Rosemary Cemetery was opened in 1931. The original cemetery was relocated to create marketable land. As property values increased, so did the desire to use it for a profit. The old cemetery was located at third street and 10th ave south, in Naples. This land parcel would later be developed into St. Annes Catholic Church, just south of Cambier Park.
Rosemary Cemetery was a 20 acre rectangle. Its northern border was what is now part of Pine Ridge Road and its sidewalk. The eastern edge was The Naples Railroad that ran down Goodlette Road to the Naples Train Depot. The western boundry was Tamiami Trail, Hwy 41.
Brief Chronology of Rosemary Cemetery 1930 – Cemetery founded on 20 acres between 41 and the railroad (now Goodlette Road) south of Pine Ridge Road, land donated by Ed Crayton to allow removal of graves from downtown area 1930s – 10 burials moved from St. Ann’s to Rosemary Unit B and Plot W 1930s – Cemetery is “unpopular,” and many burials sent up north or to Ft. Myers; high water table and sugar sand problematic 1934 – Unit B platted with 109 grave sites (Book 1, page 4) 1944 – City Engineer Cambier issues report identifying 24 actual graves (14 known, 10 unknown) and 19 plots designated for future burials in Unit B 1947 – Last interment 1949 – Committee formed to find new cemetery, dissolved without resolution 1950 – Crayton’s widow sells cemetery, except lots marked as burial plots (or including the cemetery, depending on the account), to Pulling and Benson (Book 17, page 52) 1954 – New cemetery opens in North Naples 1955 – Rosemary Cemetery closes 1960s – Four houses built on south side of Pine Ridge Road 1971 – Benson and Pulling request vacation of an easement (location?), which is denied by the BCC 1971 – State surveyor finds no evidence of burials in area being investigated for vacating 1975 – First of many newspaper articles appears attempting to mine locals’ historical memories for facts about how many burials exist in the cemetery; one informant (who was a young boy at the time) reports remembering 75 burials moved from St. Ann’s to Rosemary 1975 – County planning department issues report noting 1) Cambier report as best authentication of grave sites, other records lost in Hurricane Donna (1960), 2) existence of one grave site in Plot W south and east of Unit B by large oak tree, and 3) 2 burials have been moved elsewhere; report recommends cemetery be deeded to the County 1976 – Pulling and Benson quit claim deed Unit B to Collier County 1977 – Naples Daily News reports County Parks and Recreation is providing cleanup of the site; 4H will take up maintenance 1978 – Naples Star article quotes Lorenzo Walker as remembering that one of the African Americans buried in Plot N was called “Pastime.” 1986 – Pine Ridge Road is widened 1993 – Under HAPB recommendations, BCC designates Unit B as a historic site, authorizes new markers and maintenance under direction of Museums. 1994 – An unpublished document compiled by Ilsa Frey Lezgus notes burials in Plot N are eight African-American railroad workers, victims of a construction accident 1995 – Naples Daily News story focuses on mystery of eight unmarked African-American graves, includes several conflicting theories 1996 – Naples Daily News reports on a proposal by Neil Dorrill to move the African-American graves to Rosemary Cemetery, quotes Ron Jamro and Maria Stone in belief that identities can’t be known; a separate article reports the County may pursue a court order to allow examination or exhumation 1997 – AHC (consultant) investigates possibility of other nearby graves (east of B and W) through archival research and field work (70 shovel tests); no evidence of other burials found 2008 – Another Naples Daily News story runs covering the mystery of the 8 graves in Plot N
Plot N is the Black section of Rosemary Cemetery. It is located on what is now the SW corner of Pine Ridge Road and Goodlette Frank Road. This is what used to be the rear of the cemetery the (NE corner of the original Rosemary Cemetery).
There are four Coquina concrete pillars that mark the location of eight graves & adults and a child buried in the grass strip that is between the sidewalk and the parking lot for the South Street City Bar and Grill.
Due to severe Jim Crow laws in the post slavery era, blacks and whites were separated in death as well as life. While many stories describe bar fights, lynchings, railroad construction accidents, etc, we may never know the true history due to the county records fate in Hurricane Donna.
It is easy to forget that there are pioneers buried here that help to build our area when it was a very difficult place to survive. They endured harsh conditions, isolation, and racism. They are due our respect and gratitude.
Plot N and those interred there have been long forgotten by those of us that enjoy the fruits of their sacrifices. Plot N needs to be recognized b as part of the original Rosemary Cemetery. Proper fencing, signage, and lighting should be installed as it is long overdue.