List of Florida Fallen grows to 1,760 – More than 500 Added Since 1924
Nearly 100 years after the Rotary Club of Jacksonville put forth a proposal for a memorial to honor Floridians who died in service during World War I, the list of Florida Fallen continues to grow. In 1924, when Memorial Park was dedicated on Christmas Day, the Life Scrolls – as they have come to be called – contained the names of 1,220 men (and one woman) who died during World War I or thereafter due to injuries or illness related to the Great War.
The Riverside-based park was dedicated to much fanfare as it was, by and large, paid for by the citizens of Jacksonville, due to a rigorous fundraising campaign by the Rotarians, and negotiations by Ninah Cummer of services sought from the Olmsted Brothers, and from Roy Benjamin, a Jacksonville architect.
The 1,220 names of the Florida Fallen were inscribed on parchment and placed in a lead box within a bronze box which was buried in the ground in front of the sculpture and fountain. In 2017, Hurricane Irma flooded the park.
When Memorial Park Association disinterred the scrolls in 2018 for the purposes of knowing the names of the men and woman with the hopes of learning more about them, as a way to mark the centennial end of World War I, and out of concern that they may have been ruined by Irma, the scrolls were discovered to be waterlogged and, some thought, beyond salvage.
Thanks to the painstaking efforts of Ann Seibert, who retired in 2016 as deputy director, Preservation Programs, for the National Archives and previously worked in paper preservation for the Library folded inside of Congress, and Starr Cox, director of Archaeological Conservation, St. Augustine Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program, the scrolls were restored and will be on display at a special exhibit from November 2021 to March 2022 at the Museum of Science & History.
In the meantime, Dr. R.B. Rosenburg, Associate Dean and Professor of History, College of Arts & Sciences, Clayton State University, Morrow, Georgia, researched and found an additional 330-plus names by reviewing Florida’s World War I death cards. Rosenburg has continued his efforts since 2017 and the toll now stands at 1,760 men and women who can be counted among the Florida Fallen of World War I. The scrolls are currently housed at the Jacksonville Public Library Downtown in its Map Room.
“We are indebted to Dr. Rosenburg for his work on the Florida Fallen and are pleased to share his work on our website allowing the community to learn more about their family members who served,” said Michele Luthin, Memorial Park Association Board President. “All known names to date can be found by visiting memparkjax.org/FloridaFallen; the information includes name, race, city of residence, county, birthdate, rank, among other points of interest.”
With your help, Memorial Park Association hopes to give voice to those individuals on the List of Names. If anyone finds a relative, send an email to info@MemParkJax.org. “We welcome your photos and stories so that we may bring focus to these extraordinary men and women and tell their stories more than 100 years later,” said Luthin.
Additionally, the City of Jacksonville recently had the original memorial ground plaque put back into place in front of the fountain, absent since September 2018, although the scrolls will not be replaced until the 540 names – the amount discovered since 1924 – can be added.