As I did last week, I asked Siri for advice on a nearby cemetery to visit, and she directed me to Branch Hill, just off the Pellissippi Parkway in the Solway community. In fact, this graveyard shares a parking lot with Solway Park (a place I’ve heard is a bit sketchy, but it was broad daylight so I didn’t let that deter me!).
When a cemetery is named for a church, you expect to see a church. But just like last week’s Lebanon Cemetery, this one is an orphan, its church building having been destroyed and its members dispersed some time after 1941. The reason that’s all I can tell you is that Branch Hill is named in a document online listing active Methodist congregations that was published in 1941!
This charming cemetery, with first burials in the early 1900s, is still in active use, from what I can tell as a resting place for family members and possibly former members of the defunct congregation. There have been several burials in this century, and moreover, the older graves are still being visited.
The Walker name predominates here, with a healthy dose of Hardins and a scattering of Rathers and Sharps, among others.
There are many babies and young children remembered here. Note the stones marking two losses in one family. I can’t imagine the sorrow of these parents.
A sampling of other interesting stones includes . . .
These hand-carved stones, one for a recent interment of a lady who died at the age of 101:
This stone for two brothers, something I don’t remember ever seeing before:
And this one of a young physician:
Why is that so interesting? Well, because my research indicates that Branch Hill is an historically African-American cemetery. I’m pretty sure it was unusual for a young black man to be a doctor in 1907. I’ve tried to find out more about Dr. McCamey, and about the African-American community in Solway 100 years ago, but have come up empty so far. As always, I’m hoping local readers may know more.
Unlike many orphaned cemeteries, this one is well maintained. Even the broken bits of stones were arranged neatly:
I should thank Siri for directing me to this cemetery, which I would never have discovered on my own. Next time you are speeding down the Pellissippi Parkway toward Oak Ridge, take a left onto George Light Road and experience a little history.
Coming up next: Mount Pleasant Cemetery on Lyons View Drive.
October 25, 2014