It was one of the first beautiful Spring weekends and Emily and I had just finished walking on the Pellissippi Greenway. Emily isn’t into cemeteries like I am but she humors me when we are out and I want to go look at one. I didn’t have a particular destination in mind but I figured in Hardin Valley there would be sure to be a graveyard close by. So I asked Siri and she didn’t disappoint me.
Stoney Point Baptist Church Cemetery was about three miles away, near Melton Hill Park, on one of those country roads that looks like it is in the middle of nowhere but is surprisingly close to civilization. Just before the church we passed a new subdivision, but the graveyard backs up to a cow pasture.
Not only that, but probably two-thirds of the graves had flowers on them, even the oldest ones.
When I was a little girl visiting graveyards in the Smokies, I’d feel sad about the baby graves. Yet those seemed like long-ago tragedies, born of poverty and antiquated–or absent–medical care. I didn’t expect to find so many infant graves, in every cemetery I’ve written about. I don’t get used to them. My heart aches for the pain their parents must have felt. Look through these slowly and read some of the inscriptions they chose.
As I wrote, this cemetery was well-maintained, and its caretaker was in fact mowing the grass when I arrived. I had a chance to chat with him and to compliment him. He told me that the few broken stones I saw were the result of a marauding cow from the pasture next door! He also mentioned that he sometimes puts flowers on one of the baby graves himself.
The caretaker mentioned that many of the families buried here are related to one another, and that the cemetery is still in active use. Allison, Dunaway, Hewitt, Houk, Lee, and Pitts are some of the most common family names. The church acquired the property in 1915, and the earliest burials were members of the Allison family in 1931. The most recent burial, in 2014, was also a member of the Allison family! This remains a very active cemetery, with several burials in the past decade.
Finally, these stones tell only part of a tragic story that I’m hoping one of my readers may be able to fill in for us. Sam Lee Road is very near to this church, and here’s Sam Lee below. [CORRECTION: This Sam Lee is a cousin to the man for whom the road is named–see interesting and informative comment below.] His wife and his son (I’m assuming) are buried here as well and died on the same day. I have not been able to find out what led to their deaths–a car wreck, perhaps? Anyway, it’s a reminder that every headstone has a story behind it and a real person buried beneath it.
UPDATE: A reader has confirmed for me that Mrs. Lee and her son were tragically killed in a house fire.
To see the rest of my graveyard posts, click here.