Small Florida Town Comes Together To Clean Up Inactive Black Cemetery

Hobe Sound, FL is a sleepy town in Martin County where people work, play, and enjoy a quiet life.

But for over twenty years, the people of Hobe Sound lived alongside an important piece of history that they little about: an inactive cemetery hosting over twenty graves.

Down Kingsley Road, what’s informally known as Gomez Cemetery rests quietly alongside a small neighborhood.

The cemetery was part of the Allen Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church, and resided in Hobe Sound in 1910 and closed in 1991.

Captain Lloyd Jones, a retired captain of the Martin County Sheriff’s Department, has a personal connection with the cemetery.

“My father, Isiah Jones, is interred in the cemetery, and as a boy, I grew up in the same church where he attended and my mother attended,” Jones said in an interview with RISE NEWS.

The church resided in Hobe Sound until it burned down in 1992, according to a Palm Beach Post article from that time.

The church itself relocated to Jacksonville afterwards, but the cemetery stayed.

“I think at that point in time, when the church services ceased, I think that began the time when the deterioration of the cemetery began,” Jones said.

A grave at Gomez Cemetery in Hobe Sound, FL. Photo Credit: Kevin Boldenow

Black cemeteries have been historically subject to both the ravages of time and people, and Gomez Cemetery is no exception.

Photos dating back to 2007 show the graveyard surrounded by weeds and brambles, and registers display the various states of damage that some of the headstones and graves are in.

“There’s people out there,” Boldenow said. “You just don’t want to see them not have their proper respects.”

“It’s a really sad thing if you’re hearing this about other cemeteries around the country and around the state as well, but I don’t know if any of them have been in this type of disrepair,” Kevin Boldenow, a photographer who concentrates on disappearing Florida landmarks.

A local showed Boldenow Gomez Cemetery, and he took some pictures of the cemetery before an initial cleanup and posted them on social media to encourage people to become involved in Gomez Cemetery’s restoration.

Photo Credit: Allyn Farach

“There’s people out there,” Boldenow said. “You just don’t want to see them not have their proper respects.”

Regarding attempts to preserve the cemetery, Boldenow explained, “Cemeteries, they’re walking museums, they tell stories. If we let them go, if we neglect it like we have been, those stories disappear.” 

There is engagement in the restoration of the cemetery.

Pastor James Gibbons of the AME South Conference has also been involved in the cemetery’s renovation.

“There [is] other work that we also handle as conference trustees, entrusted by the Church to assert that all properties of the AME church is safeguarded and taken care of as much as possible,” Gibbons said in a phone interview.

Gomez Cemetery falls under the jurisdiction of the 11th District African Methodist Episcopal South Conference, which extends from Fort Pierce to Key West.

As a member of the Conference, Gibbons volunteered to be the coordinator of Gomez Cemetery’s cleanup.

Photo Credit: Kevin Boldenow

In Gibbons’ case, this involves working with local organizations like Keep Martin Beautiful and organizing the cleanup.

For the folks who have worked hard to cleanup the long forgotten cemetery, they do it out of duty as Rev. Patricia Wallace, vice chair of the Board of Trustees of the AME South Conference explained in a phone interview.

“We are happy to be working with Martin County and its other partners as we do the cleanup and restoration of the Gomez Cemetery property,” Wallace said. “We take pride in the work that we do on behalf of the AME church. It is our responsibility, it’s given to protect and take care of our properties, as entrusted into the hands of others on behalf of the AME church.”

Jones, the retired captain from the Martin County Sheriff’s Department vast connections around Martin County enabled him to help in the cemetery’s restoration.

There are ways that other people can help.

Call 782-781-1222 or email [email protected] to find out how to help with the cleanup of Gomez Cemetery.

Cover Photo Credit: Kevin Boldenow

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