Sumatra Cemetery rooted in ‘Great War’

mccranie tombstone Photo available for purchase

This monument for John Wilson McCranie marks the site of the first funeral service held in Sumatra but is not the oldest burial site.

Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 05:31 PM.

Little Sumatra Cemetery tucked away in the woods has a tempestuous history for such a peaceful place.

The cemetery is wholly in Franklin County, just a few hundred feet south of the county’s border with Liberty County. It is the traditional resting place for residents of Sumatra in Liberty County.

Burial plots in the cemetery were traditionally free and the county had maintained the graveyard for years, at one point erecting a brick monument and flagpole as a tribute to veterans.

A dispute surfaced in 2002 when the owner of surrounding land, arguing the cemetery was deeded to his father, sought to control who could be buried there. The two county attorneys argued that, by precedent, Floridians have the right to be buried near close relatives if space is available, and to have access to the graves of loved ones to maintain and beautify them. Commissioner Bevin Putnal was a vocal champion of the Sumatrans.

After several months of discord, Franklin County purchased the two-acre cemetery for $10,000 in summer 2003, to avoid a lengthy court battle. The county placed it under the control of a not-for-profit created by the Sumatra Assembly of God.

Sumatra Cemetery is nearing the century mark. In 2002, William Bouington told the Times his father performed the first funeral service in 1918, for the interment of World War I casualty John Wilson McCranie. The senior Bouington presided because tiny Sumatra lacked a preacher.

There must have been other existing graves at the site since Tom Sadler of Sumatra told the Times his relatives had been buried there as far back as 1912. Possibly the sites were marked with cypress, which has since rotted away. A few cypress markers remain.

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