one of my favorite places in town , believe it or not.

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  6. I just learned of this cemetery less than 24 hours ago and I am mesmerized. There is very little history about it, it sits in an odd place, and the graves are right next to the cars that drive by. I know that cemeteries are full of energy, so I will be going back to walk the grounds and recording any activity.

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  7. I recently visited pinewood two days ago, as I walk into the park I immediately feel a surge of immense pressure but nothing ominous the aura and vibes in this place was very very high. You could feel the presence of being watched almost immediate, but again no feeling of dread or fear was evoked just a feeling of not being alone and warmth a very heavy feeling engulfing you. (I'm a sensitive, in case you were wondering). It certainly was very serene and peaceful and once I began walking further into the grounds I began to take notice of the graves and markers of the deceased. It saddened me to see so many infants, toddlers and stillborns and I did get rather disturbed by it but I kept my calm and made my way further in. By this point it began to rain, so I sat on a bench beneath a tree that actually kept me somewhat dry as I did not get soaked. While sitting there I was drawn to my left and saw a tomb unmarked, there was another two I came across later like it but this one in particular called to me for some reason; I cleaned it up as there was debris all over it and decided to place a candle I had on me as a gift; I could not light it as it was raining but the gesture was enough in my mind for this unknown soul; I did also leave some roses, and a wooden box with some trinkets I brought along as a gift as well, I brought these with the intention of gifting it prior to going and oddly it served its purpose. Ok so getting to the good stuff; I began to get a headache after reading other tombs and clearing the debris from them especially the one about a woman who died from burns while cooking supper as it said on her grave; I began to feel disoriented and for a brief moment almost got lost but it was silly as thus place is small in nature and you can't really get lost but I somehow felt like I truly did not know where to go to make it back to the entrance.

    I snapped out of it once it began to rain harder and got cold; I got up and began to make my way along the side of the cementery as I remembered the children's graves were just ahead and soon after the entrance; at this Point I heard a woman that sounded like she was humming a tune or singing a song very gentle; I thought someone was on the other side of the fence or the house adjacent but remembered that there was construction and no one would be hanging about in rubble in the rain, or very unlikely at least. I never did find anyone that was around to determine they were singing/ humming; at this point I started to get goosebumps and felt uneasy as it took me by surprise; but I did not feel in danger nor did I believe I was in harms way; I gave a quick prayer and said outloud I hope all find rest and peace and asked that I not be followed home as the souls that were present must remain here and bid farewell. I have not noticed anything following me home or attaching itself to me but I can attest that I did feel I had an attachment on me when I visited most likely due to my gifts and cleaning the headstones as direct contact may have further instigated cause for attachment. I did get rather drained of energy as I felt I had ran a good distance without actually running and was short of breath but nothing to be alarmed about as I have encountered this in other highly active locations.


    Well sorry for writing so much but I wanted to share my experience in detail and be as true and honest as could be. In my humble opinion, there is activity and yes very sacred energy but no I do not feel there is anything to fear or be afraid of; the dead here are worth admiring and giving respect as they are part of our culture and should not be forgotten, in a way I believe they feel comfort in having visitors, even if we are strangers to them, I'm sure it is welcomed.

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