Backstory and Context
In Volusia County, Oakdale Cemetery is one of the largest and oldest cemeteries and one of their landmarks. Oakdale Cemetery was not always a cemetery though. Back in 1882, it was owned by H.C. McNeil. He was using the land as a park. He called it Sylvan, which is just another word for wooded area. In 1891 a group of ladies got together and were wanting to improve DeLand so they started “The Women’s Improvement and Protection Association of DeLand, Florida”. In 1892 the group called the owner of the land, Mr. McNeil, and he gave them a quote for the land of two hundred dollars. The only catch was that they had to pay for the deed. These women were slick so as they were raising the profits to get the land through dinners and other sorts of fundraisers, they were selling grave sites that they did not own yet, and it worked. (Cacher)
Since the Oakdale Cemetery is one of the largest cemeteries in Volusia County there are a lot of people buried there. One unique and important figure who is not widely recognized, contributed to making Florida the citrus capital. His name was Lue Gim Gong. He lived in Carton, China for most of his young life then he moved to the United States with his uncle. He started on the West Coast of the United States then moved to Massachusetts where he meet a women named Miss Fanny. She took care of him when he would get sick during the cold winters. Eventually they moved down to DeLand, Florida. When he was down here he started planting fruit trees until one of the famous orange-tree-killing freezes came and killed all his trees, so Lue went and designed an orange tree that can stand up to the Florida climate. He also made grapefruit trees that produced better tasting and juicer grapefruit. They named the strain of oranges after him, they called them the Lue Gim Gong oranges and they are still grown in Florida. (Lue Gim Gong)
With a graveyard the size of Oakdale’s there will be some good people in it like Lue Gim Gong and there will be some people who practiced hate like Roy L Cook. Roy L Cook was the grand high dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. His head stone sits about ten feet high and it is bigger than all the other head stones in the cemetery. That way he could be higher than everyone else and get everyone’s attention. He sure gets their attention alright that head stone is the only head stone in the cemetery that gets vandalized by spray paint. The caretakers clean it just like they would any other headstone in their cemetery but after many years of paint on it you can see some of it is still there. His wife and son lay next to him with regular flat headstones. They say his headstone has brought of KKK members to be buried around him but none of the other ones have the KKK with a burning cross on the front of them so it is just hear say just like they say his ghost haunts the cemetery. (Oakdale Cemetery)
The OakDale Cemetery is a large cemetery with a lot of history underneath and much of it untold history. Like Lue Gim Gong, he was the man that made it possible to have orange groves in the part of the state where it gets a little colder. He ended up inheriting land from Miss Fanny and was able to keep doing what he loved to do and was good at doing it. Then you had people like Roy L Cook who were part of the Ku Klux Klan that has a terrible history in Volusia County. He is buried there with many histories with a headstone that sticks out like a sore thumb and does not get good attention as he was probably hoping.
The cemetery is important to DeLand and its history. The author's grandparents are also buried there and local families visit the cemetery to remember and celebrate the history of their community. That is what attracts people to cemeteries especially like Oakdale with its size, age and history around it and in it makes it for a very historical place and an important place in Florida’s history.
“Lue Gim Gong (1859-1925) - Find A Grave Memorial.” Find A Grave, 4 Mar. 2004, www.findagrave.com/memorial/8461255/lue-gim-gong.
“Oakdale Cemetery.” Oakdale Cemetery | Fees and Information | Lankford Funeral Home, lankfordfuneralhome.com/oakdale-cemetery/.
Staff, Outreach. “Cemetery a Day in May: Historic Oakdale in DeLand.” Cemetery a Day in May: Historic Oakdale in DeLand, Blogger, 6 May 2014, fpangoingpublic.blogspot.com/2013/05/cemetery-day-in-may-historic-oakdale-in.html.
“OakDale Cemetery.” Paranormal & Ghost Society, www.paranormalghostsociety.org/Oakdale Cemetery.htm.
Cacher, Max. “Oakdale Cemetery- Deland Fl.” Oakdale Cemetery - DeLand, FL - Worldwide Cemeteries on Waymarking.com, 22 Apr. 2011, www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMB9DK_Oakdale_Cemetery_DeLand_FL.