HOMELAND CEMETERY in HOMELAND, POLK COUNTY, FLORIDA
Little is known today of the early origins of the Homeland Cemetery, perhaps if began as a family cemetery about 1850. In it's early days it was known as the Bethel Cemetery and the community that is present day Homeland was the Bethel Community. The name Homeland for the community came into being with the establishment of the Homeland Post Office in 1885.
Burial records were not kept and it is not known when the earliest burials occurred or who they may have been. Today the earliest known grave site is that of Alice J Wilson, daughter of James T and Adaline Hendry Wilson, who died on September 26, 1864. It is assumed that, in that, in the beginning when someone died the body was interred in the "Burial Grounds" off in the woods. In November 1885 W. H. Johnson deeded five acres to the trustees of Bethel Cemetery for the burial of the dead of the Bethel settlement (Polk County Record Book T Page 273) there are twenty-two original recognizable, grave sites that predate the official designation of the property as a cemetery.
Historically, family members tended the family cemetery plots and the community churches sponsored general cemetery clean-up-days. Several shallow wells with pitcher pumps were installed in the earlier days to provide water for flowers and shrubs planted around the graves and to quench the thirst of those working in the cemetery. A large gazebo was erected in the SE quarter of quadrant D-17 probably in the early 1900's. This structure, which held several benches, served as a dining area for " dinner on the grounds community work days" , shelter for the funerals in times of inclement weather and other purposes. The gazebo structured was razed in the 1960's. Today this community interest in the cemetery is somewhat diminished as well as the "Old Timers" have died and many of their descendants have left the community.
In January 1943 V D Hamilton deeded five acres to the cemetery for needed expansion (Polk County Record, Book 66, Page 428). This addition to the cemetery is generally referred to as the "new section". Ironically, Mr. Hamilton's wife, Annie was the first burial in the new section in March of 1947.
The Wallace Family Cemetery, containing eight graves, was moved to Block G Lot 4 of Homeland in 1971. This family cemetery , dating from 1870 (perhaps earlier) was originally located just east of Peace River approximately 1 ½ miles north and ¼ mile west of the intersection of CR 640 and Kincaid Dairy Road(Kincaid Dairy Road no longer exists, it has been consumed by phosphate mining operations). The Wallace Family Cemetery was relocated to allow its property to be mined for phosphate.
In March 1976 the Homeland Cemetery Association, Incorporated was founded for the purpose of maintaining the cemetery grounds and records. This is not a for profit corporation, state of Florida Charter No 735290. Corporate officers and directors serve without compensation.
In early 1993the project of compiling a burial record directory was undertaken. No burial records for the cemetery had ever been kept. One source of information was a record prepared by Miss Lillian Carpenter in Ma which provided much valuable in May 1938 which provided much valuable information. Miss Carpenter identified 208 grave sites by name and further states "Many graces in this cemetery are well preserved by substantial brick enclosures or slabs with no names or dates to idendify them. Many more graves are unmarked, and the list by Miss Carpenter comprises probably only about two-thirds of the graves in this cemetery". The current burial record as of 2/8/1994, identifies 900 grave sites. New discoveries are being made and new grave sites are being logged, but no doubt some grave sites are lost forever.
(Written by Adalaide Russell who is now gone and is buried in Homeland Cemetery.)