Oaklawn Cemetery

Officer John McCormick

On October 25th, my family and I attended the “10th Annual Gothic Graveyard Walk” at Oaklawn Cemetery in downtown Tampa.  The walk benefits the Tampa Historical Society.  Maureen Patrick, director of Historic Guides (historicguides.com), leads the tour in the character of Miss Prudence Fipwhistle (b.1855, d.1899).  Miss Fipwhistle, assisted by the good Father O’Brien and the Sexton, shares storied of her friends, old, new, and dead, along with the colorful history of early Tampa.

Established in 1850 as a public burying ground for “white and slave, rich and poor,” Oaklawn Cemetery is Tampa’s oldest cemetery.  The difficulty of shipping stone markers prior to establishment of rail lines to Tampa in 1884 meant wood markers showed the site of graves.  However, the wood often rotted or caught fire.  This fact, along with the loss of the original plat map left a cemetery full of unmarked graves.

The cemetery is the final resting place of many Tampa notables, including Civil War soldiers, mayors, judges, and legislators.  V. M. Ybor, founder of the cigar industry in Tampa and name sake of Ybor City, rests here.  Dr. John P. Wall, who discovered the cause of Yellow Fever before the Reed Commission, also calls Oaklawn his final resting place.

The grave marker pictured above is that of Officer John McCormick.  Just after midnight on September 26, 1895, Officer McCormick and Officer Bishop responded to a disturbance at the Salter’s Bar.  The officers found two women, Ms Lulu Williams and Ms Ela Felter, arguing.  The officers arrested Ms. Felter, whereupon her boyfriend, Harry Singleton, fatally shot Officer McCormick with a .38 caliber pistol.  Singleton fled, but police captured him several weeks later.  Officer McCormick left behind a widow and five children.

McCormick’s is merely one of many stories behind the markers in Oaklawn Cemetery.

2010 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]

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