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Unearthing Florida

The resting place for Pensacola's Creole families

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St. Joseph's Catholic Church

In 1891, the mixed-race creole population of Pensacola set up a separate catholic church and gradually became the caretaker of deceased members of Pensacola’s Fishing community.

Starting its first burial in 1900, St. Joseph Cemetery has seen the internment of many prominent Pensacola creole families. The markers in the cemetery reflect the diversity of the Creole community, from elaborate stone monuments to simple vernacular markers.

Pensacola’s fishermen came from around the world, including Italy, Portugal, and Norway. Within St. Joseph, there is a cemetery within a cemetery, with uniform rows of small similar markers representing more than 150 individuals, mainly the Pensacola Fisherman’s Benevolent Association. However, it also contains the remains of seamen who died at sea.

(Watch this video about St. Joseph's Catholic Church from this 2017 PNJ article)

Using Ground Penetrating Radar, historical archaeologists have been able to identify differing burial practices used by the fishing community. For example, despite the similarity in markers, some were buried in individual coffins, while others were interred in large concrete vaults.

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.