Apalachicola History in Stone

By: Jodi Mailander Farrell

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A visit to Chestnut Cemetery in the historic port city of Apalachicola is a remarkable walk back through time. 

Key figures of Southern history are buried here, with the oldest tombstone dating from 1831 (although many believe the graveyard was in use before then because wooden markers have disappeared over the years). 

The names on the tombstones reveal the ethnic diversity of the old port city. There are people born in the United States, of course, but also many who traced their roots to Greece, Italy, Ireland and elsewhere. Two beautiful headstones mark the graves of William and Mary Fuller, free blacks who owned Apalachicola's finest hotel in the antebellum era.

The cemetery’s most famous resident is Dr. Alvin Wentworth Chapman, one of the best known botanists in American history. He discovered an amazing variety of new plants during his many expeditions through the South and spent the last 50 years of his life in Apalachicola. His famed book, Flora of the Southern United States, remains a "must have" for those interested in the ecology and plants of the South.

Dr. Chapman was a Unionist and remained at home in Apalachicola through the Civil War, sometimes hiding from Confederate patrols at nearby Trinity Episcopal Church. Near him, however, rests Lt. David Raney, who served aboard one of the most famous Confederate warships, the C.S.S. Tennessee.

Chestnut Cemetery is dotted with the graves of veterans, among them at least seven men who took part in Pickett's Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg as members of the hard-fighting Florida Brigade.

The Hull family plot, uniquely, holds two Confederate soldiers who lie next to two Union soldiers. It is a true example of the brother against brother nature of the Civil War. R.H. and L.N. Hull served in Company B of the 4th Florida Infantry, while J.H. and P.R. Hull rode with Company I of the 4th Missouri Cavalry (Union).

The graveyard is on US Highway 98 between 6th and 8th streets. It is open to the public during daylight hours. 


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