The historic cemetery is located in a remote area in northern Santa Rosa County. It is secluded and surrounded by a forest. Many people can't find it unless they know where to look.
Unfortunately, some people found it and realizing the remote area would provide protection for their crimes, committed unforgivable acts of desecration against the history grounds.
The Coon Hill Community came into existence around 1820 near a big spring and fresh water, near a general merchandise store, stable, blacksmith shop, Pony Express Station, U. S. Post Office, and a Church that alternated between Methodist and Baptist. One thing folks realized is they needed desperately needed a cemetery. So it was created. A short wall around it wasn't poured until about 100 years ago. The sand and gravel used in the construction of the wall was hauled from Diamond Creek, approximately three-quarters of a mile, using slip scoops pulled by mules.
Coon Hill Cemetery is recognized as the oldest cemetery in north Santa Rosa County. In the last 12 years, major desecrations have occurred causing alarm and sadness for relatives of loved ones buried there.
Local resident, Matt Dobson, who lives in the New York community, about five miles south of Jay, said, "This cemetery is part of our local history. It is our duty to preserve our heritage and the landmarks that make our small communities so unique. It's a real shame someone would do these things to grave sites all in the name of getting a thrill on for just plain meanness."
Dobson decided to be creative and coordinate a fundraiser for the preservation and restoration of the cemetery. Being a competitive runner, he coordinated a run called "the Williams Lake 10K trail Challenge". The race will take place on June 15, beginning at 8 a.m. Dobson said, "We've had a very good response from the people in Santa Rosa and Escambia counties. We sought sponsorships to cover the costs of t-shirts and race awards and folks have stepped up to help."
According to Dobson, the 10K course actually runs in the woodlands nearby, but east of the Coon Hill Cemetery at the out-and-back course begins where Williams Lake Road begins. The course is all dirt, grass, and has minimal amount
of sand. It runs through the Escambia River Water Management Area to the Williams Lake boat landing, a distance of 3.1 miles. Participants will turn around and run or walk back to complete the 6.2 mile distance.
Dobson said, "We've
had organizations to be involved; and are providing volunteer help for water and aide stations along with other race amenities.
We sought approval from the Santa Rosa County Commissioners and we got their approval. It was full steam ahead on planning."
The Coon Hill Cemetery Trustees are excited about the big runs and grateful that Dobson is coordinating it. The Jay Historical Society is supporting the event, and hopes the community recognizes the significance of the benefit.
"We have a fun t-shirt design and unique wildlife character awards, thanks to the significant contributions of our sponsors. I've been running with wildlife in the woods since I was a kid. I thought it was a very good idea to highlight them on the trophies. I don't think the award winners will be disappointed," said Dobson.
Matt Dobson's personal ministry called, "Living With Purpose," is coordinating the event, along with his father, Roger Dobson. Registration forms are available to print from the website: http://www.living-with-purpose.org/ and at local businesses. For information, call: 217-2603. Mail form and entry fee to: New Bethel Baptist Church, 10995 Chumuckla Hwy., Jay, Fl. 32565. Make checks payable to Coon Hill Cemetery Trustees.
WilliamsLake10K Trail Challenge - June 15, 2013- 8:00 a.m.- Entry Fee: $20 prior to race; $25 day of race; $15 without t-shirt 1/2 Mile Kid's Run (10 and under): Free - 9:30 a.m. - $10 with t-shirt.
Packet pick-up : Friday, June 14, 2013 from 4:00 - 6:30 p.m. at New Bethel Baptist Church in the New York community, 10995 Chumuckla Hwy. Jay, Florida; and race site on race day. You may be asked to sign a waiver at packet pick-up.
Awards: Overall Awards in 10 categories and Top 3 in the following age groups: 10 and under, 11-12, 13-14, 15-16, 17-19, 20-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, 6o-64, 65-69, 70-74, 75 and up. Race results will be posted on the website: http://www.living-with-purpose.org/
Directions: From Hwy. 90, take Chumuckla Hwy. (197) for approximately 20 miles, then turn left on to Brownsdale Loop Road, follow the road and turn left on to Gomillion Lane, Williams Lake Road will be 1/2 mile. Coming from Jay on Chumuckla Hwy., turn right on to Brownsdale Loop Road, turn right on to Gomillion Lane, Williams Lake Road will be 1/2 mile. The race start and finish is approximately 1.5-2 miles once you turn off Chumuckla Hwy.
Please visit the Jay Historical Society website: wwwjayhistoricalsociety.org and click on "Pioneer Stories" to learn more about Coon Hill Cemetery.