LAUREL HILL — Volunteers are invited to help tidy up history when Almarante Cemetery gets its annual facelift on Saturday. Volunteers will gather at 8 a.m. beneath the city's landmark blue water tower.


LAUREL HILL — Almarante Cemetery will get its annual facelift on Saturday and the community is invited to participate. Volunteers will gather at 8 a.m. beneath the city's landmark blue water tower.



The sprawling graveyard was established many decades before Laurel Hill was incorporated, and well before the Civil War. Some of the conflict's veterans lie beneath its old oak and magnolia trees. The oldest inhabitant was born in the 1700s.



Surnames on the markers — including Campbell, Steele, Jones, Rogers, Gaskin, Folman, Fountain, Moore, Garrett, Cadenhead, Locke, Curenton, Reeves and Stokes — were  brought to North Okaloosa County by its earliest settlers, and are shared by many local families today.



However, volunteers don't have to have an ancestor buried there to appreciate the history and sense of community found while tidying up among the stone markers, Almarante Cemetery Commission Chairman Tracy Curenton said.



Tombstones range from elaborate to simple; ornately carved marble memorials or a name and dates drawn in wet cement, in which seashells or flat stones were embedded for decoration.



There are solemn flat slabs that the government provides military members, and rustic stone tree stumps carved for Woodmen of the World members.



Fallen warriors from America’s wars, including both sides of the Civil War, the Mexican-American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, are everywhere.



A Crestview Boy Scout Troop 30 survey several years ago found nearly 2,000 graves at Almarante Cemetery.



“There’s also a bunch of graves that just aren’t marked,” Curenton said. “They had wooden markers that rotted away, or stone markers that got carried off.”



The cemetery commission also seeks volunteers and donations toward the cemetery’s upkeep, she said.



WANT TO HELP?



WHAT: Annual Almarante Cemetery clean up



WHEN: 8 a.m. to noon Saturday



WHERE: State Road 85 North, just south of Laurel Hill beneath the blue water tower



NOTES: Volunteers should supply their own tools. Donations toward the cemetery's upkeep may be sent to the Almarante Cemetery Commission, P.O. Box 55, Laurel Hill, FL 32567-0055.



CONTACT: Tracy Curenton, cemetery commission chairman, 652-4162 or curentontracy@gmail.com.



Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or brianh@crestviewbulletin.com. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.