The grave markers at Keyser Cemetery offer a roll call of names that have been a part of Milton for many decades: Gilmore, Walker, Haynes, Whigham, Bell, Larkins and Walls.
Now, there’s an effort to upgrade the cemetery and to identify unmarked graves. It’s a common problem across the nation; private cemeteries struggle for funding as descendants fail to maintain relatives’ graves or they move away or lose interest.
Still, Keyser Cemetery holds a spot in the heart of many Milton people.
“Families do come out to keep their graves up,” says Barbara Glover, a member of the cemetery’s board of directors.
However, more volunteers and more donations would help.
“There’s lots to be done,” Glover says.
The cemetery dates back to 1889, when a white woman, Harriet Keyser, donated 10 acres for a burial ground for black people. Among those buried there is a longtime Keyser family servant who even took the Keyser name as her own.
The donation, made when cemeteries and society were segregated by race, gave black people a burial ground diagonally across from Milton Benevolent Cemetery, where white people were buried.
Keyser was the widow of William Keyser, who owned land in Milton, Floridatown and Garcon Point, according to old records.
“He was quite wealthy,” says Rosalyn Cutts, a descendant of the Keyser family.
Cutts said William Keyser gave land to 14 servants and named 14 streets after them. The streets are still a part of Milton; Linda, Alice, Jasmine and Susan streets are among the examples.
Glover has been volunteering at the cemetery since 2010. Glover, who works at the Santa Rosa County Clerk of Courts office, became involved because she often helps people seeking county records about deceased relatives and friends.
She estimates that more than 1,100 people are buried at Keyser Cemetery, which still has room for more graves.
The board is eager for volunteers to clean the grounds, help with cosmetic improvements and identify graves. Many graves are clearly marked with the names of families — including veterans of World War II and the Korean War — but some markers contain no inscription and others are weathered and unreadable.
“We welcome the community,” Glover said.
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