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.
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.
This is a pretty cemetery, hilly and with mature trees.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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:
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.