ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Chestnut Cemetery in Apalachicola, Florida
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Chestnut Cemetery in Apalachicola, Florida
Chestnut Cemetery
The oldest cemetery in the historic city of
Apalachicola, Chestnut Cemetery beautifully
preserves the history of Florida in carved stone.
Chestnut Cemetery
The grave of Alvin Wentworth
Chapman, noted botanist, is
among those at Chestnut
Cemetery in Apalachicola.
History Written in Stone
Chestnut Cemetery was in
use more than a decade
before Florida became a U.S.
Confederate Hero
Lt. David Raney was an officer
aboard the C.S.S.
during the famous Battle of
Mobile Bay.  
Chestnut Cemetery (Old City Cemetery) - Apalachicola, Florida
Apalachicola History in Stone
Historic Chestnut Cemetery
The old cemetery dates back
to Apalachicola's early days.
The oldest stone was placed
in 1831, but burials likely took
place before that date.
Copyright 2010 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Chestnut Cemetery, located along U.S. 98
(Avenue E) in Apalachicola, dates back to the
earliest days of the historic Florida port city.

As was the case in all cities of the Old South,
death was very much a part of life in
Apalachicola. The surrounding marshes
were breeding grounds for mosquitoes,
which meant the city was often plagued by
outbreaks of malaria and yellow fever. The
water supply came from shallow wells and
often spread cholera to the population.

In addition, there were hurricanes and
storms. Ships wrecked on the shoals of the
bay and oyster and fishing boats capsized in
rough water. Daily life brought with it risk and
that risk is chronicled in the beautiful old
stones of Chestnut Cemetery.

The burial ground takes its name from the
face that U.S. 98 or Avenue E was originally
known as Chestnut Street. The old name has
disappeared from street signs and maps
over the years, but is preserved in the name
of the cemetery, which faces the old street.

The oldest tombstone dates from 1831, but it
is quite possible that the cemetery was in
use before that date. Wooden markers have
disappeared over the years.

A walk through Chestnut Cemetery is in
reality a remarkable walk back through time.
Key figures of Southern history are buried
there and the inscriptions on the tombs of
others whose names have been forgotten
illuminate the past.

Dr. Alvin Wentworth Chapman, for example,
rests next to his wife in the cemetery. One of
the best known botanists in American history,
he discovered an amazing variety of new
plants during his many expeditions through
the South and spent the last 50 years of his
life in Apalachicola. His famed book,
Flora of
the Southern United States
, remains a "must
have" for those interested in the ecology and
plants of the South.

Dr. Chapman was a Unionist and remained
at home in Apalachicola through the Civil
War, sometimes hiding from Confederate
patrols at nearby Trinity Episcopal Church.
Near him, however, rests Lt. David Raney,
who served aboard one of the most famous
Confederate warships, the C.S.S.

Other graves tell of drownings and deaths
from cholera accidents. One monument was
placed by a steamboat company in 1860 to
memorialize an employee who died in a
tragic accident aboard the paddlewheel boat
John C. Calhoun.

Calhoun exploded on April 29, 1860,
while edging out into the Apalachicola River
from what is now Bristol Landing. Nine
people were killed, including Captain
Leander M. Crawford, who rests at Chestnut
Elsewhere in the cemetery rest victims of
fevers, including the notorious "Yellow Jack"
or yellow fever that ravaged the Gulf Coast in
the 1840s. The fever was so deadly that it
assured the end of the nearby city of St.
Joseph, one-time rival to Apalachicola.

The Hull family plot, uniquely, holds two
Confederate soldiers who lie next to two
Union soldiers. It is a true example of the
brother against brother nature of the Civil
War. R.H. and L.N. Hull served in Company B
of the 4th Florida Infantry, while J.H. and P.R.
Hull rode with Company I of the 4th Missouri
Cavalry (Union).

Chestnut Cemetery is dotted with the graves
of veterans, among them at least seven men
who took part in Pickett's Charge at the Battle
of Gettysburg as members of the hard-
fighting Florida Brigade.

The names on the tombstones also reveal
the ethnic diversity of the old port city. There
are people born in the United States, of
course, but also many who traced their roots
to Greece, Italy, Ireland and elsewhere. Two
beautiful headstones mark the graves of
William and Mary Fuller, free blacks who
owned Apalachicola's finest hotel in the
antebellum era.

Chestnut Cemetery is open to the public
during daylight hours. The cemetery is on
Avenue E (U.S. 98). You should park nearby
and walk up the sidewalk to the entrance.