From 1909-1955, the St. Matthews Baptist Church Cemetery served the African American community of Clearwater at this location, and historical records indicate as many as 550 people might have been buried on the property. Today the land has been partially developed as a private business. Due to the advocacy of local community members and descendants, the City of Clearwater hired Cardno to verify the findings of a previous Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey and identify if historic burials still exist on the property.
The team performed ground truthing – carefully removing layers of soil until they reached the site of each grave. In all, nine grave shafts were identified within a small portion of the cemetery. With a few of the grave shafts, Cardno found objects that would have been left on the grave, possibly by loved ones. In one grave shaft we found a fragment of a ceramic vase, and in another we found two pennies – one dated 1916 and the other from 1923.
Working with members of the community, property owners, and other stakeholders, the team helped provide context into the history of the site.
While work continues, Cardno is pleased to help solve the mystery of the cemetery, helping to right past injustices and complete the story that is still meaningful to the descendants of those buried at St. Matthews Cemetery.