There are FOUR cemeteries in the immediate Homeland area.

Legally, Bethel Cemetery (but now generally referred to as Homeland Cemetery) is in the north east corner of C R 640 and Homeland Cemetery Road just east of the Homeland community. The community that is now Homeland originally began under the name Bethel back in the 1850's. The name of Homeland came into being with the establishment of the postoffice here in 1885. This cemetery was established to serve the needs of the white community of Bethel and this is where the Burr lot is. This cemetery remains active.

Old Cemetery Road in south Homeland leads to the remains of the original black cemetery that served the needs of Homeland's black community in south west Homeland. All the blacks sold out to phosphate interests in the late 1940's - early 1950's and the cemetery in sad disrepair is all that remains of the black community. Last burial here was about 1980 and several graves have been relocated to other cemeteries.

On the south side of C R 640 at the first curve on west side of Homeland is the Durrance Cemetery, an old, small, family cemetery. Very few markers remain to-day and the last burial was at least 50 to 60 years ago.

About one to 1 1/2 miles north of Homeland on the west side of the Old Bartow Road is the Shady Oaks Cemetery. This is Polk County's pauper cemetery and is currently active.

Below is a blurb I wrote on the Homeland Cemetery in 1994.



A BRIEF HISTORY Little is known today of the early origins of the Homeland Cemetery; perhaps it began as a family cemetery about 1850. In its early days it was known as the Bethel Cemetery and the community that is present day Homeland was the Bethel community. The name Homeland for the community came into being with the establishment of the Homeland Post Office in 1885.

Burial records were not kept and it is not known when the earliest burials occurred or who they may have been. Today (Feb. 1994) the earliest known gravesite is that of Alice J. Wilson, daughter of James T. and Adaline Hendry Wilson, who died on September 26, 1864. It is assumed that, in the beginning, when someone died the body was interred in the "Burial Grounds" off in the woods. In November 1885 W. H. Johnson deeded five acres to the trustees of Bethel Cemetery for the burial of the dead of the Bethel settlement (Polk County Record, Book T, Page 273). Today (Feb. 1994) there are twenty-two original recognizable gravesites that pre-date the official designation of the property as a cemetery.

Historically, family members tended the family cemetery plots, and the community churches sponsored general cemetery clean-up days. Several shallow wells with pitcher pumps were installed in the earlier days to provide water for flowers and shrubs planted around the graves and to quench the thirst of those working in the cemetery. A large gazebo was erected in the SE quarter of quadrant D-17 probably in the early 1900's. This structure, which held several benches, served as a dining area for "dinner on the grounds community work days", shelter for funerals in times of inclement weather and other purposes. The gazebo structure was razed in the 1960's. Today this community interest in the cemetery is somewhat diminished as the "Old Timers" have died and many of their descendants have left the community.

In January 1943 V. D. Hamilton deeded five acres to the cemetery trustees for needed expansion (Polk County Record, Book 664, Page 428). This addition to the cemetery is generally referred to as the "new section". Ironically, Mr. Hamilton's wife, Annie, was the first burial in the new section in March of 1947.

The WALLACE FAMILY CEMETERY, containing eight graves, was moved to Block G Lot 4 of the Homeland Cemetery in 1971. This family cemetery, dating from about 1870 (perhaps earlier), was originally located just east of Peace River approximately 1 1/2 miles north and 1/4 mile west of the intersection of CR 640 and Kincaid Dairy Road (Kincaid Dairy Road no longer exists, it has been consumed by phosphate mining operations). The Wallace Family Cemetery was relocated to allow its property to be mined for phosphate.

In March 1976 the HOMELAND CEMETERY ASSOCIATION, INCORPORATED was founded for the purpose of maintaining the cemetery grounds and records. This is a not for profit corporation, state of Florida charter No. 735290. Corporate income is from donations and corporate officers and directors serve without compensation.

In early 1993 the project of compiling a burial record directory was undertaken. No burial records for the cemetery had ever been kept. One source of information was a record prepared by Miss Lillian Carpenter in May 1938, which provided much valuable information. Miss Carpenter identified 208 gravesites by name and further states "Many graves in this cemetery are well preserved by substantial brick enclosures or slabs with no names or dates to identify them. Many more graves are unmarked, and the list below (Miss Carpenter's 1938 list) comprises probably only about two-thirds of the graves in this cemetery". The current burial record, as of 08 Feb 1994, identifies 900 gravesites. New discoveries of old graves are being made and new gravesites are being logged, but no doubt some gravesites are lost forever.

D W Wilson, 08 FEB 1994