The Haunted Huguenot Cemetery
The Huguenot Cemetery was established soon after Florida became a U. S. territory. The cemetery, located just outside St. Augustine's north gate, was first used for the interment of victims of the 1821 yellow fever epidemic and then for the burial of members of city's Protestant population. The cemetery property was acquired by the Rev. Thomas Alexander and then sold to the Presbyterian Church in 1832. By the late 19th century, over-crowding of graves, and the resulting concerns for sanitation and public health, required that the small public and religious burying grounds in St. Augustine be closed. New cemeteries, such as San Lorenzo and Evergreen, were subsequently opened to parishioners and the public.
This real Florida haunted cemetery formerly was the Potters field, where ex-communicants and military criminals were buried; the dates on the tombs are not very ancient, 1821 being the oldest, but very many of the graves bear no inscription; the nature of the place in its earliest days would not lead to a perpetuation of the memory of those interred there; the spot is worth inspection.The Huguenot Cemetery is significant because it was the first cemetery in St. Augustine dedicated for Anglo-American civilians. The burial traditions and funerary materials expressed at Huguenot, compared with the nearby Tolomato Cemetery (established by the Catholic Church in 1777), demonstrate both the differences and commonalties in funerary practices and religious attitudes of two distinct groups residing in 19th century St. Augustine.
The gravemarkers at Huguenot Cemetery display a range of funerary art popular in the 19th century, including false box tombs with inscribed ledgers and finely carved headstones by highly skilled stone carvers in vogue during the 1820s-40s, and the more elaborate monuments that were favored during the Victorian period. The work of several important stone carvers in the southeastern United States has been identified at the cemetery, including Thomas Walker and members of the White family who had shops in Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia.
The Concerns: The Presbyterian Church has owned the Huguenot Cemetery since 1832. After the cemetery was closed to burials in 1884, the church continued maintenance of the grounds, and some efforts of restoration were made in 1946 and again in 1951. However, it eventually became necessary to keep the entrance gates locked and restrict visitation to the site. While the burial site was relatively secure from vandalism and theft, natural weathering and deterioration of the markers continued.
In 1989 the Cemetery Restoration Committee of Memorial Presbyterian Church was formed. It initiated a program to document the Huguenot Cemetery's gravemarkers and research genealogical information about those who are buried there. In 1990, participants in the Preservation Institute: Caribbean made measured drawings of the more significant gravestones and box tombs at the cemetery.
In 1991-92 the Restoration Committee was successful in obtaining a survey & planning grant from the Bureau of Historic Preservation, Division of Historical Resources to develop a master preservation plan for the cemetery. The Plan's recommendations were adopted by the Committee and, as funds could be raised, work began on those funerary markers determined to have a high priority for restoration.
Ghosts of Huguenot Cemetery
One of the most popular individuals interned at the Huguenot Cemetery is Judge John B Stickney. Judge Stickney came to live in the St. Augustine area shortly after the end of the Civil War. With the judge came his 3 children. His wife had already passed on. The judge was well respected in town, and offered free legal advice to those that needed it, and offered free legal representation if need be. During a business trip to the north, Judge Stickney contracted yellow fever and died in 1882. He was buried in the Huguenot Cemetery. Time passed, and his children grew up, and moved north, asking the city of Saint Augustine to exhume their father so they could burry him closer to where they were. After the judge was buried, grave robbers came and stole the gold fillings in the judge's teeth, as well as other valuables buried with the judge.
To this day, many claim to have seen the judge residing on the cemetery, in spirit. He has been spotted sitting in the trees, or walking around the grounds, as if he is looking for the missing personal effects. All of the accounts that have been documented claim that the apparition is friendly, although he does not seem to be very happy.