For a better future, study the past.

Charnel Cemetery in DeLand, Florida; the Final Resting Spot of Unknown Residents

Charnel Cemetery sign located on fence gate
   Charnel Cemetery sign on fence gate

Located behind Advent Health Hospital in DeLand, Florida is a small cemetery that very few people know  about. If you are driving Stone Street just north of Plymouth Avenue pay attention on the left hand side of the road as you pass the hospital. You will see a single lane road and small road sign stating Charnel Cemetery Road. If you turn left here, it will take you directly to the small fenced cemetery.

 

 

View of Charnel Cemetery
                       Wide view of Charnel Cemetery

 

The cemetery contains around 450 burials. The headstones are all ground level and unexceptional.
There are a few military markers. The markers date from approximately 1960 through 1999. The
interments during this period are considered to be indigent burials.

I use the term “during this period” because along the left (south) fence there are three headstones that
do not fit date wise or style wise with the other headstones. These belong to E.W. Gregor and family,
Elizabeth Jones, and Mary Taylor. One can safely determine that these headstones are not in their
original location. Where these burials are, or the individuals these headstones commemorate are lost to
time

The oldest headstones in the cemetery
     Headstones for E.W. Gregor, Elizabeth Jones, and Mary Taylor

 

Overall, the cemetery is in good, but not excellent condition. When I visited, the grass was cut low and
the grounds were safe to walk. To the north side of the cemetery, a tree limb had fallen but did not
cause damage to any markers. Most of the markers could use a good cleaning as might be expected. The
markers are in straight rows making it easy to navigate through.

According to the Florida Master Site file, the property has changed hands several times over the last
century. The County of Volusia purchased the property from the Noble estate in 1889. In 1924, Joseph
A. Scarlet II purchased the land before it selling it back to the county eight years later in 1932. Based
upon the FMS file this is still county owned property. In 1983, the West Volusia Hospital Authority
purchased undeveloped portions of the parcel. I believe this purchase occurred strictly to allow for
future expansion.

We now jump ahead to the year 2014 when the hospital, then operated as Florida Hospital DeLand, was
expanding and adding a cardiac catheterization lab. On July 28, 2014, workers were digging as part of
the construction process when they uncovered a portion of a human skull. Construction was halted
immediately and local police summoned to the scene. Reports at the time stated, “The hospital was
built more than fifty years ago, and it is believed that these remains are from an indigent cemetery that
was in the area approximately 100 years [or longer] ago.”

Over the next eleven months, archaeologists from Prentice Thomas & Associates worked the site,
discovering the remains of twenty-one individuals. Research into the site determined it to have been the
location of a county poorhouse and during the 1890s was home to an agricultural poor farm where
residents could live and support themselves. Many residents died here and it is now presumed they
were buried on site. Because there were no records indicating who was buried there, no relatives could
be contacted.

On August 15, 2017, Florida Hospital DeLand hosted a service in their memorial garden honoring the
memory of those whose remains were found in the unmarked graves. Pastor Johnny Long from First
Baptist Church led the invocation, “Father, we lift up the families of these. We don’t even know their
names, but Lord what we do know is they lived and their life meant something very much to their
families, their communities, to this community and to you.”

After archaeological work and the forensic examinations were completed, the remains were interred at
Oakdale Cemetery. A large, single marker now notes the location of these long forgotten Volusia County
residents.

Marker to unknown burials now located in Oakdale Cemetery
The marker in Oakdale Cemetery commemorating the twenty-one unmarked and                            unknown burials found behind Florida Hospital DeLand.

 

An online memorial for burials in Charnel Cemetery may be viewed here.

A video of Charnel Cemetery may be viewed here.

For an excellent introduction to Florida law as it relates to abandoned cemeteries and unmarked graves
please visit the Florida Division of Historical Resources.

Florida Hospital DeLand is now Advent Health DeLand.

Sources:
Daytona Beach News Journal
www.findagrave.com
Florida Master Site File
West Volusia Beacon

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