The cemetery was established by local Freemason lodge No. 15 on April 3, 1876 with the goal of creating a public burial space without restrictions based on religion, race. or social class. The lodge members made up the original board of trustees for the cemetery.
The cemetery has 20,000 graves and measures 26 acres in size. The earliest burial in the cemetery was for Martha Eleanor Screven Frierson after she died on August 10, 1876.
Some notable people who are buried in the cemetery include a notorious madam known as Mary Millie McCory, Florida Governor Edward A. Perry and train robber Morris Slater.
The cemetery also has the highest number of Confederate soldiers and the most Confederate generals buried in a public cemetery in Florida, according to the president of the cemetery Eric Stevenson.
In 1908, a Spanish Mission-style gate house was constructed in the cemetery which houses a chapel, storage area and a restroom.
In 2012, the unmarked grave of notorious train robber, Morris Slater, was discovered using cemetery records and a headstones was placed on his grave.
In 2017, the cemetery administration offered to take a local Confederate monument, after city officials began debating on whether to remove it from Lee Square, and relocate it to the cemetery near the Confederate graves.
In 2018, the cemetery received a grant to install a large informational sign at the entrance of the cemetery that explains the history of the cemetery and provides info on many of the historic graves on the property and also installed 21 informational markers at various historic graves throughout the cemetery.
In October of 2019, the cemetery was heavily damaged during a storm when numerous trees in the cemetery fell onto fences, pathways and headstones causing an estimated $25,000 to $30,000 worth of damage.
In July of 2020, the cemetery made the same offer again to take a local Confederate monument when the city council voted to remove it from Lee Square, which the council also voted to rename Florida Square, but no decision has been made yet on where the monument will end up. The monument was removed in October of that year and is currently in storage in the Port of Pensacola.
If you would like to learn more about St. John’s Cemetery, you can do so on one of the various Pensacola cemetery tours or ghost tours.
Moon, Troy. “Pensacola’s history gets better interpretation at St. John’s Cemetery thanks to Impact 100.” Pensacola News Journal, 24 Nov. 2018, pnj.com/story/news/2018/11/24/pensacolas-history-gets-better-interpretation-st-john-cemetery/2006468002/
Arnold, Matthew. “Historic St. John’s Cemetery needs help cleaning up storm debris.” Pensacola News Journal, 19 Oct. 2020, pnj.com/story/news/local/2020/10/19/st-johns-cemetery-plans-public-cleanup-day-after-hurricane-sally/3713351001/
“About St. John’s Cemetery.” St. John’s Cemetery, stjohnsdb.com/about.html
“St. John’s Historic Cemetery – Pensacola, FL.” Waymarking, waymarking.com/waymarks/wm106TH_St_Johns_Historic_Cemetery_Pensacola_FL
Cerda, Carolyn.”Crews Remove Pensacola Confederate Monument.” 3 Wear TV, 26 Oct. 2020, weartv.com/news/local/crews-begin-removing-pensacolas-confederate-monument
Blank, Annie. “St. John’s Cemetery offers to take Confederate monument from downtown Pensacola.” Pensacola News Journal, 19 June. 2020, pnj.com/story/news/2020/06/18/st-johns-cemetery-offers-house-pensacola-confederate-monument/3214600001/