Community of Royal historical marker-
The Florida Historical Marker Program recognizes historic resources, persons and events that are significant in the areas of architecture, archaeology, Florida history and traditional culture by promoting the placing of historic markers and plaques at sites of historical and visual interest to visitors. The purpose of the program is to increase public awareness of the rich cultural heritage of the state and to enhance the enjoyment of historic sites in Florida by its citizens and tourists.
This marker establishes Royal’s rich history as significant in the makeup of the state’s landscape and existence.
RHEAP Historical project & History Room- this project will capture, record, document and improve the knowledge concerning the early years of the Community of Royal to commemorate and celebrate its past. To ensure that one of Florida's oldest African American Communities is not engulfed, nor enslaved by present new development or its rich heritage vanished from the State of Florida historic landscape.
The project will engage the entire community, especially the youth, to help capture the rich history of this community. Royal, at one time, had a school, gas station, cleaners, striving tobacco industry, livestock, sugar cane & cotton crops and naval stores (turpentine dipping). Of course, the community was and is centered around its churches. The first community church, Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church, was established in 1875 by Rev. Alfred Brown, who also established the first community school. Pictured below (L-R): the community's churches and midwives displays. Also, one of the Royal Elementary School t-shirts.
Recently, the Royal Volunteer Fire Station was demolished and a new exhibit, pictured right, is placed in the Center. The station was built in 1985, as a result of a community block grant received by the county.
The historical exhibit features some of the community's artifacts, articles, pictures, tools and stories. Plus, a power point, dvd and companion booklet to accompany this project is being developed.
Showcases and tours will coincide with other long standing community activities and celebrations, i.e. MLK Day, African American History Month, May Day and the Annual Royal Homecoming. The 42nd plus Annual Royal Homecoming, where more than 5000 former community residents return to the community, is designed to re-connect the returning residents with their beginnings.
"Involving the youth of this area in such a project is a great way to foster appreciation of the genesis of this community as well as enhancing a feeling of pride, self-worth and advocacy through their connection to this important historical time (1860s) in our nation's and state's history. Also, help foster the desire in the youth to identify other concerns and problems in order to advocate effective change whether on a local, state or national basis", stated James Stevens, Wildwood Historical Society.
As an integral part of this project, a collaboration was formed with the Sumter County Historical Society to identify and register the community's cemeteries: the Oak Hill Cemetery and the old Monarch Road Cemetery at the corner of Old Hgwy 44 and County Road 219.
The oldest grave in the Monarch Road Cemetery is of Henry D. Gibbs (1876-1905) who was a relative of Rev. S. H. Gibbs (1845-1925), who once served as pastor of one of the local African Methodist Episcopal Churches. Plus, Rev. Lawrence Anderson (1871-1925), who once served as pastor of Ebenezer AME Church- Royal and a member of one of the first settling families of the community, is buried in this cemetery. Rev. Mathew Beard, who came to Royal as a boy and lived to 115 years old, and Mother Polly Patterson-Wideman, who was born in Royal and lived to 109 years old, is buried in the Oak Hill Cemetery.