Curious to experience a cemetery after dusk when the gates are locked and closed? Now you can.
Greenwood Cemetery in the City of Orlando holds monthly moonlight walking tours that take you on a historical stroll through the cemetery. The walk is approximately four miles within the 120-acre cemetery and visits about 100 graves of notable individuals in Orlando’s history.
Established in 1880, Greenwood Cemetery offers scenic views during the day and glimpses of historical dignitaries, but exploring it in the dark by the light of the moon is a totally different experience.
From confederate and Union sections to many of Orlando’s forefathers, Greenwood Cemetery is filled with history. Resting there are the people who made Orlando the city it is today and headstones will match the names of local streets and businesses everywhere.
An evening visit to Greenwood Cemetery starts as light begins to fade and continues as the moon rises in the sky.
The tours have been led since 2004 by cemetery sexton, Don Price and were originally started as a thank-you to volunteers who volunteered to clean up the cemetery after four hurricanes pounded Florida in a six-week period.
Some of Greenwood’s notable residents include dairyman T.G. Lee; Mayors Bob Carr and Mahlon Gore; Cassius Boone; Mayor Capt. James Parramore; Mayor William Beardall; David Lockhart; Samuel Robinson; Principal William R. Boone; pharmacist Maynard Evans; Mayor Braxton Beacham; embalmer and undertaker Carey Hand; Joe Tinker and hardware store owner Joseph Bumby.
Participants of the tour can see the final resting place of July Perry (a prosperous black businessman who was lynched in the Ocoee massacre — a racially motivated attack on African-American residents in northern Ocoee on November 2, 1920. The race riot started as a result of white attempts to suppress black voting and Perry was lynched because he was registering black voters for the 1920 presidential election. His murderers took his body to Orlando and he was found hanging from a lightpost.
Positioned on the highest point of Greenwood is the Wilmott Mausoleum. On June 1st, 1913, Mrs. J. W. Wilmott (wife of the Orlando business leader) took her grandson Fred Wilmott, Jr. and his friend Frank Pounds, Jr. to Lake Lucerne to swim. Sadly, the water was far too deep for the pair of 5-year-olds and they drowned. The mausoleum is the resting place for little Fred Jr. and his family.
Another interesting story is the one surrounding the mausoleum of Fred S. Weeks, a northerner who bought land locally around 1905 but then discovered it was swampy and worthless.
Weeks was so angry he erected a headstone at the entrance to the cemetery which was then also a public park and carved into the stonework a Biblical quote about thieves and the names of the swindlers.
Not liking the negative publicity, the swindlers who happened to be local attorneys, returned his money and the headstone was removed. Later however, Weeks bought more cemetery plots and built the mausoleum we can see today. Again, he had the Bible quote and the attorneys’ names engraved into the stonework. Weeks died in 1918 and is buried in the mausoleum. The “thieves” inscription remains clear today — but the three attorney’s names have been removed.
Other resting places of pioneers include Edna Giles Fuller, the first woman elected to Florida’s legislature in 1928; Carey Hand, who in 1920 opened the first funeral home in Florida with its own chapel and opened the first crematory to be built south of Washington, D.C.
Another permanent resident is Cassius A. Boone, a direct descendant of the famous Boone Family of Kentucky whose most historic member was Daniel Boone. Cassius came to Orlando in 1870, was elected mayor in 1883 and leaves an historical heritage that lives on today.
Sexton Don Price is a natural storyteller and has a wealth of knowledge about the cemetery and its residents. He touches on so many of the famous people of Orlando and also about some secrets of the cemetery. Learn why there are so many entrances to Greenwood and why do some headstones face the wrong way. It is fascinating stuff.
The moonlight tours are very atmospheric and the relative peace of the place can make it eerie, but not scary.
The Moonlight Walking Tours take approximately two hours within the 100-acre cemetery, and visits the graves of notable individuals in Orlando’s history.
The tour is free. but many times each tour is sponsored by a different charity that will be accepting donations so bring a little cash with you.
Registration for the tours are typically through eventbrite.com, and open 2 weeks before scheduled tour dates.
A flashlight and comfortable shoes is recommended for this tour but be courteous of others and keep them pointed at the ground
These tours sell out very quickly. Tickets are not distributed early and are completely managed by the Eventbrite website.
Historical Marker Unveiled at
Part of the City of Orlando’s historic preservation program, a Florida State Historical Marker was unveiled on Tuesday, May 19, 2015 at the Eppes-Shine Plot at Greenwood Cemetery. The plaque tells the story of two of Orlando’s earliest civic-minded families – the Eppes and Shine families.
Descendants of President Thomas Jefferson, Francis Wayles Eppes VII, Jefferson’s grandson, moved to Orlando in 1869 to spend his final years as a citrus farmer at his home, Pine Hill on Lake Pineloch. He helped found the First Episcopal Church, now the Cathedral of St Luke’s.
Three of the Shine Brothers married three daughters of Francis Eppes. David Shine became deputy clerk of Orange County and later postmaster. Captain Thomas J. Shine was the director of the First National Bank, a board of trade officer, an alderman and commander of the Orlando Guards, later named Shine Guards.
Thomas Shine built a home on Orange Avenue with the first indoor bathroom in Orlando. He named the cross street Jefferson Street in honor of his wife’s family.
IF YOU GO
Greenwood Cemetery is located at 1603 Greenwood St, Orlando,
Open daily 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Monday – Friday
7:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.