Edited by Spessard Stone from the files of Bethany Baptist Church, Courtesy of Melissa S. Brewer
Photo, Courtesy of Melissa S. Brewer
The Stewart Cemetery is one of the earliest cemeteries that has been preserved in eastern Manatee County, Florida. It is located about one hundred yards north of the banks of Manatee River, south of SR 64, three miles east of Bethany Baptist Church
As some of the graves do not have markers, the first ones interred before present-day Bethany Baptist Church came into existence in 1912 are unknown.
This parcel of land was donated by two of the earliest members of Bethany Baptist Church soon after it was organized in 1888 at Rye Post Office as Manatee Baptist Church of Christ. After John and Joann Stewart had settled on their homestead, they recognized the need for a cemetery and donated the parcel. By the old timers this cemetery is thought as the forerunner of Bethany Cemetery as several of its first members are buried there.
There are twenty-three persons interred in the cemetery. The oldest marker is that of Martha Rich, mother of Alfred “Doc” Rich, who came in a wagon train from Georgia to Florida in December 1874.
Those buried in the cemetery are (in alphabetical order):
Baldwin - No dates. (He was a homesteader who built a house, near the river, about 1/2 mile west of present-day Bethany Baptist Church.)
Charlie Bryant - Nov. 5, 1847 - July 2, 1914 (husband of Nancy Rich Bryant)
Gertrude Bryant - Ca. 1903 - July 8, 1908, daughter of James & Betty Farabee Bryant
Infant Bryant - Born & died ca. 1907, infant of James & Betty Farabee Bryant
Norah V. Bryant - August 21, 1888 - May 16, 1892 (daughter of Charlie & Nancy Rich Bryant)
Franky Dennis - Sept. 13, 1894 - 1906 (Child or grandchild of Frank & Emiline Dennis)
Partie Dennis - June 6, 1892 - Jan. 22, 1896 (Child or grandchild of Frank & Emiline Dennis, who built a home near Gilley Creek, about three miles northwest of Bethany Baptist Church, of which they were early members.)
Infant Gill - Born & died July 2, 1914
Oscar O’Riley - No dates (Son of Wm. “Pat” O’Riley, for whom Riley post office was named. The family was members of Bethany Baptist Church.)
Alfred R. Rich - Feb. 27, 1856 - Oct. 4, 1912 (Husband of Mary E. Rich)
Baby Rich - No dates. (A grandchild of J. W. “Big Wash” & Carrie Rich)
Demps Rich - Feb. 5, 1881 - Sept. 1888
Carrie Rich - No dates (Carrie Wilkins Rich, wife of J. W. “Big Wash” Rich, was an early church member.)
J. W. “Big Wash” Rich - No dates (A nephew of Alfred R. Rich, he was one of the earliest members of Manatee Baptist Church of Christ. He was the husband of Carrie Rich.)
(1) Bethany files has his name spelled “Franky,” while South Florida Pioneers has “Frankie.” See Vera M. Dupree, “Manatee County: Stewart Family Cemetery,” South Florida Pioneers 21/22 (July/Oct. 1979), pages 51-52.
(2) Bethany files has July 28, 1856 for her birth. South Florida Pioneers has July 29, 1856.(2)