Marker to celebrate Sanksville cemetery

Sanksville Cemetery
The St. Johns County Historic Resources Review Board has announced their plans to Historic City News for a special ceremony on Friday, June 27, to celebrate the unveiling of a new state historical marker at Sanksville Cemetery in the Bakersville area.

This special event will be held at 10:00 am on the grounds of the Sanksville Cemetery, located adjacent to 2380 Joe Ashton Road.

The historical marker, a joint initiative of the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners, the Historic Resources Review Board and the State of Florida Division of Historical Resources, recognizes the history and significance of the Sanksville Cemetery, the Bakersville area and the Sanks family. Area residents are invited to attend.

This cemetery was most likely established after the Civil War to serve the settlement of Bakersville according to a media release from Karen Pan in the the Office of Public Affairs of the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners. The cemetery was used by both black and white members of the community, with black families buried in the eastern half of the property. The earliest marked death date is 1869, though many graves are unmarked.

Originally named Bakersville Cemetery, the cemetery’s present name reflects the legacy of the Sanks family of African-American heritage. The first Sanks to settle in the region was Peter Sanks, born a slave in 1819. Following emancipation, Peter purchased large tracts of land in this area. His son, Tip Harrison Sanks, was born in St. Johns County in 1841. Tip also purchased land in the area following the Civil War including this cemetery, acquired in 1901. Tip’s daughter, Julia, became custodian after his death and the cemetery has remained in the Sanks family.

Julia is thought to be the inspiration for the black-inspired works of composer Frederick Delius (1862-1934) who heard her singing when he lived near here in Solano Groves on the St. Johns River. Lewis Sanks, Tip’s grandson, honored his ancestors buried here by renaming the cemetery and its adjacent land “Sanksville” in 1989.

Participants in the Unveiling Ceremony will include the family of the late Lewis Sanks, who researched the property, traced family roots and initiated restoration and maintenance of the cemetery: widow Lucille Sanks; daughters Vivian Sanks King, Esq., and Dr. Beverly Sanks Guidry; and brother Charles.

Historian David Nolan will also speak, and members of the genealogical society will be present.

For more information about the Sanksville Cemetery Historical Marker Unveiling, contact Robin Moore, St. Johns County Historic Resources, at 904-209-0623.

Photo credit: St. Augustine Genealogical Society

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