TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Hillsborough County commissioners heard a report on Wednesday from respected University of South Florida Anthropologist Dr. Erin Kimmerle about cemeteries and unmarked graves lost to time in Tampa.
Kimmerle researched the issue at the request of the commission. Over the past several years, a number of cemeteries have been located in Tampa where buildings now stand.
“It definitely is a problem everywhere. This is not unique here. I think this area is unique in that there has been so much attention focused by researchers and local government,” said Kimmerle.
She says many cemeteries are lost over time when family members pass on.
“Cemeteries go missing, lost, abandoned if you will, over time because generations pass and there is this disconnect,” said Kimmerle.
One site Kimmerle’s investigation revealed where there may be unmarked graves is the current location of Pepin Distributing in Tampa. Kimmerle says deeds and property records show it was once part of Myrtle Hill Cemetery.
“What alerted us to it, is all of the historic maps of the cemetery and some of those deeds say it was cemetery but I don’t know who specifically, or if there are burials there,” said Kimmerle.
She says it would be up to the current property owners to decide if a further investigation could prove if the graves still exist there or not.
“Because it’s private property, it’s up to the property owners if they would allow that or want that to be done,” said Kimmerle.
Another location where her investigation revealed there are unmarked graves is the Marti-Colon cemetery on Columbus Drive in West Tampa.
Kimmerle says records show the cemetery first opened in 1895 but no marked graves exist showing a date before 1932.
She says part of the property was sold and eventually a shopping center was built at the location on MacDill Avenue and Columbus Drive.
Kimmerle says it’s likely unmarked graves are located under the shopping center.
“We believe that they are probably still there, that they were not moved. There is no record of any of them being moved,” said Kimmerle.