BRADENTON, Fla. — In the heart of Bradenton is Manatee Village Historical Park. It is home to Florida's earliest courthouse and was the homestead of some of Manatee County’s first settlers.
"This is where our first permanent white settlers came to rest," said Rachel Des Rosier, the event and marketing coordinator at Manatee Village Historical Park.
The 1850 Manatee Burying Ground is a cemetery on the property with 94 graves. But recent ground-penetrating radar shows that 135 more graves could exist underground.
"Depending on how much money they had, they might use a wooden marker. They might just plant a tree or a plant so they might know where their loved one was buried," said Des Rosier.
And because Florida's water table is so high, most of those graves are only inches from the surface.
Most of the graves are from the 1800s, and the dilapidated headstones and moss-covered bricks make for a spooky scene. Which is why the Manatee Village staff normally has evening Tombstone Tours this time of year, but the pandemic has caused them to cancel.
"Since we can’t really do that this year we decided to give everybody something similar," said Des Rosier.
Right now, a documentary-style virtual tour that tells the stories of the people buried in the cemetery is available online for anyone to watch.
For those brave enough to experience the historic graves for themselves, they can make an appointment online to take a tour in person.
To access the virtual tour, click here.
To schedule an in-person self-guided tour, click here.