A Visit to Third Creek Cemetery

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My original plan for Saturday involved a graveyard I pass near frequently in my current location in Northwest Knox County.  And I did visit it, but it just wasn’t that interesting. (Oh, I will tell you about it later–don’t worry.) But I felt unsatisfied and then Third Creek Baptist Church Cemetery crossed my mind.
I grew up in Cumberland Estates, and this cemetery sits right on its border, so I rode past it on a daily basis for about fifteen years.  My cemetery obsession having arisen in my adult years, it had never occurred to me to visit.  Isn’t it strange how places you pass every day are so much a part of your landscape that you don’t even think twice about them?  Just look at the above picture–that church has been in the same location for going on 200 years.  What a wealth of history has taken place there and I never even realized it.
I have mixed feelings about this graveyard and maybe part of that is flavored by the difficulty I experienced parking!  For whatever reason Third Creek Baptist has their parking lot shut up like Fort Knox.  There are two entrances and both had those gate things locked across them.  I pulled into one drive thinking it connected with the back lot, but I was wrong and had to back up down a hill, and I ended up parking in one of the spaces out front and walking to the back lot, where I was informed I was under camera surveillance.  Not exactly the welcoming and peaceful atmosphere I usually get when I go on these graveyard pilgrimages.
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There’s a driveway off the back lot that goes to the adjoining property, which until a few years ago was home to an ancient blue relic of the Victorian era, long empty.  They also have a picnic area up there, and I’m going to be charitable and assume that they are locking the place up to prevent hijinks from occurring.
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This is a pretty cemetery, hilly and with mature trees.
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Someone is faithfully mowing the grass, but that’s apparently all the maintenance anyone cares to do.  I couldn’t read most of the stones.  I’m definitely going to have to start wearing my glasses when I do this, but I also need to look into ways to make the stones more readable.  I’ve learned that some cleaning can do more harm than good, but many of these were just muddy.  And I hate not being able to read them.  That it was a sunny day made it harder because of the glare.

Looks like someone visits besides me–at least every few years or so

Y’all, this place made me sad.  Take a look at the condition of the tombstones below and the palpable lack of concern by . . . someone.  Descendants? The church?
Love the pointing finger–too bad about the broken stone

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One of many Ferguson stones

Creepy headless angel
Creepy headless angel

Too heavy to lift so I couldn't even turn it over to read the name
Too heavy to lift so I couldn’t even turn it over to read the name

Weeds abound
Weeds abound

Had to dig this one out
Had to dig this one out

Apparently this used to be a fence--but why?
Apparently this used to be a fence–but why?

I don't even know what to say about this
I don’t even know what to say about this

Many of the unbroken stones are askew, although I don’t suppose I have a right to complain about the settling of the ground.  This graveyard is one long hill and which possibly is not the best situation for burials.
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I know this is far from the worst cemetery out there.  I’ve heard horror stories about some around town that are completely hidden by foliage and strewn with garbage.  I don’t know the resources that are available to the church for taking care of the cemetery, and I don’t intend to found a society for the preservation of historic graveyards (at least not any time soon!).  But having issued all those disclaimers, it still seems a shame to me that the memories of the people who lie here are obscured by the condition of the stones, and so much history is less available than it could be.  We all lose out when that happens.
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A lot of the stones have inscriptions that look like they’d be interesting if they were readable.  Or maybe some of y’all can read them.  (The ones above were actually some of the most readable.)  As I may have mentioned a time or two, my eyes are not what they used to be.
The majority of burials here seem to be from 1870 -1930 or so.  There was one 1959 burial, but that was beneath a stone shared with someone who had died in the 30s.  So despite remaining space, this is no longer an active cemetery.  I was surprised by the lack of earlier burials, but I have a sneaking suspicion they are here, just not marked any more.  Or perhaps some of the stones I couldn’t read have earlier dates.  Below are a couple of shots of the oldest grave–1843–I found, which happily has a memorial stone that was added later.  I live right off Hickey Road and I wonder if this is the man for whom it is named.
If you looked closely at some of the inscriptions above, you’ll have seen Weavers, Fergusons, Keiths, and Warwicks, all familiar Knoxville names.  Weaver’s Funeral Home is right nearby.  Keith Avenue isn’t too far away.  One of my paternal great-great-grandmothers was Perlina Warwick McNabb.  This is part of what I love about old graveyards.  I also saw Nickle (Nickle Road and Nickle Lane are on the other side of Cumberland Estates), Lowe, Osborne, Mays, Minton, Matlock, and McClain.  There were others, of course, but these were the names I saw repeated over and over, the families whose roots are buried deep in this area.
I can’t end this post without a baby gravestone, this one a little unusual:
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I can make out the names–Pearl and Jewel–and the word “young” but that’s all.  With those names and buried under one stone I’m assuming they were twins and ended life together just as they began it together.

41 thoughts on “A Visit to Third Creek Cemetery

  1. I, too, have feelings for old cemeteries. I hate to see that no one goes to some to ever see about their ancestors or to leave a flower. There is a very small one on Adair Drive that I have always wondered about. It is now surrounded by a board fence but before that happened you could see the headstones. It is probably a family graveyard for whoever lived there when this was a settlement. It probably has historical interest and may be listed in some of Mrs. Hicks’ writings of Fountain City. Thank for for this very interesting story.

    1. I’ve always wondered about that one also! I know of a couple of other ones that are in people’s yards. Maybe some time I will take a look at several of them and do a post about that. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. Jane

    I’m also fascinated with old cemeteries. Betcha didn’t know my cemetery plot was purchased when I was in 1st grade!
    Anyway, I’m the last of my family. So once I’m gone, there won’t be anyone left to take care of the stones. My cousin Margaret used to, but she passed away. I’ll bet that’s the issue with many of the ones in your pictures. There’s no one left.

    1. I know that’s true. And even when there is someone left, if you have a huge amount of relatives buried all over the place (as I do) there’s no way you could take care of them all. I do feel though like when there is a church right next door its members should lend a hand to preserve a treasure like this one. So where should I go to visit your plot? Is your name already on the stone?

      1. Jane

        You may visit us at Sunset Cemetery in Shelby, NC. It’s an interesting one. Lots of mid-century (WWII) and earlier. Many of the stones have pictures of the deceased.

    1. I just read today that it can damage the stone, which surprised me. It seems pretty non-invasive! The suggesting they made instead was to cover the stone with cheap aluminum foil. I saw some pictures and it really makes the inscriptions pop right out. So I might try that. I had thought to get a spray bottle and fill it with some sort of cleaning solution but apparently that can be damaging as well and I don’t want to make matters worse.

  3. Phyllis Brandon

    Cornelius Hickey was the son of John Hickey who came here from Virginia. The Hickeys donated the land for the church and cemetery. My husband is a descendant of Elijah Hickey, brother to Cornelius. My husband has other ancestors buried here (Southey Nelson and Martha Nelson Osborne) and in the small cemetery across Western Avenue (Bakers and Hickeys.) Martha Osborne’s stone is broken and on the ground and I would like to get it repaired if I could.)

    1. That is just fascinating. I wanted to visit the cemetery across the street, but parking is difficult right now because of all the construction they are doing right now. When I was a little girl you couldn’t see the little cemetery–it was all grown over. Do you know where the Hickey home was located? Are they the same Hickeys that the road is named after? Thanks for commenting and making this even more interesting!

      1. Phyllis Brandon

        Not sure where the home was, however since where the church and cemetery were built on there land, it must have been nearby. Yes, these were the only Hickeys in Knox Co., so the road was named for them.

      2. Phyllis Brandon

        I intended “their land” but autocorrect posted “there land.” Sorry, I can’t stand to have grammatical errors! I should have proofread but I posted!

    2. Tim

      I am a descendant of this line of Hickeys, also. I have not figured out exactly where we fit i, but DNA testing has determined that it is my line. I am wondering if anyone knows about Elijah’s wife. I believe her name was Sally. Is this the same Elijah that was born in 1775? Would love to hear from other Hickeys!

      1. Phyllis Brandon

        Tim, I would be very interested in the Hickey DNA. I am the Group Administrator for the Norman Project at FTDNA. Yes, Elijah would have been born about 1775. I am not sure of Elijah’s wife’s name. Please message me at phyllisnbrandon@gmail.com

  4. Cornelius Hickey was my 4xgreat grandfather. He and his family came to Tennessee in 1800. His wife Judah was pregnant with my 3xgreat grandfather , George, at the time. They did settle in that general area, then later George and family inherited land on what is now Creekhead Dr. George donated the land for Piney Grove Church, as his father had for Third Creek.

    1. janice adair

      Did anyone ever find out of Juda wife of Cornelius Hickey was native american from cherokee descent…..they also were my 5x great grand parents.

    2. janice adair

      do you know any information of juda hickey married to cornelius if she was
      cherokee descent…..can’t find for sure
      janice adair

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  7. Jada Collins

    I know you mentioned the Weavers. This is the family name of my paternal grandmother’s side. Most being from Cumberland states and ball camp pk. The Weaver funeral home is of the same family.

  8. Jada Collins

    I used to play in the fields on ball camp pk across from badgett fields. There uses to be an old civil war house back in there, had big milk tower there, a few graves back in there. Thought u might be interested in taking a look. Don’t know what’s there now, but worth taking a look

    1. I am VERY interested in that. I will wait till the leaves come down and go take a look! Would that be the same property where you used to could see an old house from Oak Ridge Highway? Right across from the old Winn Dixie shopping center?

  9. Kirk Helmboldt

    Three generations back in my family is burried their. One grand mother came from Germany.I have lots of information about all of them, including pictures.I need to come out and make sure there stones are intact.

  10. Sorry it’s been so long, but I just found this site again. Judah Baker Hickey was not Cherokee. I believe her father was Jerman Baker. I think he was Welsh or English. I found that somewhere, but can’t locate it again. My ggrandmother, Mary Ann Sands Hickey, who married Gilbert, son of George, was half Cherokee. I can’t prove it because her mother was illegitimate. Still working on it. Hope this helps.

  11. Wanda Warwick

    I have come to visit Third Creek Baptist Church Cemetery and just read your article. Sad! I have been trying to call anyone with info today with no luck.

  12. Wanda Warwick

    My husband’s family was Warwick/Matlock. I am in hopes of finding William HH Warwick’s grave and hope to do some cleaning of his stone. If you have any idea of the area that the Warwick stones are located in please let me know.

    1. I wish I could help with that but I didn’t know my Warwick connection when I wrote that post so I wasn’t looking for that name. I assume you’ve already looked at Find-a-Grave?

      1. Wanda Warwick

        I did look at findagrave. Called an Elder at the church yesterday. The cemetery was deeded to the city/county. The church still pays to have it mowed. I do appreciate that! Going to call city office and check if any play maps exist. I think the graves I’m looking for are close to the top of the hill. They don’t show the slope much at all. More news later!

      2. Wanda Warwick

        In cleaning the old stones the use of water and a soft brush will remove a lot of the lichen and dirt. After that a product called D2 can be sprayed on the stone. It works over time so will not show immediate results. My husband and I did clean several of the Warwick/Matlock stones this week. So many are broken and they would require more time than we currently have. In the cleaning we have been able to read almost all of the engravings and found a grave that was a surprise. I am so glad to have found this article and had the opportunity to spend some time working on the monuments. Happy hunting to all!

  13. Donna M Robinson

    Do you know if there are any burial records even if the headstones are missing for proof of burial? I am searching for Zion Wade’s other family members such as his parents Andrew Daniel Wade (1779-1850) and Malinda Linny Witt Wade (1780-1860)

    1. lesliewp

      I am sorry–I don’t have any special knowledge about it. I don’t know whether the church has maintained those records.

  14. Janis Odom

    It’s January of 2021. Are any of you still living who have posted from as far back of 2014? I have relatives buried at Third Creek Community Cemetery. My own research, though I live away from Knoxville, has had me five times to Knoxville to do research on this cemetery. If anyone would be interested in helping the church pay for the grass cutting, or you, yourself would put forth some hands on effort, it would be much appreciated. I have already had two crews, to clean out the fence row, having my family stones reunited/restored and cut a death date. I will be happy to share information if you want to do some $$$ for your own family in the future. My e-mail is: odom.janis@gmail.com.

    1. Good for you. It’s a fact that cemetery maintenance is a big problem. Of course relying on descendants to keep up cemeteries is problematic as well. All of us have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, and so on. If they are buried in separate locations it becomes an impossible task to keep track of let alone keep up after just a few generations. Just that far back I personally have forebears in five separate cemeteries in four counties.

  15. Janis Odom

    I have attempted in the past months to contact others in, and around, Knoxville. I have had little support to help with either hands on work, or financial support directly to the church. Would any of you who have written, and are in Knoxville, get in contact with me to see if we can pool our ideas to get a community interest in this “abandoned and neglected” as was once written in an article into a place that people feel comfortable coming to, seeing, and learning about the history of this area of Knox county? Upon walking the site I recognize MANY names of importance to the city. Anyone a writer on this site? Can we find someone to write a pamphlet about some of these early families?

    1. These are all great ideas. Jack Neely actually has written a book about Knoxville cemeteries, I believe. There is another gentleman who has commented on my site who is a real authority on local cemeteries. I can’t recall his name but you can find his comment on my post on Bookwalter Cemetery. The writing I do on cemeteries here–which sadly has slacked off in recent years, is all I have time to do right now.

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