Abandoned African American cemetery in Groveland undergoes 3D scanning

GROVELAND, Fla. — An abandoned African American cemetery in Groveland is undergoing 3D scanning to get a better idea of how many people are buried there.


What You Need To Know

  • Work is being done at an abandoned African American cemetery in Groveland
  • A private company called Riegl is donating expertise and a drone with special sensors to help figure out how many people are buried there
  • The nephew of a veteran buried at the “Oak Tree Union Colored Cemetery” is glad the community is coming together to bring respect and dignity to the people interned there


Samuel Griffin has lived in Groveland his entire life.

“I remember how this town was,” he said. “I remember the good parts, we’ll mostly be talking about the good parts. I remember a lot of the bad parts too.”

As a child, he visited the “Oak Tree Union Colored Cemetery” to pay respect to his uncle who served in the military. That is before it was blocked off to visitors.

“Blacks weren’t allowed, even in that area” Griffin said. “We knew the cemetery, a lot of people knew the cemetery was there. But when you go and put in houses around that area,  heck no. It’s a Black-white thing.”

For decades, the cemetery was left unkempt and eventually abandoned. Now though, as Spectrum News 13 has been reporting, Groveland Fire Chief Kevin Carroll has volunteered to take on the project in an effort to bring back the respect and dignity the community deserves. 

“That was one of the best living feelings I had in a long time,” said Griffin. “I said, ‘Wait chief, we had people come in here and make these big promises before.’ And he said, ‘No Sam, we’re gonna do it this time.'”

Monday was a big step toward fulfilling that promise. A private company called Riegl has donated its expertise. The company is partnering with Harris Aerial who is using a drone with Riegl’s special sensors, to help figure out how many people are buried in the cemetery.

“Normally, they’re on foot, as you can see extremely heavy cover,” said Todd Bagley, a software engineer at Harris Aerial. “When they’re trying to do that, it’s a little more difficult to see things. You have to step away to identify it better.”

After the data is collected, the city of Groveland will have a better idea of how the cemetery was laid out, so they can restore it correctly. That is something Griffin said he is grateful to see.

“It took a longtime to get around to it, but all good things come around,” he continued. 

While Griffin believes this project is long overdue, he’s happy to see the community embrace the project with love and compassion. He said he’s looking forward to finally bringing respect back to his uncle Sam’s grave.  

Spectrum News 13 will know Riegl’s findings in the coming weeks.

Officials with the city of Groveland are still asking for donations and volunteers for the project. Anyone interested in helping with the project is asked to contact the city for more information.

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