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St. John's/Crocker Memorial Cemetery

Markers: Sarasota History

Location: Bee Ridge Road near US 41, Sarasota, FL

Sarasota History - St. John's/Crocker Memorial Cemetery photo

Peter Crocker was born in Wheeler, Stuben County, New York, on July 16, 1843. When he was 18 years of age he enlisted as a private in the Volunteer Union Army and served two three-year terms. During the Civil War he served in the battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorville, and Gettysburg. His final discharge was at Key West, Florida, on February 9, 1867.

While in Key West, Peter Crocker married Sophia M. Crane on April 3, 1867. He was appointed lighthouse keeper at Key West and later at Dry Bank, Florida.

Peter and Sophia Crocker came to Sarasota Bay in the early 1870s. They purchased 20 acres of land for $1.25 an acre and built a home southwest of Bay Road and (now) Tamiami Trail. The Crockers had six children, but only one, Fannie, lived to adulthood.

Civic-minded Peter Crocker served his community in many ways. He was a trustee for Phillippi School and helped lay out roads in the Bee Ridge and Osprey Roads area. In 1909 he became postmaster for the Crocker Post Office, which he operated from his home, along with a store.

Peter Crocker was not in good health when he lived in Sarasota. He claimed his illness was the result of an attack of typhoid during his military service and he applied frequently for a veteran's disability pension. In 1885 he first received a $2 per mont pension that was increased to $3 in 1890. Crocker died December 21, 1911. He was buried by his home near his children.

St. John's/Crocker Memorial Cemetery

One thing very dear to Peter Crocker was a church and he worked to establish one near his home. On June 27, 1901, the Florida Mortgage and Investment Company deeded to Peter Crocker, T.T. Hamlin, and L.C. Demings, trustees of St. John's Chapel Church, for $1, two acres near the corner of Bee Ridge Road and (now) Tamiami Trail. The deed provided that the property was to be used for worship and a graveyard.

Crocker worked to build a chapel and recruit a minister to conduct services. The church failed to attract a resident pastor and after Crocker's death in 1911, activities in St. John's Chapel Church declined. In 1927 the Bay Haven Baptist Church congregation purchased the chapel and moved it to their site on Bradenton Road. In 1986, historic preservationists moved the building to Florida Avenue.

The grounds of the St. John's Chapel Church became one of Sarasota's early cemeteries. Burials continued over the years as a series of trustees managed the cemetery. For a time, the cemetery was also a paupers' graveyard. In 1951, the Circuit Court appointed new trustees and renamed the cemetery Peter Crocker Memorial Park. The county purchased a strip of land in 1985 to widen Bee Ridge Road, and some graves were relocated. With the new trustees appointed in 1997 and after extensive restoration, Peter Crocker's cemetery continues to serve the community. It is a reminder of Sarasota Bay's pioneers.

Dedicated in 2001 by the Sarasota County Historical Commission