A favorite part of the tours we sometimes give of the Battle of Marianna and the grounds of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church is always the stop at the graves of Caroline Myrick Gorrie and her son, Sen. John Gorrie. That’s where visitors learn about the feet of a great man!
Dr. John Gorrie was around 30-years-old when he moved to Florida from South Carolina. A physician by trade, he came to settle in the new city of Apalachicola where he thought there might be an opportunity to prosper while also serving his fellow human beings.
Gorrie is best known today as the inventor of the ice machine and a system of refrigeration that laid the groundwork for both refrigeration and air conditioning. Without him, Florida would likely be a much hotter – and more sickly – place in the summer!
He was also the mayor, postmaster and a member of the town council in Apalachicola. He owned businesses including a coffee shop and was the president of a local bank branch. He was first and foremost, however, a doctor and scientist. Dr. Gorrie was among the first physicians to respond to the great yellow fever outbreak in St. Joseph (today’s Port St. Joe) and he put his own life at risk to help the victims of that often fatal illness.
When Gorrie died in 1855, he left a request that he be buried facing south to the Gulf of Mexico instead of east to the rising sun as is the normal custom. The bay slowly eroded the waterfront cemetery in Apalachicola, however, and Dr. Gorrie’s body had to be exhumed and moved to Magnolia Cemetery. It was moved again in the 1950s and placed in a memorial park at Gorrie Square across from today’s John Gorrie Museum State Park.
An old Jackson County legend, however, holds that Dr. Gorrie rests in Apalachicola minus his feet!
As the story goes, by the time his grave on the waterfront was exhumed, the bay had eroded it away to the point that the scientist’s feet were missing. A search was conducted, but no trace of them could be found. The rest of his bones were moved to Magnolia Cemetery and later to today’s memorial.
Years later, however, the bones of two feet were found along the shoreline at Apalachicola. Everyone immediately knew that they had to belong to Dr. Gorrie but now a fight broke out over where they should be buried.
Dr. Gorrie’s wife, Caroline Myrick Gorrie, was from Jackson County and her family demanded that his feet be buried with her at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Marianna. She rests there by other members of her family and their son, Sen. John Gorrie, who died in Marianna while on his way from Apalachicola to Tallahassee for a session of the Florida Legislature.
The family had wanted Dr. Gorrie buried in Marianna after he was exhumed from his bayfront grave in Apalachicola, but leaders there refused to turn over his body.
The legend holds that Mrs. Gorrie’s family was more successful when it came to the doctor’s feet. They claimed them and spirited them away to Marianna before Apalachicola could intervene. The foot bones of the great scientist were buried in the grave with his wife and are said to still be there today.
Which is why – when he gives tours of the cemetery at St. Luke’s – historian Dale Cox always stops at Mrs. Gorrie’s grave to inform visitors that they are “standing at the feet of a great man!”
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church is located at the intersection of Lafayette (US 90) and Wynn Streets in Marianna. Carolina Myrick Gorrie is buried near other members of the Myrick family in the west part of the cemetery near the north-south sidewalk.
The “rest” of Dr. Gorrie is buried at Gorrie Square across the street from the John Gorrie Museum State Park in Apalachicola, Florida.
The “Keeping It Cool since 1851” t-shirt featuring John Gorrie (as shown at the top of the page) is available at the museum.
This map will help you find historic St. Luke’s: