PASCO COUNTY, Fla. – At Williams Cemetery in Dade City, Vicki Gaskins Brandel never feels alone.
What You Need To Know
- Lina Jane Bryan Gaskin died in 1892 and was buried in what was then called Prospect Cemetery
- The land is now on private property, surrounded by barbed wire with little signs there’s anyone buried there
- Jeff Cannon hopes Pasco County will get the cemetery marked but the land needs to be surveyed
- More Pasco County headlines
“Both my grandparents are here. My dad just passed six weeks ago. He’s here,” Brandel said.
But if she wants to visit her great-grandmother’s site, it’s not easy.
She says Lina Jane Bryan Gaskin died in 1892 and was buried in what was then called Prospect Cemetery, about a mile from Williams Cemetery.
The land is now on private property, surrounded by barbed wire with little signs there’s anyone buried there.
“The family has never been able to go out there and place flowers on a grave,” Brandel said in an interview. “I think it’s one of the worst things there is.”
Pasco County historian Jeff Cannon says the site used to be known as Prospect Cemetery.
He discovered it going through records and trying to find where members of his own family are buried as well.
For Vicki Gaskins Brandel, she has her great-grandmother Lina’s Bible, which includes notes and even a lock of her hair. But she would like to see her burial site preserved as well. (Tim Wronka/Spectrum Bay News 9)
He says that in the 1980s, the property was sold to a developer, Price Realty. Someone then removed the headstones, leaving little trace of a cemetery.
But he did uncover burial vaults there.
“Unless you dig a few inches below the soil, there’s no evidence of that cemetery even being there,” Cannon said.
He’s also found letters, obituaries and other records showing that other families are buried there as well. He says he has seen similar issues all over the state of Florida.
Other evidence is at the nearby Williams Cemetery, where there are headstones that are used as markers, saying a person is buried at Prospect. As an example, one reads, “Grandchildren at Prospect Cemetery.”
Some headstones may have been moved between the two locations as well.
Cannon hopes Pasco County will get the cemetery marked but the land needs to be surveyed. He says the newly formed Abandoned African American Cemeteries Task Force doesn’t have jurisdiction for this land.
“This is history we’re trying to preserve. These are pioneers. The founders of our county,” Cannon said.
For Vicki, she has her great-grandmother Lina’s Bible, which includes notes and even a lock of her hair.
But she would like to see her burial site preserved as well.
“She’s the reason we are all here today. She’s our legacy. And I would love to see that preserved,” Brandel said.
Price Realty has not developed the property.
The owner of the property next door has allowed Vicki and other family members to visit the site.