Groups of community members filed into Saint Peter Missionary Baptist Church in Archer Saturday morning for a Florida Historical Marker dedication ceremony.
The ceremony celebrated the church’s history and commemorated the ancestors resting in the historic Saint Peter Cemetery in the Pinesville and Saint Peter neighborhoods of Archer.
“We love our ancestors,” said Connie Lee in an interview. “This is important because it not only shows the love we have for our deceased ancestors but the love that we have for each other who are still living.”
The process of obtaining the historical marker began around two years.
Members of the Saint Peter Church had to submit an application, work through a review process with the historical commission, attend numerous zoom meetings, and edit all research and information being turned in to the commission.
The cost for a historical marker is approximately $2,700.
“It was a combination of efforts,” said Dr. Michelle Rutledge in an interview. “Mostly, this event is hosted by local churches in the neighborhood, and they paid for it. We are just thankful; we are thankful to just be here today. It was a community effort.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a delay in the manufacturing of the sign. The process, which usually takes 12 weeks, turned into a nine-month production.
The church acquired the physical sign around 60 days ago, which is now rooted near the cemetery entrance.
African American families living in Archer used the burial ground that would later become Saint Peter Cemetery before the end of the U.S. period of legalized slavery.
Established in 1878, Saint Peter Missionary Baptist Church took over the maintenance of the cemetery and renamed it Saint Peter Cemetery. The cemetery, with grave markers dating back to as early as 1886, is shared with other African American churches in the area.
The event, hosted by Pastor Keith Smith, incorporated prayer, music, poems, and speeches from the local community and church members.
Special guests included former NFL football players Michael Nattiel and Ricky Nattiel and former MLB baseball player Derrick Robinson.
“It is sacred,” Rutledge said. “Nigel Rudolph often said cemeteries are outdoor museums. We think our home is special because we have multiple generations that we can trace back to our cemetery to connect to us who are living today. I think that’s some of that pride that you see here. This is home. We’ve known it was home for several generations, so I think that’s why the cemetery is so special.”