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THE HUGUENOT CEMETERY

There are two ancient cemeteries in St. Augustine within a stones throw of one another, the Tolomato Catholic Cemetery closed in 1884, on Cordova Street, and the Huguenot Cemetery just across from the old City Gates. The Huguenot Cemetery was also called the public burying grounds. It was started in 1821, just in time for the Yellow Fever epidemic that took its dreadful toll from St. Augustine’s citizenry. The Huguenot Cemetery is the most haunted cemetery in the Ancient City, you might say it is “Spirit Central” for the number of haunted stories about wispy ghosts seen in the trees, orbs of lights floating among the stones, or a transparent young girl in a white dress who appears sometimes between midnight and 2 a.m. on top of the City Gates. According to the story, during the yellow fever epidemic the body of a 14-year old girl in a white dress was dumped at the City Gates. No one ever claimed her and she was buried in the Huguenot Cemetery. But the best ghost tale is that of old Judge John B. Stickney.

Following the Civil War, Judge Stickney moved from Massachusetts to St. Augustine where at different times served as a States Attorney and District Attorney. But to local Southerners he was just another big shot, politicking, carpetbagger taking advantage of the Reconstruction period.

In 1882, although he had been feeling under the weather, Judge Stickney made a business trip to Washington D. C.  The journey was long and exhausting, and by the time the Judge reached Washington he was feeling really bad. A doctor was summoned to tend to the Judge, but within five days Judge Stickney was dead as a door nail. The cause of death was blamed on Typhoid Fever and a brain hemorrhage.

Judge Stickney’s body was sent to St. Augustine for burial where a big funeral was held at the Trinity Episcopal Church that drew every big wig and politician for miles around. He was carried to the Huguenot Cemetery where on November 5, 1882 he was laid to rest. That is until 1903 when his children had him dug up for re-burial in Washington D. C. This would be Judge Stickney’s second trip as a dead man between Florida and Washington. But that’s not the weird part of this story. George Wells was hired to dig up the Judge and prepare his remains for the trip to Washington. A big crowd gathered around to gawk as Wells got the casket out of the ground and flipped open the lid.

Everybody was amazed to find that after twenty-one years, the Judge was in an excellent state of preservation but still dead, of course. Then the crowd turned to a noise down the road, it was two drunks singing and carrying on. The next thing that happened was these two men were up at the casket handling the Judge’s remains. Mr. Wells ordered everybody away from the casket and began putting everything back in order but there was something missing. Somebody had stolen the Judge’s gold teeth! Wells shut the lid on the coffin and shipped the Judge to Washington minus his teeth. Nowadays, according to stories, old Judge Stickney can still be seen roaming around the Huguenot Cemetery, presumably, looking for his gold teeth or maybe the men who stole them. If you happen to be around at midnight, I’m certain he would appreciate your help.

Weird Florida

 

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