HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
Faded Cemetery Speaks To Historian (2004)
This article appeared in the Tampa Tribune on Sept. 17, 2004.
By CAROL JEFFARES HEDMAN
TRILBY - They lived separately in the days of segregation.
White people used restrooms labeled “white women” and “white men,” and black people shared facilities designated “colored.”
Schools, drinking fountains, restaurants, movie theaters - every aspect of life was separate between blacks and whites in the days of segregation. Even in death, the two were kept apart.
Today, nestled in a wooded area off a narrow, grassy path in the east Pasco community of Trilby, is a reminder of those days. There, in a small plot of land, many blacks of the area found their final resting places.
The cemetery is known only as Trilby Colored Cemetery, according to Scott Black, a Dade City commissioner and businessman who grew up in Trilby.
Black has been interested in the history of his hometown since middle school when he won a countywide bicentennial essay contest by writing about the history of Trilby. Since then, he has collected information about Trilby, including the cemetery.
Its name is found in Coleman and Ferguson Funeral Home records and is commonly spoken, he said.
Black was called upon to survey the cemetery after stumbling upon the Web site ftp.rootsweb.com/pub/usgenweb/fl. The site is a volunteer effort to document cemeteries throughout the country.
Earliest Burials Unmarked
Black, along with his wife, Laura, and veteran cemetery surveyor Elaine Wyckoff examined the cemetery in April.
The exact date the cemetery was established is unknown, Black said. But by perusing Coleman and Ferguson Funeral Home’s records, Black determined it dates to before the 1920s. Some burials appear to be in partnership with Jim Rowe Harper, a black undertaker in Dade City at the time.
Unfortunately, none of the early burials is marked today, Black said. Many graves only have temporary metal markers, and quite a few are unreadable. Some markers are from Milton Funeral Home, and several are from the former Evans Funeral Home. Few are legible “paper behind glass” metal markers from Harper’s Funeral Home.
There are 124 graves that remain marked, including that of Alvergin A. Crowe, born Dec. 9, 1941. He died Dec. 31, 2003.
The oldest grave that remains marked dates to 1918 and is that of Willie Griffin, born in 1903. The grave holds a headstone shared with his wife, Willie Mae Griffin, born in 1903 and died in 1925.
Some of the graves are unmarked slabs and headstones that once held some type of identification. Some that are marked have no dates for the deceased, including John Padrick’s, which reads “Indian Chief, Buffalo Head.”
Another reads “From friends of Pasco Packing Co.” and marks the grave of Gussie Robinson, born in 1902 and died in 1962.
Many graves of veterans are marked with sentiments such as “Our Darling,” “Gone to Rest” and “Our Beloved.”
Newspapers Mostly Silent
Black also found in Coleman and Ferguson Funeral Home records others buried in Trilby, including Joe Adams, who died March 4, 1927, and was “almost 100 years.” Most of the funeral home’s records contain approximate ages because birth dates were not not always known.
“Sadly, the old Dade City Banners only in the rarest of occasions would mention a passing in the black community,” Black said.
The Banner did report on the death of Edgar Donaldson, an employee of the railroad, who drowned in the Withlacoochee River in March 1923. Another article reports the death of “Aunt Lucy Green,” a former slave who died in February 1924 at “about” 100 years old.
Also buried there, according to a Banner article, is Howard Will, who was shot and killed by his wife, Annie, on May 27, 1935. George Lark also was shot, but by a Pasco County sheriff’s deputy in December 1925.
Will Leak was lynched at Trilby on Aug. 6, 1915, after being accused of attempted rape. And Lyman Smith, who died April 5, 1935, was killed by a train near the Chipco crossing.
Black, concerned about the deterioration of the cemetery, is trying to organize family members of those buried there to help with upkeep.
He also has given a tour of the cemetery to Toni Carrier, director of the University of South Florida Africana Heritage Project, who offered to help.