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Tax Collector reveals no graves were found under office off Hillsborough Avenue; so where are they?

Posted at 2:33 PM, Dec 10, 2019

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — The Hillsborough County Tax Collector announced on Tuesday that ground penetrating radar has revealed no graves sit under the Hillsborough Avenue location.

Hillsborough County Tax Collector Doug Belden said there were no underground structures or "anomalies that reflect any graves buried on the site."

Belden said he wanted to take a proactive approach in scanning the area.

"Allocating the time and resources to conduct a thorough investigation into potential graves on the property was an easy decision. It was just the right thing to do, and I'm happy that we are able to provide closure as it relates to this particular property." said Belden.

Belden said the cost of the scanning cost a little more than $14,000 and he has asked for the state to incur half of the expense since they own the land.

Last month, ABC Action News spent days cross-referencing Florida death certificates to the known county records of people buried at the "County Cemetery," also known as the "County Farm."

What we found through genealogy sites and was dozens of names buried at the County Cemetery in the 1930s that are not being accounted for today.

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Historians tell ABC Action News that in the 1930s, the county owned a hospital and cemetery in the same vicinity of east Seminole Heights.

The hospital was for poor and needy people, as well as African Americans.

According to Hillsborough County archives, they know at least 839 people are buried at the cemetery now called the Cemetery for All People.

The lost names that are unaccounted for are likely buried somewhere on the 128-acres the county once owned, near the cemetery, an old county hospital and sanatorium.

Ray Reed, of Tampa, has spent years studying erased African American graves across the area.

So far, he has been correct in his claims that bodies are buried under King High School, as well as under a housing complex at Robles Park.

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Reed claims thousands are still buried under the land around the cemetery around 22nd Street and Hanna Avenue area. As well as along Hillsborough Avenue, under part of the parking lot of the Hillsborough County Tax Collector’s Office and the post office.

However, he has maintained that if he is wrong about the tax collector’s office, then the bodies can’t be far.

In an email to ABC Action News, Reed wrote,

“Because of segregation, whites and non-whites would not have been buried together.”

Through his grave research, Reed found the cemetery for Caucasians was along 22nd Street.

So, that left him to ask where are the bodies of African Americans.

Reed said he has found old county archives that show in October 1950, county leaders made a motion to move “the bodies” from County Highway, which is now Hillsborough Avenue.

Records Reed found show that in November of 1950 the board of leaders “can’t tell who’s where because of poor record keeping - that makes a traditional disinterment impossible, and there is no record of nor local tales of a big dig where someone carted off tons of earth with bone and burial container stick out of it,” he wrote.

Reed also refers to an old photo posted online that could be white crosses on what is now Hillsborough Avenue.


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Doug Belden tells ABC Action News that his office hired a ground penetrating radar company last week to begin scanning the parking lot, towards the road.

Belden said results show bodies were not discovered.

The question now, if they aren’t there, where are these names and bodies?

Hillsborough County commissioners will announce in January plans on how to do inventory of current land to see if there were ever cemeteries on their land.