History of Dade City Cemetery

Section 26 - Township 24 - Range 21

Entrance to the Dade City Cemetery

To read the early history of Dade City click here.  

This cemetery is one of the older of the cemeteries in Pasco County and contains the burials of many leading pioneers, especially in the northwest section of the cemetery. Most of these pioneers lived in and around the Dade City and east Pasco areas. The Dade City Cemetery as it is known today was actually established from a small cemetery that was here prior. A 1920's Dade City Banner article confirms this cemetery was established long before Dade City. Tom Alexander, a life long residents, is quoted as saying "My grandmother was buried here [Dade City Cemetery] in August of 1879. There were graves here then, ten year old graves." This dates the Dade City Cemetery's beginning to sometime around 1869.

The earlier cemetery was established as many throughout Pasco County were and served as a church cemetery before becoming the Dade City Municipal Cemetery.  The church which was located here was known as the Oak Grove Baptist Church, this was one of the first established Baptist Churches in East Pasco.  It is believed that the Oak Grove Baptist Church received its name from the many towering oak trees that were located around the church and the Fort Dade Community.  Like many churches from this time period the Oak Grove Baptist Church was likely established as part of a circuit, which provided an itinerant minister.  The churches along these circuits usually became established churches of the communities, as did the Oak Grove Baptist Church.  Among the first pastors of the Oak Grove Baptist Church was Rev. R.E. Bell.  It is believed that Rev. R.E. Bell may have first served as the itinerant minister for the Hernando/ Pasco County Circuit, since there are numerous other Baptist Churches, throughout both counties, that show Bell as their first pastor in records.  According to Historic Places of Pasco County, by 1879 the Oak Grove Baptist Church had 56 members.  Located just to the south east of the church and cemetery property is a small pond.  This small pond was utilized by the Oak Grove Baptist Church and numerous other Dade City congregations, both African American and white, as a place for baptisms.  This small pond and the Oak Grove Baptist Church were the location where many early Pasco County pioneers received their spiritual needs.

By 1884 there were at least five Baptist Churches serving the East Pasco County area, Rev. R.E. Bell served as pastor for two of these churches.  According to the July 14, 1884 issue of the Fort Dade Messenger, which is the only surviving copy of the newspaper, Rev. R.E. Bell is listed as the Pastor of the Oak Grove Baptist Church and L. Parish was the Superintendent of the Sabbath School.  "Services were held the first and third Sabbath and the Saturday before in each month at 11 a.m.", Bell also served as the pastor of the Emmaus Baptist Church located just west of Dade City near San Antonio. (click here to see the 1884 Fort Dade Messenger Baptist Church directory)  According to Baptist Church records, in 1886 Rev. Pittman was serving as Pastor of the Oak Grove Baptist Church.  It is believed that the church sat on the north west corner of the current Dade City Cemetery property since this is where the oldest graves in the cemetery are located.

As the small community of Fort Dade grew so did the community's cemetery.  By 1886 Fort Dade was known as Dade City and so evolved the Oak Grove Baptist, as the church congregation grew the old Oak Grove Baptist Church building became too small to hold the congregation and services.  According to East Pasco's Heritage, "on Nov. 14, 1891 ten leading families of Oak Grove organized College Street Baptist Church in Dade City."  During this time College Street was so named for the South Florida Normal Institute, which was located on the street.  As construction commenced on the new baptist church building in 1891, the congregation met in the schoolhouse until the following year.  In June of 1892 construction of the new building was completed and the congregation began meeting in their new church.  On June 24th 1891 the College Street Baptist Church had the old church lot and cemetery property surveyed and plated. (click here to see 1891 plat)  This plat shows a portion of the property that was not divided into grave spaces, it is believed that this is where the Oak Grove Baptist Church building sat.  It is possible that the College Street Baptist Church had the old church lot surveyed in preparations of deeding the property to the Dade City.  By 1895 Oak Grove Baptist Church officially dissolved and most of the church building, which included pews, was donated to other local churches such as Withlachoochee Baptist Church.  According to Historic Places of Pasco County, by 1945 long after the education institute had disappeared, College Street was been renamed to Church Street because of the four historic churches located along the street.

The years that followed the church's move to College Street proved to be trying.  In 1899 and again in 1905 the College Street Baptist Church building was destroyed by fire and had to be rebuilt.  During these trying times the church congregation was growing, it was in 1905 that the ladies of the church raised funds to purchase a house east of the church, this house was used as a pastorium.  In 1919 a basement and Sunday School Annex were constructed, which added to the expansion of the church.  In 1940 an old church house was purchased and relocated to the back of the College Street Baptist Church, this building was utilized as a fellowship hall.  In 1944 when the name of College Street was changed to Church Street the Baptist Church also changed it's name.  It was at this time that the College Street Baptist Church took the new name of the First Baptist Church of Dade City.  By 1950 the First Baptist Church of Dade City began construction of a new red brick building; construction was completed by 1955.  Today this red brick sanctuary still serves the congregation of the First Baptist Church of Dade City.  

Church Street Historic District ca. 1890.
This photo shows College Street, the now Historic Church Street District,  as it looked ca. 1890 when the Baptist Church was relocated here.  (Photo courtesy of the Florida State Archives)

First Baptist Church of Dade City 1908
This photo taken in 1908 shows that College/ Church Street Baptist Church of Dade City.  This building served the congregation of the College Street Baptist Church of Dade City until a new red brick building was constructed.  (Photo Courtesy of the Florida State Archives)

According to Pasco County land records, it was on December 07, 1901, when W.C. and J.R Sumner, acting as trustees for the old Oak Grove Baptist Church, deeded the old church lot and cemetery property to Dade City.  It was at this point that the cemetery became known as the Dade City Municipal Cemetery.  Immediately following, the Mount Zion A.M.E. Church also conveyed land to Dade City.  According to Pasco County land records, on December 28, 1901 the trustees of the A.M.E. Church in Dade City, Dan A. Hartfield, J.M. Perry, R. Johnson and S. Wade, sold 1/4 acre to the City of Dade City for ten dollars; this property also became part of the Dade City Cemetery.  In the years that followed Dade City acquired more and more land adding to the cemetery's size.  Today the Dade City Municipal Cemetery consist of approximately 25 acres, which has been divided into section or blocks.  Each of these areas have varied numbers of burials ranging anywhere between 30 and 200 graves in each section or block.  On February 20th 1903 the Dade City Municipal Cemetery was re-surveyed to include all of the new property that had been acquired for the cemetery. (click  here to see 1903 plat)  This 1903 plat shows the old or original cemetery and church lot clearly identified and marked

Many of the headstones, located in this "old section" of the cemetery, date from the early 1870's; most of these stones are located in the northwest corner of the cemetery.  The earliest marked grave that I have located dates 1869 and belongs to a member of the Sumner Family.  This early concrete stone is severely weathered and very difficult to read making the death date and last name the only information legible.  This older section also appears to contain numerous unmarked graves, these graves may have been marked with wooden markers.  The exact date that the cemetery was established is unknown, however through documentation we at least know the cemetery was established and being used by the Oak Grove Baptist Church in 1869.  The Dade City Municipal Cemetery is one of the largest cemeteries in Pasco County.  As the cemetery continues to grow so will the history contained there in and someday the Dade City Municipal Cemetery may be considered the most historic cemetery of Pasco County.

The list below was taken from East Pasco's Heritage and shows the names of the pastors who served the First Baptist Church of Dade City after the move to Church Street

"Pastors who have served First Baptist Church are: P. C. Drew, 1892; W. M. Wamboldt, 1893-96; W. E. Bogart, 1897-99; George T. Leitner, 1900-05; W. D. Tumley, 1906-10; W. A. Burns, 1910-13; T. S. Hubert, 1913-15; Ben Brooks, 1915-16; Milton M. Bales, 1917-18; O. E. Tebow, 1918-21; B. G. Smith, 1921-24; J. N. Vandiver, 1924-27; W. K. E. James, 1929-31; E. L. Andrews, 1931-35; Jimmy Parrish, 1936-38; Albert A. Stulck, 1938-42; Elbert C. Tyner, 1942-60; Lamar Brooks, 1960-64; Paul Wonders, 1965-70; Thomas N. Langley, 1970-72; Thomas C. Broomall, 1972 to unknown."

This page was last revised on April 07, 2007.

Cemetery List