A graveyard is not something many people expect to encounter while visiting the pharmacy at a busy urban intersection in one of the wealthiest communities in the United States, but that is exactly what you will find at the intersection of Tamiami Trail North (U.S. 41) and Pine Ridge Road in Naples, Florida.
For years, passersby have wondered about the origin of this small cemetery and the identity of the people interred there. Adding to the mystery are reports of paranormal activity and rumors that neighboring businesses inevitably close their doors after only a short period of time.
While only home to a little over 19,000 people, Naples, Florida is one of the wealthiest cities in the United States, with the sixth highest per capita income and the second highest number of millionaires per capita in America. Every year, tourists flock to the area, and Naples Beach was voted the best beach in America by the Travel Channel in 2005.
It wasn’t always this popular, or this populated. In the 1870s, reporters described the area’s agreeable climate, abundant fishing, and shoreline as like that of Italy. So when a U.S. Senator from Kentucky named John Stuart Williams and his partner, businessman Walter N. Haldeman, founded a city there, they called it Naples, after the city in Italy.
Many of these early settlers were buried in a cemetery at the corner of 3rd Street South and 10th Avenue South. In the 1930s, when Naples’ population boomed and businessmen were looking to develop that land, the cemetery was moved to a 20-acre plot of land on the outskirts of town, which was donated by Edward W. Crayton, president of the Naples Improvement Company. Today, of course, that land is smack dab in one of the busiest parts of the city. Interred here are John and Madison Weeks, Naples’ first permanent settlers.
Rosemary Cemetery was active between 1931 and 1947 (the last known burial) and served as the city’s only cemetery until 1955. Over the years, those 20-acres of land were gradually chipped away, until this small graveyard near the parking lot of a CVS Pharmacy was all that remained. This has led to much speculation over what became of the remains of all the people interred there, as well as to the identity of those individuals buried there today.
According to Glendon Guttenfelder of Florida Fringe Tourism, “Some people still believe the burials belong to the original Naples pioneers. Others claim Rosemary is the burial site for orphaned or unwanted children who died many years ago. The most popular belief is that this is the mysterious ‘Plot N’ which contains the graves of ‘8 Unknown Negros’ who were killed working on the rail road, building Tamiami Trail or by a mob in a bar fight.”
Destruction of burial grounds by development (both urban and rural) is an unfortunately common occurrence and is popularly believed to be responsible for stirring up paranormal activity. Some say the spirits of the departed do not like having their eternal resting places disturbed. Perhaps this is to blame for the frequent failure of businesses at this well-traveled location in downtown Naples? No one will ever know for sure, but curious minds will continue to inquire as long as Rosemary Cemetery catches their eye along the roadside.