New Collection: Viking Cemetery Collection

Viking Cemetery is one of the last remaining pieces of the small town of Viking, Florida. The area was first settled in 1892 by Major B. Daniels (1860-1947), who used the land largely to grow pineapple, a significant crop in Florida at the time. By 1895, Norwegian immigrant Jens Helseth (1858-1944) moved to the area and also grew pineapple on his 80-acre farm. From these early homesteads, the tiny village of Viking grew, named so due to the abundance of Scandinavian families who settled there. Helseth granted a portion of his homestead to serve as the community cemetery by 1905, the date of the first interment. It has since then served the descendants of Helseth, his family, and friends in the small community. The cemetery is today privately owned by the great-great grandchildren of  Helseth, who maintain the site.

Viking Cemetery has been recorded as part of the Florida Historic Cemetery Recording Project (FLHCRP), a project managed by the Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN). This survey was undertaken with the assistance of students from Indian River State College (IRSC) under Dr. Kyle Freund. As part of their class to learn archaeological field methods, students assisted in recording Viking Cemetery. They were also responsible for the production of all metadata associated with the survey. Viking Cemetery is a small historic cemetery that represents interment styles of the early settler period of Florida to today. There are currently 59 grave markers in the cemetery, 10 of which have death dates before 1950.

The mid-20th century in Florida saw a significant population boom after World War II. Generally, the date of 1950 provides an interesting, though in part arbitrary, point of reference to examine the effects of this population increase in regards to grave marker material and style. Of the 10 individual markers dating to before 1950, seven are made of granite and three of marble. After 1950, no grave markers are made of marble and nearly all are manufactured out of granite. This, in small scale, represents shifting consumer choices in grave marker material choices that are exhibited in many historic cemeteries in Florida. The use of marble as a material for grave markers declines as the more durable granite becomes cheaper and easier to procure through the growth of rail lines in the state and the mass distribution systems of companies like Aears, Roebuck & Company and Montgomery Ward. This examination of grave marker material change over time is one of many ways that these important sites allow us to encounter history.

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