The Tolomato Cemetery Preservation Association (TCPA) was created for the preservation and interpretation of Tolomato Cemetery, an historic cemetery located on the site of an earlier Franciscan Indian mission (Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe del Tolomato, or Our Lady of Guadalupe of the Tolomato) in St Augustine, Florida. There are large numbers of documented burials from the 18th and 19th centuries, with all burials ceasing in 1884.
Members of the Association include descendants of the many diverse communities that have created St. Augustine, including the Spanish, Minorcan, Irish, African, Greek, Italian and 19th century Southern and Northeastern American families who have ancestors buried in the cemetery.
Tolomato Cemetery is of interest to a wide range of other groups: it has the earliest graves of the Sisters of St Joseph, as well as burials of veterans that represented both sides of the Civil War. It was also the burial site of important political and religious leaders, such as General Georges Biassou of Haiti and Father Felix Varela of Cuba, whose canonization process is underway.
Association members also include preservationists and archeologists interested in the long historical record of Tolomato. And of course the Cemetery is of great interest to genealogists and cemetery buffs.
The Cemetery was once the parish cemetery for what is now the Cathedral Parish and is still owned by the parish, which has maintained and protected it over the years. However, since the main job of a church is not that of running an historic site, visitor access was limited and preservation needs built up.
In 2008, researcher Matthew R. Kear spent most of a year studying and documenting the cemetery for his 2009 Cornell University thesis, In Reverence: A Plan for the Preservation of Tolomato Cemetery. It was his suggestion to create the TCPA to deal with the interpretation and preservation of the site. With his help, advice from similar organizations and the archaeological community in St Augustine, and with the support of the Cathedral Basilica of St Augustine, the TCPA became reality on August 28, 2010.
Since then, the TCPA has been working to preserve and protect the site and to interpret its rich history to the public. Association members will participate in this activity, working on preservation projects, guiding visitors through the site and assisting researchers in examining this virtual time-line of St. Augustine history. The goal of the Association is to provide regular access to the Cemetery to introduce visitors to this fascinating part of St. Augustine’s past and to make the Cemetery an even more beautiful part of modern St. Augustine.
Tolomato Cemetery is open to the public on the 3rd Saturday of every month.
July 20, 2013 - Cemetery Open 11 a.m. -3 p.m.
July 27, 2013 - Preservation Work Day - 9:00 am - 12:00 noon.
August 17, 2013 - Cemetery Open 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.