This eight acre tract in the heart of downtown Pensacola dates back to 1781 when it was first used as a burial place by the Spanish. The land was officially designated a cemetery by the King of Spain in 1807 and granted to St. Michael Parish. The revenue from the sale of lots was intended "to provide the bread and wine for the Holy Sacrifice." The oldest documented tomb is that of Juan Roig, who died in 1812. In 1824 the West Florida Land Commission approved the site for continued use as a graveyard. St. Michael was the only burial ground in the city until 1876.
Pensacola, in the late 1800's and early 1900's, was a major rail and seaport center for lumber distribution and drew immigrants from around the world seeking to make their fortunes. A visitor in 1884 described the harbor filled with ships from Russia, Denmark, Germany, England, France, Spain, Norway, Italy, and Australia. Many of these pioneers, of all religions and nationalities, are buried in St. Michael beside long-time Spanish Catholic residents.
Inscriptions on tombstones, many in Spanish, reveal those who died in child birth, who died in infancy, or after a long and productive life. The dreaded Yellow Fever epidemics also extracted a toll on the local population with nearly every family suffering the loss of a member. Among the graves of particular historical significance in this cemetery are those of:
- Dorothy Walton, wife of George Walton, a Georgia signer of the Declaration of Independence,
- Stephen Russell Mallory, United States Senator and Secretary of the Navy of the Confederate States of America,
- Spanish Consul Don Francisco Moreno and many of his 27 children, and
- Don Manuel Gonzalez at whose home, north of town, General Andrew Jackson and his wife Rachel awaited Spain's surrender of Pensacola to the United States.
The Priest's Mound, in the center of the cemetery, contains the graves of former priests and pastors of the area. Among them are:
- Rev. I. A. Bergrath (1836-1881),
- Rev. Joseph A. Ph. Fortier (1841-1937),
- Rev. Robert Fullerton (1853-1926),
- Rev. Charles E. Hartkoff (1867-1938), and
- Rev. Patrick J. Buckley (1892-1941).
Over the past 200 years, Saint Michael Cemetery, like many other urban cemeteries, has suffered from vandalism, neglect, and natural aging. With the added impact of hurricanes and war, the physical deterioration of such a large area in the center of town became a source of community embarrassment. In 1965, the cemetery was deeded to the City of Pensacola, and later the City deeded it to the State of Florida. Today, it is designated a State Park and is administered by a volunteer board. Recognizing the historical importance of the site, residents of Pensacola are supporting a major restoration project at the cemetery.
In June of 2000, St. Michael Cemetery was named an official project of Save America's Treasures, a public-private partnership between the White House Millennium Council and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Save America's Treasures is dedicated to the preservation of our nation's irreplaceable historic and cultural treasures for future generations.
- The Future Is Exciting! -
Geographers from the University of West Florida surveyed the cemetery using a Total Station (a precision surveying instrument). A map was constructed in a computer-based Geographic Information System (GIS) and a database, with ancillary information about the graves and photographs of the grave markers, was developed. The map and database are available to the public via the Web (see the UWF-GIS link at the end of this page) and in hard copy format. The Web-based map is interactive and information about a grave can be displayed by clicking the map. The Search for the Hidden People of St. Michaelís Cemetery, a joint project between the University of West Florida and the University of Mississippi, identified unmarked burials in St. Michaelís Cemetery using ground penetrating radar (GPR), soil resistance measurements (SRM) and thermal imaging. These unmarked sites are being added to the GIS map.
The cemetery continues to undergo repair to historic markers and fences as well as restoration of existing walkways and historic plantings. The cemetery has a positive effect on the urban environment of downtown Pensacola, and provides a tranquil green zone for all its citizens and visitors. The restoration of Saint Michael Cemetery is an excellent example of preserving our past to benefit our future!
For more information about the cemetery, visit the official Web site at|
There you will also find links to the University of West Florida's GIS interactive map
and graves database of over 3200 marked graves in the cemetery.
St. Michael's cemetery is located in downtown Pensacola at the southern terminus of I-110, just south of the Civic Center.