Archaeologists last Wednesday announced that a business property in Clearwater is the site of a destroyed segregation-era Black cemetery that had hundreds of graves underneath it. According to 10 Tampa Bay, the destroyed cemetery also extends to a nearby paved road.
Last Wednesday’s announcement came after archaeologists found 258 extra graves on the property where the St. Matthews Baptist Church Cemetery once stood. A total of 328 graves have so far been discovered at the location.
Erin McKendry, who is a senior archaeologist with Cardno, briefed the Clearwater African American Cemeteries Memorial Committee about the findings during a meeting. The Clearwater/Upper Pinellas Branch of the NAACP hosted the meeting.
The St. Matthews Baptist Church Cemetery was operative between the 1900s and 1940s before the property was sold for $15,000 around the 1950s. The church sold the cemetery because of land development pressures, researchers reportedly said. The individual who purchased the property later sold it for $115,000 after flipping the land.
In an interview with 10 Tampa Bay last year, Matt Crum, who is the president of FrankCrum, said his family did not know the property was the site of a destroyed cemetery that had graves underneath it. After he became aware of the likelihood of graves on the site, he said he decided to do what was prudent.
“To me it’s the next logical step, to find out, you know, what the perimeter of the old cemetery was, how many possible remains we’re talking about,” Crum said. “And then we can start having a conversation with all stakeholders to say, ‘okay well what do we do now.’”
The Clearwater African American Cemeteries Memorial Committee and other stakeholders are working to determine how to honor the deceased people who were buried at the St. Matthews Baptist Church Cemetery.