This is going to be one of my shorter blog posts simply because this cemetery is small and I didn’t take many pictures. That may surprise you since my posts usually go over 1,000 words, and often much longer than that.
Thompson Cemetery is located a mere two miles away from Gulf Cemetery, which I wrote about a few weeks ago. Find a Grave lists a total of 34 memorials with the earliest marked burial happening in 1914. Seven of them have the last name of Thompson. It’s interesting to note that the earliest Thompson burial in the cemetery is for Lucy Berard Thompson, who died in 1932. It makes me wonder what it was called before that. There are several graves simply marked with crosses, their identities unknown.
There isn’t much online about Thompson Cemetery. I did find a website called “Walton Past to Present” that focuses on Walton County, Fla. history. A May 2021 post includes a 1984 newspaper article concerning a new Eagle Scout named John Fleury, then 16 years old. The article notes that Fleury’s Eagle Scout Project was to clean and upgrade the cemetery.
Part of that entailed marking 24 unmarked graves and using a 60-year-old map of the cemetery. That would date that map to 1924. I suspect it was John Fleury who put up those white crosses I mentioned.
Where John Fleury is today and what happened to the map he used at the time is unknown. But the Florida Bureau of Historic Preservation is hoping to find John and see if he knows where that map is.
Who was Mrs. M.J. Potter?
The oldest marked grave in Thompson Cemetery also raises the most questions. Since it’s uncertain if Mrs. M.J. Potter went by the name of her spouse or if her initials “M.J.” are her first and middle names, researching her background is difficult. I could find nothing about her beyond her marker. She is the only Potter in this small cemetery.
It’s frustrating not to know. But as I am finding out through my research of these early Florida graves, sometimes people arrived in this promising paradise near the end of their lives without leaving much evidence (if any) of how they got there.
Father and Son
Thankfully, someone has done the research on the next oldest grave at Thompson Cemetery and that is Andrew Nicholls. He has two markers, one of which I photographed. I did not see the other one that is on Find a Grave, photographed in 2011. This one is flat on the ground and looks like it was carved by the same person who did Mrs. M.J. Potter’s marker.
Here’s the information from Andrew’s Find a Grave memorial:
Andrew was the son of Henry and Elizabeth (Richards) Nicholls/Nichols. The family moved from England to the U.S. where Henry worked as a miner. It is not known where Henry or Elizabeth are buried. Elizabeth lived with Andrew and his family for many years, so she may be buried in Minnesota.
Andrew had a sister, Alice Broad, who is buried at Evergreen Cemetery, Eagle River, Keweenaw County, Mich., and a sister Sarah/Sara Elliott/Elliot, who is buried at Lake View Cemetery, Houghton County, Mich. The burial locations for his brother Henry, and his sister Susan, are unknown.
Besides his daughter Bessie, Andrew also had a son, Thomas.
According to the 1900 U.S. Census, Andrew and his wife, Mary Jane, were farming in Kittson, Minn. with two of their children, Bessie and Thomas. The record indicates they had two other older living children but I don’t know where they ended up.
Bessie, who married Herman Miller in 1902, died a week after giving birth to a son in June 1905 at age 22. She is buried in Stephen, Minn. Sometime between 1910 and Andrew’s death in 1917, Andrew and Mary Jane moved to Santa Rosa Beach.
I located Andrew’s will, which was written only seven days before he died. After his debts/expenses were paid for, he left his estate to Mary Jane. Mary Jane remarried in 1921 to a Thomas Crookshank.
We do know that son Thomas Nicholls made it to Santa Rosa Beach with his parents because he is also buried in Thompson Cemetery, although his marker is barely readable. There’s one very much like it over at Gulf Cemetery.
According to the 1930 U.S. Census, Mary Jane was again a widow and living with Thomas, who was divorced and working as a carpenter. Mary Jane died in 1933 in Santa Rosa Beach but I could not find a burial site for her. I believe she is likely buried at Thompson Cemetery under one of the white crosses. Thomas died on Sept. 20, 1969 at the age of 85.
A Story-Telling Sea Captain
Born on August 5, 1918 in Millville, Fla., Ichabod Mitchel Raybon was something of a rarity in that he was a Florida native. Mitchel shows up at two different residences in the 1930 U.S. Census, so I suspect he split time at both the home of his widowed mother, Mary, and his older married brother, Pasco. Mary died in 1934 when Mitchel was 16. He would go on to spend much of his life as a sea captain, as the anchors on his grave marker testify.
Mitchel has a World War II draft card but I could not find a record of him serving in the military. He married and divorced twice over the years. He died on May 31, 1976 at age 57.
One family story that I found on Ancestry.com noted that Mitchell had a talent for drawing. It also included this quote: “He never lived in one place too long and was known for telling stories.” I can imagine with his occupation being that of a sea captain, it was quite fitting for his personality.
Next time, I’ll be further down the road at Marler Cemetery in Destin.