A while back, I wrote about Grandma Gibson’s old home that was built across the Okaloosa and Santa Rosa county lines, and I mentioned the Old Canoe Cemetery near the home place.
Since that time, Ellen, her daughter, Paula, and I made a trip to that cemetery. Google Maps lists what I believe to be that cemetery space as "Bishop Cemetery," but above the entrance to the cemetery where we were, in large letters, it says "Canoe Cemetery." Not a Bishop could we find, although we searched for the name because Paula’s paternal grandmother’s maiden name was Bishop.
However, it was like a mother lode for me. With better eyesight than mine, we found the headstones of my maternal great grandparents and of my maternal great-great-grandmother, Sarah Tanner.
The date of death of my grandmother Gibson checked out with my memory. I was almost certain she had died when I was 8 years old; I was unable to attend her funeral because I was sick with mumps.
My grandfather Gibson had died some years earlier, and I had no recollection of him.
What approximates the old home place is now occupied by others unknown to me. These people were not at home the day we were there. They had a seemingly unfriendly dog in the house. He let us know in no uncertain terms by his fierce barking that he was a protector.
Not to be deterred, Paula braved her way in a roundabout way through some woods at the back of the property to the creek where my relatives used to get their household water and did their “wash.”
Alas, the creek is now all but completely dammed with debris from past storms and hurricanes. It is no longer swift and clear.
The road and area leading to the Canoe Cemetery has changed so drastically in the intervening years that I, alone, probably never could have found it. What is more, the old home place is now totally in Santa Rosa County, according to research.
After a hot morning, getting bit by ants and sweating to capacity, my friends and I drove back to the road, now paved, and headed east into Holt. There, on Highway 90, is a diner where we enjoyed a mullet lunch.
The community of Holt has not visibly changed in all the intervening years. It still sits on the highway with a few more businesses than those long ago years, but, otherwise, seems to be the peaceful, close community that I remember when I used to visit a distant cousin who lived there. She and I would spend a week or so in the summers with Aunt Eva and Uncle Jim at the old Gibson home site.
I recalled those summers fondly, but this day of visiting the cemetery, getting back in the car, we enjoyed the air conditioning in both the vehicle and the diner after our visit to long ago.
Doris Melvin Kingry, retired English and Journalism teacher, was first woman elected to public office in Santa Rosa County, where she served eight years. She is a native Santa Rosan, living where her family has lived for several generations.