Forest Grove Baptist Church Cemetery History

The cemetery began on January 6, 1885 when young Maxey Blanton was laid to rest in a lone grave on the Blanton family farm. He was the son of Sumter L. And Emma Guinn Blanton (maternal great-grandparents of Laura Barry Wilcox). Other members of the community were buried there in succeeding years. The Blanton’s donated two acres of that land to Forest Grove Baptist Church on December 13, 1911.

The Sumpter L. Blanton Family

Sumpter L. and Emma Guinn Blanton pictured with three of their children.

The Blantons had nine children, eldest to youngest: Thomas, Rebecca, Isaac, Jimmie, Verna, Alice, Singleton, Maxie, and Laura.

Thomas L.  and Pearl Silas Blanton donated an additional 1.29 acres on December 6, 1919. Jack L. And Verna Blanton Martin donated one acre on December 13, 1919. Four more acres were acquired from Mildred G. Martin on December 17, 1959 and April 13, 1971, respectively the cemetery is located at 8100 NW 226th Street, Alachua, Florida.

Very little is known about the first 50 years of the cemetery. In the late 1930s, a fence was built around the original part. Annual work days were used to clear the grounds. The entire area would be “flat weeded” which meant they had to rake it clear and haul weeds across the road to a wooded area.

The Forest Grove Cemetery Association was formed in 1959 from interest generated after the Women’s Home Demonstration Club began working on a beautification of the cemetery and at the behest of then pastor, R. G. Key. The Association’s goal was to accrue enough money in savings that the interest alone would support upkeep of the cemetery.

The Forest Grove Baptist Church Cemetery – 2021.  Looking North.

In 1961, Williams – Thomas funeral home installed the marker at the flagpole showing the date the cemetery originated. Sometime later, Ernest Huggins Funeral Home placed a marker on the grave of Maxey D. Blanton showing it to be the first burial in Forest Grove Cemetery.

Many improvements have been made, including a 4 foot well in 1966, a water main in 1967, a shelter in 1969, and restrooms in 1979 and on April 15, 1980, the cemetery directors passed a resolution to have all future burials placed in a vault.

The first annual Memorial Service was held in 1960 on the third Sunday in May, in conjunction with the church, to celebrate the memory of loved ones buried in the cemetery. Flags were placed on the graves of those who had served in the military and that tradition is still practiced today.

The Forest Grove Cemetery Association has been replaced with the Forest Grove Baptist Church Cemetery Ministry Team. The team is selected by the church’s nominating committee and voted on by the church membership. This ministry team is now responsible for the upkeep and all other aspects of the cemetery.

Descendants of Sumpter L. and Emma Guinn Blanton at the 50th Annual Memorial Service – May 17, 2009

Kenny and Kendra Holton singing at an Easter Sunrise Service.

An annual Easter sunrise service, commencing at 7:00 am, is held at the cemetery and is open to the community as well as the Forest Grove Baptist Church congregation. Following the service, a continental breakfast is served to those attending. It is always a blessed time of worship and fellowship.

Through the hard work, cooperation, and generosity of so many people over the years, the cemetery has been, and will remain, a final resting place of beauty, respect, and tranquility.