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Hillcrest Cemetery

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Hillcrest Cemetery mass grave marker.   Hillcrest Cemetery was established in 1871. The monuments that were erected are the only available record of burials for the early years. The winter of 1874-75 brought with it a smallpox epidemic which took the lives of many Russian Mennonites living in Florence at that time. They are buried in a mass grave.

There are a number of unmarked graves in the original part of the cemetery. Some have been identified, located, and are on file at the City Building. Annex I was opened in 1919. Due to the railroad and oil boom, more space was needed. Transients were also abundant at this time. Potters Field holds many.

Avenue of Flags during  a Memorial Day Service.  

The cemetery was expanded in 1973 to include Annex II. In 1981, the Avenue of Flags was added. (Memorial Day Service)

There are Veterans from six different wars buried here. In 1987, the Memorial Tree Program was started. People have the opportunity to provide a living memorial for their loved ones. Information is available at the City Building.

Hillcrest Cemetery records were destroyed in a fire many years ago. In 1987, Teeny Williams was in charge of the parks and cemetery while serving as a member of the City Council. She realized how inadequate the cemetery records were, so she began to research and record the 116-year-old burial ground.

Old doctors' records, mortuary records, and the caretaker of the cemetery log book were obtained for accurate accounts. At this point in time, people were looking up their family trees. They appreciated the help they found at the Florence City Building to locate the grave of a loved one.

Fascinating facts came out of those old records. The following is just a small portion of them:

The realization of how far the field of medicine has advanced is probably the most fascinating factor. People seldom lived past the age of 40, and so many died in childbirth. A complete family of children was wiped out in a measles epidemic, and one little boy even died of a broken leg.

Older part of Hillcrest Cemetery   The older part of the cemetery is filled with small bodies under the age of two. A baby, name unknown, was fished from the river. Cause of death: strangulation or suffocation. Malaria, Typhoid and Scarlet Fever were familiar words, along with Cholera, Diphtheria and Yellow Jaundice. The word "Cancer" was rarely used. The most common ones were Dropsy, Consumption, and Lung Fever. Bright's Disease, Inflammation of Bowels, Liver Abscess, and Infection of the Head were the most dreaded that took lives. Little chance of recovery.

In this small community it is hard to believe that two lawmen were gunned down in the line of duty. There were also many suicides and a large number of farmers' wives died of accidental gunshots.

During the oil boom in the 20's, fractured skulls, alcoholic poisoning and gunshot wounds were common. One man, residing at the City Jail, died of an overdose of narcotics. Few of us knew there were drug problems that long ago.

Many, many young men were killed by railroad accidents. If the lawyers would have practiced then like they do now, the Santa Fe Railway would be nonexistent.

It was easy to picture a raging battle with each Civil War Veteran. Each time a World War II Veteran was named, it brought mental pictures of exploding ships and airplanes.

When a married woman died, her first name was seldom used, and one lady was buried as "Old Lady McCready."

Afflicted children were hidden and forgotten, and there was little doubt of who was considered the low-life of the community. One young woman who died of syphilis was the only member of a family that didn't have a marker.

There was certainly a lot of prejudice present in the color of skin.

Another interesting factor was nationality. There were English, French, German, Russian, Canadian, etc. Through the years that progressed to "American." That really is a nice word. It has a special ring to it.

A cyclone killed four people during a spring storm. Since Florence is located in the fork of two rivers, that must have been a surprise.

If it could talk, Hillcrest Cemetery could tell you many tales. It should be a showplace. We should all look beyond the stones and see the people.

(Submitted by Ms. Teeny Williams)

For an Excel spreadsheet listing of all burials, click here.

For Excel spreadsheet viewer, click here.

For information or to request digital photo emailed to you of a particular gravesite, please email our Web Designer and someone will respond to your request as soon as possible.

Old section of Hillcrest Cemetery
Memorial Day Ceremony
American Legion Ceremony

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Page last updated: June 23, 2007