Pinehurst and San Sebastian Cemeteries Research

On this page you will find some of the research behind our The Pinehurst and San Sebastian cemeteries articles.

The Chavis and Clark Family Graves:

In 1999, Howard Strickland together with Sheila Bacon Greenleaf and Judy Allen did a survey of the San Sebastian cemetery. The information they gathered about the San Sebastian Cemetery can be found in 3 large binders at the St. Augustine Historical Society Research Library. These binders includes a detailed survey of the cemetery including photos, newspaper clippings as well as obituaries and death certificates for many of the people buried there. 

Based on the information from Howard Strickland, a retired park ranger at the Anastasia State Park, the original inscription read "George W. Chavis. Grandfather and Margaret B. Chavis. Grandmother."

The Strickland research collection includes a copy of the death certificate for Margaret Chavis, who was born in Jeffersonville, Indiana in 1876, and who died on November 21, 1925 at the age of 49.  

An obit from the St. Augustine Evening Record, dated November 1925 says "M. H. Chavis, wife of George H Chavis, and member of a colored family well known and liked in St. Augustine through many years, died at her home, No. 20 Williams Street, Saturday night following an illness that had been serious for some time. The deceased is survived by her three sons Walter of Los Angeles, Arthur of Cincinnati, George of St. Augustine, and one daughter Pearl Chavis Clark."

An obit from the Sunday Record, dated December 22, 1929 said. "George W. Chavis, well-known colored resident of this city, died in a local hospital Thursday afternoon at 2:40 o'clock after a short illness. Chavis will be remembered as an assistant gardener at the Ponce de Leon Hotel. He was about sixty years old."

A few more details are revealed in an obit from the St. Augustine Evening Record, dated December 24, 1929. "The deceased is survived by four children, Pearl Chavis Clark; George Chavis Jr., of this city; Walter Chavis of Detroit, who cannot come for the funeral, and Arthur Chavis, of New York City, who is expected to arrive here today."

Additional details about the family can be learned from an obituary from December 10th, 1962 in the St. Augustine Record, which says that "Theodore E (Red) Clark, long time negro resident of the city passed away Saturday after a brief illness. He resided with his family at 145 Blanco Street. He served as an elder at the Mother-Perit Presbyterian Church ... Survivors include his wife, Pearl C. Clark: two daughters Petronilla Clark and Vendalyn Clark; three sons Theodore E. Clark Jr., Jerome Clark and Arthur Clark."

The second part of the Chavis/Clark family plot is difficult to read, but based on research Pearl Davis Clark and her husband Theodore E Clark are buried at the San Sebastian Cemetery.

A death certificate for Pearl Chavis Clark can be found from February 12, 1964, listing her as having been born on November 12th, 1904. According the the death certificate she was a teacher and dressmaker according to Petronilla Clark, 145 Blanco Street in St. Augustine. 

More research reveals an obituary from the St. Augustine Record from June 2011, which lists Vondalyn Clark as having passed away on June 14th, 2011 at the age of 77. "Miss Clark was a lifelong resident of St. Augustine, an accomplished musician and a seamstress with the J.C. Penney Co."

An obituary from October 2011 in the St. Augustine Record, lists Petronilla Clark Archer as having passed away on October 4th, 2011 at the age of 82 just four months after her sister died. 

Only a brother, Arthur Clark from Virginia Beach, VA is listed as a survivor. According to Family Search, both sisters are buried at the San Sebastian cemetery, where they spent so many years tending to their parents' and grandparents' graves despite the overgrown weeds. 


Deed Research:

In a deed from December 4, 1914, it specifically states that "this cemetery to be used for all colored denominations."

In a 2015 St. Augustine Record article by Kimeko McCoy about the Pinehurst and San Sebastian Cemeteries, St. Johns County Resources Coordinator Robin Moore said that the cemeteries were created shortly after the St. Luke AME Church was built across the street around 1890. According to Kimeko "the first deeded ownership of the cemetery was in 1906 to the San Sebastian Cemetery Association. In 1955, deeds were transferred, and in 1963 they were transferred again" this time to the Pinehurst Cemetery Association, Inc. After the association dissipated, it was left up to various volunteer organizations to do the upkeep, and one of those organizations is the West Augustine Improvement Association, which has helped with the upkeep for the past 21 years. 

Although the cemeteries are located outside of the city limit, it is a stain on St. Augustine's history that people of color are still treated as second-rate citizens even in death. We owe the people who came before us more dignity and respect, especially as the success of many others in this town were built on the backs of those buried there