On the moss-shrouded banks of the Ochlocknee River is a peaceful memorial park, slowly slipping out of memory.
Cow Creek Cemetery is on private land and while Florida law requires that close relatives be given access to family graves, this quiet retreat is not open to the public, even though it is still in use as an active burial site.
Don and Pam Ashley, who live nearby, say they first became aware of the graveyard when they purchased the old Bay City Lodge.
It is uncertain how many souls rest in Cow Creek.
A handful of stone markers, some very new, are visible, but Don Ashley said Amelia Rowell, former owner of Bay City, told him the field was once crowded with cypress memorials, all of which have now disintegrated.
What does remain is a single “Woodmen of the World” memorial in the form of a standing log, a stone marking the grave of a World War I veteran and what appears to be the faded headstone of a Confederate war veteran of the War Between the States amid a handful of low granite markers.
Ashley said Rowell told him a German prisoner of war is buried here, after he died while incarcerated at Camp Gordon Johnston, although no marker for that grave is in evidence.
Hermann Blumhardt who was himself a POW at the camp told Linda Minichiello director of the Camp Gordon Johnston Museum that at least one German died here, victim of a murder. At the time, it was thought he may have been killed by another POW.
Blumhardt said most soldiers were not members of the Nazi party and when a Nazi was captured and imprisoned he was not always welcomed by his countrymen. At the time of the death, there was an investigation and all the POWs were “punished,” according to Blumhardt, but the murderer never identified.
More than 2,500 Germans spent time at the camp. Because the US adhered to the Geneva Convention, POWs at the camp received the same food and accommodations as the American GIs. Some made friends in the civilian community and after the war, many remembered Carrabelle fondly and even dreamed of returning.
Bay City Lodge was commandeered for the duration of the war as a club and conference center for high-ranking officers at Camp Gordon Johnston. Perhaps the German was employed at the club as a cook or in some other capacity. We will never know why he is buried at Cow Creek or if there was a memorial service. Apparently nobody recalls and no record remains.
Cow Creek Cemetery is next to the site of the old Langston Ferry dock that carried vehicles between Franklin and Wakulla counties.
In an online article at www.CLJNews.com, Reddick Langston wrote that his grandfather, also Reddick Langston, moved to Wakulla in 1870. In 1876 or 1877, partners in both Franklin and Wakulla counties completed a road through the then virgin forest. Langston established two ferries, one at the present-day site on the Ochlocknee River bridge between Franklin and Wakulla counties and one further north in Liberty County.
The original vessels were 10 by 40-foot “flats,” later replaced by 14 by 40-foot barges. A 5/8 inch steel cable was stretched across the river and secured on each side of the river bank. Two chains, attached to either end of the barge, were attached to steel rings which encircled the cable, allowing the barge to be secure against the current of the river and at the same time to slide along the cable back and forth across the river. Power to move was provided by a long pole placed against the river bed and pushed by hand.
The Langstons lived on the east side of the Ochlocknee River, about a half-mile from the west river bank. In the early days, there were no regular scheduled trips. Travelers wishing to cross the river alerted them day or night by banging a metal rod hung at the ferry dock or blowing a cow horn or conch shell.
Later, traffic was so heavy that two ferrymen manned the site during the day and one at night.
The wreck of the last Langston Ferry can still be glimpsed from the Ochlocknee River bridge at low tide.
In Wakulla, the traffic crossing the river included horse-drawn buggies and wagons and in later years, cars and trucks. The most unusual operation was the ferrying of a large circus across the river in 1926.
This was also the main exit route for anyone from Franklin County seeking urgent medical help in Tallahassee or points further north. Rowell told Ashley she believed the cemetery was founded to accommodate patients who didn’t survive the journey. She said she could remember scores of memorials standing in the wooded field before the war.
Editor’s note: This is the last in a three part series of articles dealing with local burial sites and published in the Times in Oct. 2010 through 2012. We hope you have enjoyed them. In the Halloween spirit, we close the series with a ghost story written by Troy Williams Sr. and originally published in the Times on Oct. 31, 2002.
A true scary story
An old man told me this story when I was a teenager back in the ‘60’s. It seems there was a teacher who lived in Apalachicola in the 1800s. She lived in a cabin with her bedridden mother.
One morning, she got up and dressed for work. She fed her dear mother, made sure she had water and enough food until she came home from teaching. She kissed her mother good-bye and left the cabin. She had to walk through a short stretch of woods. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining and a cool breeze came from the bay.
All of a sudden, she felt like she was being watched. She turned back to look and there about 20 feet from her was her mother floating about three feet off the ground, and she could see through her, then vanished. The teacher, with her heart in her throat, turned and ran back to the cabin as fast as she could.
When she got to the cabin, she threw open the door, ran to the foot of her mother’s bed and yelled “Mother! Mother!” Her mother sat up, looked at her, smiled and said, “I scared you didn’t I?” Then fell back dead.