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Woodlawn Cemetery

     West Palm Beach, Florida was founded by Henry M. Flagler on the west shore of Lake Worth as a commercial city for his hundreds of railroad and hotel workers.  The year was 1894. Pioneers started Lakeside Cemetery in the center of town.  In 1895, they acquired three acres of land south of the town limits on the east side of today’s Dixie highway.  Flagler soon bought their in-town cemetery property and all the bodies were removed to the new Lakeside Cemetery location.  In 1904, Flagler had 17 acres of pineapple fields laid out as a public cemetery on the west side of Dixie Highway, opposite the pioneers’ Lakeside Cemetery.  Flagler named his Woodlawn Cemetery, forming a corporation of the same name to administer it.  As was his custom, Flagler spared no expense and the cemetery soon became a tourist attraction.  


     The St. Augustine Tattler of January 1905 reported that socialites would spend the afternoon there admiring its rock roads and “rows of oleanders, Australian pines, and crotons.”  A postcard description, circa 1906, reads: “The main entrance to the beautiful Woodlawn Cemetery is guar-ded by a massive gate of iron, black with letters of bronze.  The avenues are of that pure white splendor which is characteristic of all roads in this vicinity.”  The ornamental iron gateway bore this inscription in bronze letters: “That Which Is So Universal As Death Must Be A Blessing.”


     Flagler also acquired two lots across Dixie Highway, opposite the main entrance of Woodlawn Cemetery, and there built a house for the cemetery superintendent.  A stable at the rear was for two mules and a “coffin wagon.”  Later there was a handsome matched pair of black horses to draw the hearse.


     Henry M. Flagler died in 1913 and a year later, Woodlawn Cemetery Association deeded the cemetery and superintendent’s house and lot to the city of West Palm Beach, which took over the operation and maintenance of the cemetery.  Superintendents became city employees and the superintendent’s house was sold to private interests in 1972.


     Lakeside Cemetery was conveyed to the city of West Palm Beach in 1921 and many of the bodies there were reinterred in Woodlawn Cemetery.  In 1922, a group of Jewish merchants of West Palm Beach formed the Jewish Community Center, an unincorporated association, which bought seven blocks of previously unplatted land on the western edge of Woodlawn Cemetery. The Jewish Cemetery was platted in June of 1923 and by 1952, all the lots had been sold.


     In 1925, Woodlawn Cemetery lost over an acres of land with the widening of Dixie Highway and the ornamental iron gate had to be removed. A year later, the present cement archway was built at the entrance to the cemetery.  The same inscription was carved into the arch and the letters painted black, which was determined to be cheaper and more secure than the detachable original bronze letters.


     Because Woodlawn was nearly full by 1927, the Australian pines were removed to make room for 422 additional lots. In later years more burial spaces were made available by the closing of most of the east-west roads dividing the blocks.


     The devastating hurricane of September 16, 1928 drowned more than 2,000 people when Lake Okeechobee overflowed the dike.  Local cemeteries were called upon to bury the dead as quickly as possible to prevent an outbreak of disease.  A trench was dug in part of Block 8 of Woodlawn Cemetery and many of the victims were buried there side by side over the next ten days.  A small stone marker was erected at the spot the following year.


     Woodlawn Cemetery increased in size in 1975 with the city’s acquisition of slightly more than two acres adjoining the north border.  This addition is known as Woodlawn North Cemetery.


     In recent times, because of vandalism, the whole property has been fenced in and only one entrance, the main gate on South Dixie highway, is open.  Though in former years Woodlawn was not tended regularly, it is now a beautiful, well maintained cemetery. Containing 18 acres, the three cemeteries comprising Woodlawn totaled 10,085 burials from January 1905 through Dec-ember 1994. It is located in West Palm Beach,  Palm beach County, Florida, one block south of Okeechobee Boulevard, bounded on the west by the Florida East Coast Railway and on the east by South Dixie Highway.  The gate is open from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily.


     Knowing that in every cemetery there are some unmarked graves, we planned to rely on the information found in the city clerk’s offices rather than recording tombstone information. However, we soon discovered that Woodlawn Cemetery records were disorganized: some located in the West Palm Beach city clerk’s offices; some at the cemetery office; some in the City Records Retention Department; some missing altogether.  No list exactly matched another.  Every attempt has been made to include all known burials, and to be accurate as to spelling and dates, with the information available to our volunteers.


     The dates are almost always burial dates.  In the case of a person who died before Woodlawn Cemetery was opened in 1905, was buried elsewhere and then was reinterred in Woodlawn, the date is the reinterment date. However, the actual date of death is on he tombstone. No distinction is made between burials of bodies and burials of cremains.


     Woodlawn consists of three cemeteries; Woodlawn Cemetery, Jewish Cemetery and Woodlawn Cemetery North. Each cemetery is listed separately. 

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William M Richardson 1831-1929
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The Palm Beach Post Sunday, April 27, 1924 page 1 
Confederate Graves Ablaze With Flowers
Blind Veteran of 90 Aids Women in Distributing Blossoms 

Rev. Jenkins Points to Lesson in Valor 

Dinner to “Thinning Ranks of Gray” at Charles Goodloe home 

The Confederate dead in Woodlawn Cemetery today sleep beneath a wilderness of flowers. 

Exercises appropriate to the day are held at 3:30 o’clock yesterday afternoon under the auspices of Thomas Benton Ellis Chapter, United daughters of the Confederacy. The exercises were largely tended and members of the U.D.C. could be distinguished by their badges of red, white and red ribbon.  Confederate veterans present also wore the badges. 

Prayer was offered by Rev. C. H. Summers of the Methodist Church after which Rev. E. B. Jenkins, pastor of the first Baptist Church, gave a talk on the significance and origin of Memorial Day. 

After the talk, taps were sounded on a bugle by Ms. Florence M. Clark, who wore the uniform of a Girl Scout leader. The graves of the Confederate dead then were bedecked with fresh flowers which had been contributed by members of the chapter and friends, while a large quantity of the most beautiful blossoms came as a volunteer offering from the Poinsettia Flower Shop. Among those who placed flowers on the graves was Dr. William Marshall Richardson, a veteran more than 90 years old and totally blind. 

City Hall Closes 

For the first time in the history of the city so far as could be learned from attaches of the City Hall, offices of the official city closed at noon yesterday in commemoration of the Confederate dead. “We thought it would be only patriotic appropriate to revere the day.”  was the simple statement of city manager George L. Right, who ordered the observance. 

On the door of every office in the building was found yesterday an official notice headed by a stanza from an oft repeated poem which pays tribute to both the blue and gray. 

“Under the sod and the dew.
     Waiting the judgment day.
Under the one- the blue,
     Under the other the gray. “
Valorous Dead 

Rev. Jenkins in his talk on Memorial day said that it taught us to remember the valorous dead and also taught patriotism and served as an inspiration to youth. And while teaching patriotism, said Rev. Jenkins, it also teaches peace, and the value of peace, and lastly it teaches gratitude and hope for a universal peace which only the Prince of Peace can give. 

In speaking of the origin of Memorial Day, Rev. Jenkins said: 
“Memorial Day is not limited to services for the heroes of the Civil War alone. Since the time it was legally established in 1866 other crimson pages and roles of honor have been added to our history. Other records and events of sacrifice have been registered in the annals of our past since men went down in the cause of freedom. 

“The names of the heroes in the war with Spain have been written in a scroll which can never be changed. Now more recent still are the gallant deeds of those whose lives and suffering meant defeat to Prussian-ism and victory to the nations of the earth. Scarcely are we past the conflict for their graves to be green. Wounds on our hearts are still open and bleeding, because a voice is still, and a form will be seeing no more around the family Hearthstone. 

Origin of Memorial 

“It is well for us to refresh our minds as to the origin of Memorial Day. In the spring of 1866, three women of Columbus, Mississippi, on April 25 were visiting Friendship Cemetery in that city and cleared off the briars and weeds of the Confederate soldiers, and placed flowers on them. As they were doing this one of the women looked at the graves of the federal soldiers, and not wailing that they should be neglected, went over and decorated these also.” 
“This was the beginning of Memorial Day, and later it was adopted by all the states in the nation. Different states observe different days. This is Memorial Day in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. North and South Carolina observe May 10, and June 3 is observed in Tennessee. In the northern states May 30 is the day set apart.” 

In closing, Rev. Jenkins quoted Lieut. McRae’s ”In Flanders field,” and Edna Posques’  answer to it. 

There were three veterans whose graves could not be located and wreaths were placed to honor these also.  The graves of the Confederates in the cemetery are marked with iron crosses placed by the U.D.C.  These crosses Bea the design of crossed flags,crossed cannon and the date 61 – 65. 

Veterans Are Guests 

Southern hospitality was beautifully exemplified yesterday when Mr. and Mrs. Charles Goodloe entertained to dinner the Confederate veterans of the county at their home in Prospect Park, Westminster Road and Olive Street, in celebration of Confederate Memorial Day. 

Those responding to the invitation were W. C. C. Branning, Sr., Capt. Thomas Hill Dungan, Dr. William Marshall Richardson, and John Jed Holladay. 
The dinner featured chicken, salad, vegetables in season, with dessert of ice cream and cake and coconut candy. After dinner Mr. and Mrs. Goodloe motored their guests to the Cemetery, where they attended the Confederate Memorial Day exercises. 

Mrs. Goodloe was assisted in entertaining by her daughter Mrs. L. E. Briggs and other guests were Mrs. C. H. Price, daughter of Dr. Richardson, Mrs. Holladay and Miss Anna B. Kennedy. 

The Goodloe home was prettily arrayed with potted plants and a profusion of colorful garden flowers. The guests of honor had a most delightful time and many were the remembrances of the strenuous days of ‘64 which were exchanged. 

True Son of Florida 

Mr. Branning is a true son of Florida having been born in Middleburg, Clay County, Florida, in 1818. He was a son of George Branning who came to Florida from Fayetteville, North Carolina in 1815. Mr. Branding was Courier during the war to General Finnagin, Major Byrd and Col. McCormick. Since the war he has lived in Jacksonville and was one of the earliest pioneers on the east coast. He has been a resident of West Palm Beach for 31 years. During his pioneer period he has had no less than 27 different homes. 

Capt. Thomas Hill Dungan was a 16-year-old volunteer in General Forrest’s Calvary. He has lived in West Palm Beach for nine years and takes an especial interest in the members of the U.D.C. who in turn take delight in showing him many courtesies. 

Dr. William Marshall Richardson is a graduate of the 1851 class of the University of North Carolina. During the war he lived in the state of Alabama, and volunteered for service in the Confederate ranks. He was first Lieut. of Company B of the 3rd Alabama Regiment commanded by Col. Gracie. He served several months at Fort Morgan, Alabama, and was ordered to Chattanooga. He fought under Gen. Kirby and was with the Regiment which invaded Kentucky.  He was engaged in the battle of Richmond, Kentucky. 
For 33 years Dr. Richardson has lived in Marion County, Florida, but has lived in West Palm Beach for the last two years. 

Blind But Places Flowers 

At the ceremony Dr. Richardson, who is over 90 years old and totally blind, expressed a desire to personally decorate one of the graves of his comrades. This wish was gratified, and Dr. Richardson was led to a grave, where he reverently laid flowers, offering a prayer at the same time. 

Mr. Holladay has the distinction of being the first one to fire into McClellan’s Vanguard and he is also one of the Confederates who never surrendered. He was born in Spottsylvania, Virginia, July 31, 1843, and with a group of his fellow students at Hampden Sydney College, he volunteered for service on the day that Virginia seceded from the Union. He was among those sent to West Virginia to intercept McClellan, and was stationed at Rich Mountain with the 20th Virginia Regiment. He fired the first shot at McClellan’s Vanguard. He was captured and for nine months was a prisoner, but was exchanged, and then was appointed an ordinance courier to General Lee, in which capacity he served for two years. He then joined The Third Virginia Calvary, and served until the close of the war. He never surrendered, but cut through the lines and made his escape. 

Mr. Holladay has lived in Florida for four years. He is 6’2” tall and direct, with a marked,  soldierly bearing. On occasions of this sort he may be distinguished by the fact that he wears his Confederate coat and hat with a cross of honor. 
Mr. Holladay is a winter resident of West Palm Beach, owning his own home,” Hilltop,” on Jessamine Street. His summer home is in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

This the second time that Mr. and Mrs. Goodloe have entertained the veterans on Confederate Memorial Day. Mr. and Mrs. Goodloe were formally from Richmond Virginia and are both of distinguished southern ancestry ”
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