AUNT AGGIE’S BONEYARD
Aggie Jones, known affectionately as Aunt Aggie, was born in Tatnall County, Georgia.
She came to Lakeland, then known as Alligator, in 1844 as a freed slave. She was the property of the Elijah Maddox family, as was her husband, Jenkin Jones, called "Uncle Jenks.”
Some time after emancipation, they were able to purchase the property later known as The Bone Yard in the northeastern section of Lake City in 1883.
Here were built "amazing gateways, arches and trellises from bones, wired together to form fanciful structures. Bones bordered the white-sand walkways and formed an arcade between the front gate and the Joneses' house.”
There was also an informal natural history museum inside, which contained snakes preserved in jars and alligator skeletons, as well as a human skeleton hung in the hallway. No human bones were ever used in the structures, however, as Aggies was quick to explain to her visitors.
Visitors are said to have loved the mixture of lush flora and sepulchral structures; "they wrote their names and addresses on the bones; children gazed on the strange beauty of the place with awe and admiration.
You could buy flowers and good things to eat, have your fortune told, and hear a good story or be reminded of Aggie's favorite Bible verses". Aggie sold flowers and produce, and visitors left tips in exchange for floral bouquets created especially for each visitor by Aggie.
So why the bones? There’s no clear answer, really. Bone meal is an excellent fertilizer, so maybe this was part of Aggie’s motivation. Maybe it was just a bit of creative flair. It is also possible that she was a practitioner of hoodoo, a traditional black folk spirituality.
At any rate, the “bone garden” became a popular tourist spot for travelers passing through Lake City by railroad or automobile. A pamphlet describing the garden says it was also a popular “lovers’ retreat.” Visitors would sometimes write their names and addresses on the bones – perhaps one of Florida’s most unusual guest books.
The Florida State archive preserves some photos of the site, which was demolished after Aggie’s death in 1918 to make room for a high school.