The word “Ehren,” of German origin, means “to honor.”
And, an example of doing just that can be found at the Mt. Carmel Cemetery, in the once-thriving community of Ehren, off Ehren Cutoff in Land O’ Lakes.
For more than 114 years, a small grave in this 1-acre cemetery, has been marked by the name “Eddie” at the top of a small tombstone.
This is the final resting place for Eddie Lewis, who died on Nov. 8, 1906, at the age of 14.
He was buried there, at a time of segregated homes, churches, schools and cemeteries.
“Eddie’s was the only marked grave with a headstone and mount when I first stopped to see the cemetery,” says Karen Matthews, of Land O’ Lakes, who lives six miles away.
“It’s obvious his parents put all their love and money in honoring their dead son, and I was overcome with wonder and curiosity about his short life,” she said.
Eddie Lewis was born on March 17, 1892, according to the grave marker.
Public records about Eddie Lewis’ life and death are elusive.
There was no hospital in Ehren at that time, and no medical records are available.
No death certificate is available, either.
Florida didn’t begin requiring death certificates until the 1920s, according to Jeff Cannon, the former director of the Pasco County Historic Preservation Society.
While not much is known about Eddie Lewis’ life, insights about the community of Ehren can be gleaned from historic records, accounts of local historians and from newspaper reports.
For instance, the Orange Belt Railroad arrived in 1888.
The local post office was established on Jan. 17, 1890, to serve 300 people, according to an application to the postmaster general in Washington D.C.
Elizabeth Riegler MacManus and Susan A. MacManus, authors of “Citrus, Sawmills, Critters & Crackers,” described the working conditions in the community more than a century ago.
White workers cut wood to feed the wood-burning trains, while Black laborers cut railroad ties to maintain and expand the railroad tracks, the historians wrote.
During the 1900s, Blacks in Ehren worked at a turpentine still built southeast of the Ehren Pine Company, collecting resin from trees, in heavy barrels.
The only other source of real income was agriculture where local farmers produced crops of watermelons, cantaloupes, onions, tomatoes, cane syrup and peanuts.
Historian Cannon described the devastation caused by a fire on March 28, 1920 that burned the Ehren Pine Company to the ground.
“Within a few minutes, the sawmill was ablaze along with a large boarding house and two homes,” Cannon wrote in 2011. Total losses were reported at $125,000, according to his research.
The Dade City Banner reported on April 2, 1920: “With the sawmill gone there is little left of Ehren, and its future depends largely upon whether Mr. Mueller and his associates rebuild or not.”
Historian Cannon observed: “Although research has revealed a great deal of information about the sawmill town, there still remains that which we do not know.”
It’s not even known precisely when Mt. Carmel Cemetery was founded.
Approximately 40 graves were found in the cemetery in September 2006, by SDII Global, which conducted a ground-penetrating radar survey of the cemetery.
Seven of those were marked with traditional headstones, but the others had wooden markers, which had rotted away.
“The earliest marked grave is the infant daughter of T. & M. Horton, dated Dec. 23, 1903,” according to Cannon.
The genesis of this column was a 2020 request from Matthews, who asked for help in tracking down more information about Eddie Lewis.
Although little could be learned about him, some online searches helped to provide more details about his family.
The online source FindAGrave.com identifies Robert Milton Lewis and Jane Lloyd Lewis, as Eddie’s parents.
Additionally, handwritten records from the 1900 census (Pasco Ehren District #0129) reveal that Eddie had three brothers: Robert, born in 1890; Montine, born 1895; and Abraham, born in in 1900. He also had a sister, Ida, born in 1887.
Other information about Eddie’s family was found in additional census records and Ancestry.com.
Those records say that Eddie’s father was born in 1866 in Mississippi and his mother was born in 1871 in Florida.
His parents, according to the records, were married in 1886.
Records indicated that both parents could read and write, and Eddie’s father worked in a “log yard sawmill.”
Records from the 1910 census reveal that the Lewis family moved to Clearwater, and that Eddie’s father was the owner of a blacksmith shop.
Those records also indicate that Eddie had another brother, John, who was born in 1904, but that his sister, Ida, had apparently died because her name was not listed in the census.
Eddie’s parents are not buried at Mt. Carmel Cemetery, according to obituaries found on Newspapers.com.
His father died in Clearwater at the age of 89 on July 5, 1956. His mother died in Pinellas County in 1945 at the age of 74.
Although the ground survey did not identify any names at the Mt. Carmel Cemetery, at least four interments are listed by PeopleLegacy.com:
- Minnie Blocker (1876 to 1954)
- Lonnie G. Bowen (born 1875)
- Lydia Gibbs (1867-1936)
- W.G. Gibbs (Died 1935)
Any Information about others buried at the cemetery remains a mystery — at least for now.
Published July 14, 2021