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Unearthing Florida

The legacy of Montgomery-John the Baptist Cemetery

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Mark Hilton
/
Historical Marker Database

Following the Civil War, newly freed slaves began to establish their own formal cemeteries. In Pensacola, one of those was Montgomery-John the Baptist.

In 1870, Trustees of the Baptist Church of Pensacola for colored people purchased land on the outskirts of town to establish a cemetery for their congregation. One of the most prominent people buried there is Spencer Bibbs. Born into slavery, he came to Pensacola as a young man and quietly became influential within the Black and White communities. He was the first Superintendent of Colored Schools in Pensacola and a champion of education for children of color.

Spencer Bibbs grave marker
UWF Archaeology Institute
The marker of Spencer Bibbs at John the Baptist Cemetery.

Analysis of Bibbs’ marker by historical archaeologists reveals that he chose skilled tradespeople from the local Black community to make his brick and plaster monument.

The Montgomery-John the Baptist cemetery is relatively unassuming, with just a few surviving markers. However, burial records reveal that there are far more unmarked than marked graves there. In addition, there is a large historic marker for the public.

Unearthing Florida is a project of WUWF Public Media, the Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN), and its founder, Dr. Judith Bense, since 1998. FPAN's Michael Thomin is a contributor to the program. WUWF's Sandra Averhart is executive producer.