ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Broken tombstones, weeds, trash.
That's what you'll find in one cemetery in St. Augustine.
One local couple is leading the charge to clean up the historic graveyard.
Kristi Kridel and her fiance Juan Cancel were heartbroken to find the cemetery that way.
They live close by in West Augustine and suspected something was in the wooded lot on Pearl street.
"We sort of came back here and discovered the cemetery," Kridel remembered.
Kridel said, according to historic documents, it's actually two graveyards: the San Sebastian Cemetery and the Pinehurst Cemetery.
"It's forgotten. I feel like it's calling out to me," Cancel said.
For about two months, they've researched the property and its people.
"A lot of these men were most likely born into slavery," Cancel said, citing names and census reports. "There are children, you have vets here. Mostly all African American."
The oldest marker dates back to 1840 as a death date, he said. However, Kridel said records show a date as early as 1828.
Some markers barely stick out above the ground and leaves. Cancel has uncovered some.
Other markers are completely buried.
"You can see here, if you brush some leaves off," Cancel said. He wiped away a layer of leaves from the ground and a piece of concrete could be seen. "See there."
There was also a pile of metal name plates, which used to belong to graves, sit in a pile.
Cancel picked them up and read names aloud, "You have Thompson, died 1961. Charlie James, 1971."
The couple said their research shows the last cemetery owner died decades ago.
"And the tax ID numbers ran out a long time ago," Cancel said.
"We want to clean it up," Kridel said. "We want to restore it and preserve it."
She and Cancel have recruited help from a few groups to remove debris from parts of the cemetery. But still, thickets and weeds cover up portions of it.
"While the people who are here may have been treated unfairly in life, we can at least do right for them now," Kridel said.
The couple plans a big cleanup on May 25 and 26 starting at 10 a.m. The public is invited and encouraged to help.
For more information, contact Kridel and Cancel at firstname.lastname@example.org
More information can be found at: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=mr&MRid=48095757
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First Coast News