FPL, county plan monument at Poor Farm cemetery crossed by power lines

By Chris DeVitto  Palatka Daily News  November 11, 2007

In 1966, an area where about 100 indigent Putnam County residents were buried decades earlier was used for part of a Florida Power and Light transmission line and easement.

Putnam County commissioners granted FPL the right-of-way, according to the Putnam County Archives Cemetery Project.

But now a partnership between the county and utility will soon result in a monument commemorating the lost gravesites.

“FPL plowed up the cemetery and it was my opinion FPL and Putnam County has a joint responsibility,” County Commissioner Hermon Somers Jr. said recently.

The cemetery was near a home for the dysfunctional poor that was referred to as the Putnam County Poor Farm. People who stayed there were termed paupers, inmates and patients, the archives report states.

It began operating in January 1916 and closed Oct. 16, 1935, although paupers were buried in the cemetery as late as 1939, the report says.

The cemetery is near U.S. 17, just north of Rice Creek at the end of Poor Farm Road, according to Jeff Womble, an FPL spokesman.

There is nothing marking the site now, Womble said, just some overhead power lines.

“I agreed we (FPL) would work with the county to come up with a memorial,” he said. “It seems like the right thing to do.”

FPL work crews who travel near the site of the cemetery make sure they do not disturb the area where the cemetery is located, Womble said.

“Our right-of-way is just on the edge of the cemetery,” he said. “And I’m sure if we had hit some of the gravesites back in the ’60s we would have known.”

FPL plans to give the county some money for a monument of some kind, Womble said.

“I told Hermon we have some money and we could give him some this year and some next year,” he said. “But he hasn’t set up a fund yet for deposits.”

When the poor farm was closed, the land was sold to a woman who then sold the right-of-way to FPL, said Stella Wells, a Pomona Park resident who serves as chairwoman of the Florida Cemetery Task Force of Putnam County.

“It was sold to put a power line in to Georgia-Pacific,” she said. “Between the county, FPL and Georgia-Pacific, there should be a monument with the names of those who are buried there.”

Wells said she suggested a monument to county commissioners about a year ago.

“I’m happy to know the county is moving ahead with plans for a monument,” she said.

Two businesses are located on the property where the cemetery rests, Wells said.

Lowman Fence Co. and Futch’s Landscaping, both owned by Robbie and Daryl Futch, operate near the old cemetery.

Robbie Futch said his family has owned the land for about 11 years, and has agreed to allow public access to the site where the county plans to place a memorial.

“There will be access when it opens, but we might close it at night,” he said.

Irrigation pipe and paving stones litter the site. Futch said the property would be cleaned up when the monument is ready to be placed.

“We’re being 100 percent cooperative,” he said. “Whatever they want, we will talk about.”

County Administrator Rick Leary said the county was considering the type of monument.

“I’m thinking about something that’s not like a headstone, but something that commemorates the cemetery,” he said. “Maybe a plaque with the names of those interned.”

A list was compiled by the cemetery task force and the county will use that information, Leary said.

“We do have a commitment from FPL for $1,500 to help with the monument,” he said. “But we haven’t finalized anything yet.”

Joel Holmes, director of the county’s parks department, is pricing monuments.

“Right now we don’t know what money we have to do it with,” he said. “We are just looking at our options.”

County commissioners will decide the monument type and set a schedule for installation, Holmes said.


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