A Grave Situation - Part One
WILLISTON - The debacle over the final resting place of Rufus K. Limbaugh, a Confederate soldier and pioneer of the city of Williston, started with an ad in the paper.
Limbaugh's descendants hadn't thought much about their great grandfather's resting place, until they received a call from the Levy County School Board.
The school board wanted to move his remains to make room for a new school.
But none of them liked what happened next.
All of these are things Confederate soldiers knew well, and R.K. Limbaugh, a Confederate cavalry veteran who survived the battle of Olustee, would leave behind a legacy.
A legacy that has now been brought back to light by three of his great grandchildren: Stephen, Jean, and Ethelene.
They aren't old enough to have met him, so all they have to remember him by is what he left behind.
"By the time I first laid eyes on my great grandfather's grave, I guess I was 68 or 69 years old," said Stephen Limbaugh, R.K. Limbaugh's great grandson.
Ethelene Barton-Streater is proud to say Limbaugh was one of the fathers of the Williston community.
"He was an early settler here in this area. I guess he came to Levy County, or I guess it was Marion County at the time, in the 1850s," said great granddaughter Ethelene Barton-Streater.
Some of R.K. Limbaugh's effects have been passed down to his great grandchildren. Jean Mann used one to help her draw a family tree.
"I personally own Rufus Limbaugh's family bible, where he inscribed all of the children's birth dates and the death dates of those that died," said great granddaughter Jean Mann.
R.K. Limbaugh lived out the rest of his life in Williston, where he was a member of the Masonic Lodge and a charter member of the Methodist church.
His first wife Caroline and her infant daughter Sarah were laid to rest on the family homestead.
R.K. Limbaugh passed away in 1889 and was buried in the same plot along with his second wife, Mary J., when she died in 1912.
One of his son-in-laws, Dunlap Finney, was also buried on the family plot, though his headstone was later moved.
The Limbaugh family cemetery had four headstones, but filings with the Florida Master Site File indicate five total bodies, leaving one unmarked grave.
Limbaugh's resting place had stayed a family matter until this past January.
"The school board has decided to build a new school building, a high school and middle school and they bought property that our ancestors are buried on," said Barton-Streater.
"The way we were notified, pretty much, was it appeared in the paper from the school board, the public notice that they're required to do," said Stephen Limbaugh.
The Levy County School Board's selection committee chose this piece of property for its access to sidewalks, roadways, sewer lines and power poles.
But officials say they weren't aware of a cemetery on the property until closing.
"The school board was prepared to have the cemetery remain but they contacted family members of the necessary level of lineage and obtained their consent and their cooperation in having the bodies disinterred and relocated at Orange Hill Cemetery," said Charles Koval, attorney for the Levy County School Board.
Some family members opposed the move entirely.
"This is where Rufus Limbaugh had decided where he wanted to rest in peace for eternity," said Mann.
Others wanted the chance to visit their ancestors in a cemetery that would be well-kept.
"We won't be here forever to take care of these graves and I know they're in a place now where they will be taken care of," said Barton-Streater.
In the end, the school board got two of the closest next-of-kin to sign off on the move.
Though the family members didn't all agree about the move, they did agree on how they wanted it done.
Most of all, they wanted to watch.
But the school board wouldn't let them see their great grandfather's last march.
In case you were wondering, a certain nationally syndicated radio talk show host is indeed a relation of R.K. Limbaugh. Rush Limbaugh is the descendant of one of Rufus's cousins.
Chip Skambis contributed to this report.
- A Grave Situation - Part Two
- A Grave Situation - Part Three
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