Celebrating Life Since 1880
It is often said that the history of a community is written on the tombstones of its major cemetery. So it is with Evergreen which is the final resting place of Jacksonville founder, Isaiah D. Hart.
Evergreen started over a 135 years ago on September 28, 1880, when a group of prominent, civic-minded gentlemen decided to start a cemetery for the benefit of the community. They selected a piece of high ground in the northern part of the city and elected J.J. Daniel, Sr. as the first president. Evergreen’s first seven directors were Messrs. Daniel, Calvin Oak, M.W. Drew, J.C. Greeley, T.E. Buckman, G.B. Griffin and Henry Robinson. When these gentlemen purchased 200 acres of land, part of the Walker tract north of Long Branch, East of Main Street, for $25.00 per acre from A.B. Campbell, the cemetery was under way.
On October 26, 1880, the cemetery granted a 60-foot right-of-way through the cemetery to Jacksonville Fernandina Railroad for $1000, with stipulation that the railroad build a depot on the grounds for the convenience of visitors to the cemetery. That same day, a horse and cart were purchased, and a man employed to drive them.
A year later, on January 4, 1881, the construction of a suitable house for the groundskeeper was begun and a meeting room was authorized in that building. The first burial in Evergreen Cemetery, Mrs. Margaret Jamison, took place on April 8th, 1881. That same year, several acres of land were sold to the Diocese of St. Augustine for a Catholic Cemetery. Over the years, plots of ground for burials have been donated to organizations such as the Free and Accepted Masons, the Odd Fellows, the Fire Department, St. Luke’s Hospital and the Episcopal Diocese of Florida.
After the turn of the 20th century, Evergreen Cemetery changed from a for-profit to a not-for-profit corporation. On December 7, 1910, the Evergreen Cemetery Association, a not-for-profit organization was formed. Arthur G. Cummer became the Association’s first president.
A major acquisition for Evergreen came in 1911 when the Association purchased the 22 acres of Woodlawn Cemetery, which adjoined Evergreen on the west, from Arthur G. Cummer for $20,500. In 1920 Evergreen conveyed to the City of Jacksonville land lying between Long Branch and Rock Road (now Winona Drive) for park purposes and sold a small parcel of land for the development of a Jewish Cemetery.
Beginning in 1949, Jacksonville’s annual Memorial Day Services were moved from Hemming Park to Evergreen which seemed a more appropriate location to honor those who fought and died for their country. The impressive services, conducted by the Veterans Patriotic Observance committee of Jacksonville, include a carillon concert, presentation of colors of each organization, laying of wreaths around the Memorial Flagpole, music by local high school bands and a concluding Marine taps ceremony.
In 1956, Evergreen started the first unit of its family mausoleum. This unit was completed in 1978 and the center includes a 96-foot high tower. Housed in the tower are the horns of a beautiful $25,000 carillon with Westminster chimes, a gift of Mr. and Mrs. Fay G. Johnson in memory of their daughter, Jill Joyce. The garden cloister mausoleum is built of concrete, steel, limestone and marble with a 10-foot wide cloistered walk and two extending wings. Containing 2,218 crypts and niches, as well as five private rooms, the mausoleum is a culmination of years of struggle and great accomplishment.
Inside the Main Street entrance gate is the Evergreen office built; which in 1969. At that time, the office staff of five handled the bookkeeping, secretarial and clerical work required by the cemetery. Administering the operation was the Vice President and General Manager, Assistant Manager, Assistant to the Vice President, Grounds Superintendent and Landscape Maintenance Foreman.
The last purchase of land by Evergreen was in 1976 when it re-acquired St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery from the Diocese of St. Augustine. St. Mary’s, which adjoins West Evergreen, is restricted to the burial of members of the Roman Catholic faith by either ground burial, mausoleum or the inurnment of cremated remains. Otherwise it is operated as another section of Evergreen.
Since its founding, Evergreen has been known as a place of natural beauty in Northeast Florida.
In 2011, the 167 acres of Evergreen Cemetery was honored by the National Register of Historic Places as an Official Listing.
To embrace the future, early in 2015 the Evergreen Funeral Home and Crematory was established in Evergreen Cemetery. By combining a cemetery, funeral home, and crematory, Evergreen can offer to families significant cost savings along with the convenience of making all their arrangements in one location.
With over 135 years of history and experience in serving the needs of the greater Jacksonville community, it was natural that Evergreen take the next step to complete the circle of service by offering funeral and cremation services, in addition to their cemetery services.
From its founding to the present day, Evergreen continues to be a vital part of the community. It is the most important cemetery in Jacksonville and for hundreds of miles around. It serves as a cultural resource for students, artists, historians and for the thousands of families it has served over the decades.
Some of the many notables who call Evergreen their final resting place of are:
- The founder of Jacksonville, Isaiah D. Hart
- Five Florida Governors, Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, George Franklin Drew, Ossian Bingley Hart, William Sherman Jennings, and John Wellborn Martin
- Four United States Senators, Nathan Philemon Bryan, William James Bryan, Duncan Upshaw Fletcher, and James P. Taliaferro
- Ten Jacksonville Mayors
- Two Pulitzer Prize winners
- Three Titanic Passengers
- Silent film producer, Richard E. Norman
- Hall of Fame Major League Baseball Player, Bill Terry and several other Major Leaguers