A peek into the history of the Massalina Cemetery
In 1941, Tyndall Air Force Base took over the Redfish Point community.
"They had to sell the land, leaving everything behind. A school, a church, and a cemetery. That was a great sacrifice that we need to recognize," said Ilaria Harrach, an archaeologist at Eglin Air Force Base.
The federal government is making sure their history is never erased.
"We've heard the story, we've talked to local individuals about the Massalina family, gotten the history, knowing that he actually jumped ship to actually get here and do a settlement," said Barbara Patterson, an adviser for the Tyndall Black Heritage Committee.
Archaeologists tell us the Massalina Cemetery dates back to the 1800s, now only one tombstone stands.
"The grave belongs to Bell Massalina, which she was the wife of Narcissco "Hawk" Massalina," said Harrach.
The couple's great-grandson set foot in the cemetery for the first time on Friday.
"It's emotional, it's also nostalgic," said Lynva Narcissco Masslieno.
Masslieno's great-grand parents were not only community builders, but also church planners.
Now Masslieno is a senior pastor himself.
"It makes me feel proud to be part of a legacy that I want to try and continue to move forward in Panama City as well," said Masslieno.
Archaeologists working on this site say they're not exactly sure how many graves are located here, but according to the adviser for the Tyndall Black Heritage Committee, knowing they're here is an important part of our local history.
"They were instrumental in actually getting Panama City Proper established, it is about ancestry in the way that African Americans have helped to build America," said Patterson.
Florida State University history professors are learning more about that ancestry which shaped the Redfish Point community.
"I'm hoping to look at records that maybe haven't been looked at, to talk to folks in the community that folks haven't talked to," said History Professor Robert Cvornyek.
So years down the road, Panama City locals will understand their history and the challenges it took to get there.