Dutchtown, Loveville, Graveyards, and Progress

You’ve probably passed this little church and cemetery hundreds of times on your way to Turkey Creek.  Maybe you’ve never even noticed them.  At the corner (sort of–the road has been closed here) of Dutchtown and Lovell Roads stands the little Concord Mennonite Church, still open although with a congregation of only about 25 souls.
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The congregation has been around since the 1870s, the building since 1887.  A group of Pennsylvania Dutch, led by one John Stoltzfus, came down from the North to start this church (hence the name of the road, y’all).
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This is a small and very well-kept little cemetery, mowed, trash-free, and with most stones readable and in good repair.  There’s not much if any burying still going on here, but at least some graves are still being visited.
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The stones and inscriptions are typical of the other cemeteries I’ve visited, including the familiar lamb stones signifying the death of a child.
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The names are not as familiar.  They are–predictably–mostly German, and apparently many of the congregants left the area over the years.  There was one distinctly non-German name that was a big surprise to me, though:
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Della Myrtle Raley was my great-grandmother.  Raley is an Irish name, and I was immediately curious about exactly who old WT was and what he was doing in a Mennonite Cemetery.  I can’t yet answer the second question, but I can tell you that his full name was William Thornburgh Raley and that he was my first cousin thrice removed.  Our common ancestor is my great-great-grandfather, Daniel Raley, who is buried in Carr Cemetery in Union County (more on the cemeteries of Union County another day).  To put it another way, WT and Della were first cousins and surely knew one another.
Isn’t it strange to imagine what this area must have been like when Tennessee John (as he came to be known) and his family arrived in this area?  I found the following online in a Knoxville application for the Historic Register:  “Loveville (Lovell) was a rural community about one mile east of Campbell’s Station and was named for Robertus Love who settled there around 1797. Loveville contained a tannery, rope walk, store, blacksmith shop and cobbler’s shop. The businesses gradually disappeared over the years, and most were torn down when Kingston Pike was widened in the early 1940s. Cavett’s Station, Campbell’s Station, Ebenezer and the communities of Erin (Bearden) and Loveville (Lovell) were all located within a valley of approximately twelve square miles, Sinking Creek Valley (also called Grassy valley) in west Knoxville” (remember Grassy Valley Baptist Church–AHA!).
Now, granted this was some years later but I’m willing to bet that Loveville then was a lot closer to the Loveville of 1797 than to the Lovell of 2014.  I tired to produce picturesque shots for this post by editing out as much modern-day ugliness as possible, but it was hard.  Just look at the contrasts:
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It occurs to me that we owe a debt of gratitude to the people who founded churches and their accompanying cemeteries in the 18th and 19th centuries.  “Progress” has destroyed Loveville, leveled its blacksmith and tannery and general store.  But the God-fearing folk of East Tennessee are a lot less likely to knock down churches and dig up graveyards.  Oh, it has happened, I know.  I have forebears who lie in cemeteries that were created so that TVA could flood their previous “final” resting places.  In fact, some of the folks in this cemetery were relocated from Karns for the construction of the high school.  But it’s not as common.  And so we still have a little left of this
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albeit surrounded by this
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and for that we should all be thankful.

An Afternoon at Grassy Valley

When you start paying attention, cemeteries start popping up EVERYWHERE.  Seriously, just take one day to pay attention to how many of them you drive by.  You know how it is, when you see something every day you sort of stop seeing it at all.  So last Saturday I decided to visit two cemeteries that I pass on a regular basis.
First stop was Grassy Valley Baptist Church Cemetery, which is located at the church of the same name at the corner of Lovell Road and Kingston Pike.
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This isn’t your secluded, peaceful location, as you see above, though I suppose it was way out in the country when it was founded in the late 1880s.  Here’s the original sign:
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You know what they say about East Tennessee–there’s a church on every corner.  And most of them look more or less like this one:
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This is a nicely kept cemetery, especially given its proximity to a major road and businesses.  It’s trash-free, the grass was mowed, and the broken stones were minimal, although there’s always room for improvement:
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This cemetery is full of Kirbys and Llewellyns.  Wow, there were a lot of them.  Which made sense when I looked it up afterwards and found that the Kirbys donated the land for the cemetery and the Llewellyns donated the land for the church.
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Woody, Gray, and Grady were other common names.  The church was founded in 1880, and I think 1890 was the earliest burial I saw, with the latest being in 2003.  That one was the spouse of someone who had died a long time ago, though.
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I saw no evidence that this is an active cemetery.  Most of the burials took place from the 1890s through the 1940s.  But people are still visiting the graves:
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Every graveyard I’ve visited has baby graves.  Every graveyard is the final resting place for people who lived long and happy lives and people who met with tragic and early ends.  I wonder about the stories behind some of the stones I saw in this one, and feel so bad for parents who lost their children:
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Also notable here are ornate stones with long and unusual inscriptions.  I wish I had been able to decipher them all.
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Grassy Valley Baptist Cemetery is a pleasant and beautiful oasis in the commercialized ugliness of Kingston Pike, a reminder of what this area must have been like in earlier (and not that much earlier) times.
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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.

Dust to Dust

I had to run an early-morning errand today, leaving the house while everyone was still sleeping.  On the way, I passed two graveyards I’ve often meant to explore.  With no plans scheduled until later in the day, and expecting that everyone would probably still be sleeping at home, I promised myself I would stop on the way back home.
Perhaps exploring graveyards early on a sunny Saturday morning isn’t your idea of a way to treat yourself, but it’s a favorite pastime of mine.  One of my earliest blog posts detailed my discovery of White Oak Flats Cemetery, hidden away behind the touristy main drag of Gatlinburg.   I’ve also briefly shared my visits to the final resting places of some of my ancestors.  There is an old cemetery in front of the church where Lorelei played Upward Basketball this winter, and the last morning we had a game I made sure to take a look at it.  My 14-year-old nephew, looking at the graves with me, said, “I don’t like cemeteries.  They remind me of my mortality.”  But I love them, and I tend to think more of immortality when I’m in one.
See, as long as your name remains visible on a stone, and as long as someone comes by to read the names, and wonder about the people who bore them, how they lived, why they died–you are still a part, albeit a small one, of the living world.  It’s important to me, that these dead people be remembered.  That the living remember where we come from. Maybe that’s also why I enjoy genealogy.
I don’t care so much about visiting the graves of loved ones I knew in life; I have other ways to remember them.  But visiting the gravesite of a long-dead relative is different, providing a tangible connection you did not have before.
But I digress.   None of my Tennessee ancestors settled in North West Knox County, so I did not expect to see any of them today.  I did hope, though, to come across a familiar name or two–people who once lived where now there are only roads bearing their names and making them still familiar to us.  My first stop was at Byington Cemetery, and rather obviously Byingtons are prominent residents therein.  But besides the cemetery, the Byingtons left their name on two nearby roads that I often travel:  Byington-Solway Road and Byington-Beaver Ridge Road.
Unlike the bucolic locations of the graveyards in Union County where so many of my ancestors are buried, the Byington Cemetery looks lucky to have escaped relocation, like many older cemeteries.  It’s at the corner of Oak Ridge Highway and Emory Road, at the Karns red light, and is surrounded by commercial development, unfenced, unmarked.
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My second stop was at the cemetery next to Ball Camp Pike Baptist Church, which is quite close to my house.  According to my son, this cemetery is frequently visited by ghost hunters and is reputed to be very haunted.  But I don’t believe in those kinds of ghosts.
The interesting thing about this graveyard is that it has been in used since 1820 and is still active today, with the most recent interment I found taking place in 2007.  However, despite its status as an active cemetery, it’s in a sorry state of repair.  Many gravestones were mostly unreadable, even ones that dated as late as the mid 1900s.  Several were knocked over and broken, even while others bore recently placed Christmas wreaths.
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Due to its status as a church cemetery, this was much larger, and has a fence around the front and barbed wire hidden in the woods on the non-church side.  It’s on an extremely steep hill, and surprisingly if you make it all the way up there you’ll find that people live up there, their homesites apparently only accessible via driveways at the back of the church lot.
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from the top of the hill to the bottom
from the top of the hill to the bottom

from the bottom to the top
from the bottom to the top

All other considerations aside, I like graveyards because they are beautiful and peaceful.  Usually it’s just me and the dead folk.  There’s a reverence in the air, and there’s nothing wrong with considering sometimes that we all came from the same place and are all going back there one day, but that whether, how, and for how long we are remembered will depend on what we do while we are here.
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Sweet Home Alabama

We took a whirlwind trip to Mobile, Alabama last weekend.  It was our last Family Weekend at Spring Hill College–Emily will graduate in May.  For the last four Octobers we’ve made (or some of us have, depending on who was available–I’m the only one who’s made all four) the 500 mile drive to spend some time with Emily, have fun at the events on campus, and explore a little bit of Mobile.
I’ve written about my family connection to Mobile before–it had kind of a mythical allure to me growing up, that place we came from.  My great-grandmother was born there, then migrated to Tennessee with her husband (whose family was from Kentucky).  My grandmother made frequent visits throughout her life, spending summers at the family home on the bay with cousins, bringing her own children for visits, and even into her later years heading down to see family and coming home with crabmeat to make gumbo.  So we were thrilled that Emily chose to go to school there, and welcomed the opportunity to get to know the area a little more on each of our visits.
This time around, besides enjoying seafood at Wintzell’s Oyster House and the Mariner (my favorite, that Emily and I discovered on my first visit there with her), out in the middle of nowhere (William loves it because of all the cats that live outside, fed by the owners on leftover seafood!), we went to see the USS Alabama.  This is something John had been wanting to do from our first visit.  I would never have thought of doing it myself, but WOW.


Talk about big guns!


We wandered the whole ship, above and below decks, and William especially was enthralled.
Afterwards, we had to make a stop at Magnolia Cemetery.  My great-great-great grandfather, a Confederate General, is buried there, and Emily wanted to recap the picture I took of her there four years ago.  Plus we all just love cemeteries, and this is a pretty cool one.
Emily on the gravestone of General James D. Hagan, her great-great-great-great grandfather.


Our trip did not have the best ending, what with our car starting to shake as though possessed, necessitating $500 worth of repairs and a six hour delay in leaving on Sunday while those were effected, but since we’ve had somewhat worse endings to vacations in the past, I’ll take it.

Images of the Past

Every morning when I go to my computer for my modern technology fix, my desktop wallpaper reminds me of a very different time, almost 100 years ago.  Taken in 1915, in Mobile, Alabama, this four-generation photograph includes (standing, on the right) my great-great grandmother, Mary Anne Davis Hagan; (standing, on the left) my great-grandmother, Mary Becker Hagan Higgins; (seated) my great-great-great grandmother, Luocretia Hall Davis, born in 1830; and (in her lap) my great-uncle Walter Martin Higgins, Jr., my grandmother‘s oldest brother.  I love the way his mother and grandmother are looking at him with such delighted smiles, which I imagine he is returning.  I think of how he would grow up to be a Brigadier General and how Mima worshipped him.  I wonder about the dog–what his name is and who he belonged to.  And I wonder if the houses behind are still standing and if on one of my now frequent trips to Mobile (where my oldest child attends Spring Hill College) I might be able to find out.

This photo is more formal and I don’t like it as much for that reason, although it is clearer.  I wonder about that day–if they were posing for this formal photograph and then the photographer decided to play around a bit as he was leaving with the smiling shot on the front lawn, so different from most older family pictures.  We will never know, but I am glad they took the time that day to have these pictures made.  There is something awe-inspiring to me about seeing Luocretia, who was born in 1830, owned slaves, and  lived through the Civil War, holding in her lap my Uncle Walter, whom I remember from his yearly visits to my grandmother, always around Halloween for some reason, as a kindly gentleman in a cardigan sweater.

More about Cornelia

My cousin Ward sent me a copy of a letter today, written by my great-aunt Bodae Hagan Saxe to a cousin some time in the 1970s, in which she recounts some of her family memories and stories.  Here’s what she had to say about Cornelia, my great-great-great grandmother’s personal servant:
I am sure your mother must have told you little tales her Dad (John Davis Hagan, my great-great grandfather) must have related to her of his boyhood days, just as mine did. Some of them have a sort of “Gone With the Wind” atmosphere about them like the one I remember pertaining to the beloved Mammy (Cornelia). Poor Bodae (Elizabeth Oliver Hagan, my great-great-great grandmother) had a bit of a rough time trying to cope with four wild young boys and on one occasion picked up a hairbrush and my Dad (Oliver Hagan) as well and started to apply it vigorously where it would do the most good. At this point, hearing his yells, in rushed Mammy to the rescue and grabbing Dad from his Mother’s clutches, she cried, “Miss Betsy, don’t you hit that boy another lick!” And Dad said nobody but Mammy could speak to his proud mother that way and get away with it. He said they all adored Mammy and today she is buried in the cemetery beside his mother.

Only 150 years ago . . .

Only 150 years ago, if you had enough money, you could purchase another human being.  Can you even begin to comprehend that?  I am not a fan of the modern trend of judging our ancestors according to today’s more enlightened standards, and I’ve always been proud of my great-great-great grandfather, a Confederate general important enough to be mentioned in some histories of the time and a real Southern gentleman according to many published contemporary accounts.
Even so, I definitely felt uncomfortable when my cousin Ward (he’s my second cousin thrice removed, to be precise, and we “met” while both of us were researching the General online) sent me the picture above earlier this week.  It’s a picture of the General’s wife, Elizabeth Oliver Hagan, known as Bettie, and her “personal servant,” Cornelia.  All evidence suggests that there was a loving bond between the two women:  Cornelia is seated while Bettie stands; the hand on the shoulder bespeaks affection; and she was buried next to Bettie (although her grave is not marked).
But I still cannot wrap my head around the notion that barely 100 years before I was born people–nice people–my great-great-great grandparents–could seriously think it was acceptable to own other human beings and call them slaves.  I know that people are still being enslaved today, but it isn’t legal; it isn’t acceptable; and it isn’t practiced by respected members of society.

Jesus Is My Uncle

Well, maybe he’s not.  Actually, I don’t believe it at all, because I’m Catholic and our tradition denies that Jesus had any siblings.  This is some of the suspicious information you run into doing internet-based genealogy.  I was investigating my family history on Ancestry.com one day.  They have this neat little “hint” feature that will suggest missing members of your tree based on the “research” of other members.  So I was happily clicking and adding branch after branch until people like Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard the Lion Hearted and Charlemagne and Joseph of Arimathea started appearing in the tree.  First I was excited to be descended from such luminaries, but soon I learned that although some people wish to prove descent from antiquity, most experts don’t really believe that’s possible.
The above screen shot comes from Geni.com, which is a collaborative project in which all users can add to each others’ trees.  That means that sometimes you get useful information and find new relatives, and other times, you end up with Uncle Jesus. 
I’ve found a lot of good information on Rootsweb, where users post ancestry and descent.  You can search by name, and compare trees, and pick the one that looks the most authentic.  That’s where I went to find out if Con Hunley really was my cousin–he is!  For years, people would ask me if we were related and I would say no, but I was wrong.  He’s my father’s fourth cousin, which I was able to figure out by finding an article that listed his father’s name and then plugging that into Rootsweb.  I quickly found his branch and added him to my tree. 

Cousin Con

The Genforum boards, organized by the family names that you are researching, have also been fun and useful places to ask other researchers questions about those elusive people at the top  of the tree. 
Of course, using the internet is a lazy way to do genealogy, and I feel guilty when I think of my cousin Laurie, who has spent years doing actual research by going places and looking at historical records.  I’m lucky that she shared all her authenticated information with me, so I had a place to start on my mother’s side of the family.  So far, the only field trip I have been on was to visit graveyards in Union County to look at the final resting places of ancestors on my father’s side. 
My great-great-great grandfather's grave in Carr Cemetery, Maynardville

Well, except for several trips to Magnolia Cemetery in Mobile, to visit the grave of our most illustrious ancestor, my great-great-great grandfather General James D. Hagan, who served in the Confederate Army. 
For me, right now, genealogy is a hobby, so accuracy isn’t paramount.  In the future maybe I will actually try to verify everything I’ve learned.
I guess I’ll have to wait until I get to Heaven to check with Jesus about the uncle thing, though!

False Fronts: A Visit to Gatlinburg

Just a little over a week ago I wrote of the fires that have been consuming East Tennessee.  One of those fires raged out of control last night and destroyed over 150 homes and businesses in Gatlinburg.  Just about all Knoxvillians have fond memories of Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains, and we are all grieving today.  Thinking about all this made me remember this post, one of the first I ever wrote, which alludes to a side of Gatlinburg most people probably never see.

My family and I spent part of our Easter Break in Gatlinburg.  Most of our vacation time and money is used for trips to Baltimore to see my husband’s family, but we try to make little trips to Gatlinburg at Christmas or Easter.  It’s close, there’s plenty to do, and we’ve found condos to stay in so that we don’t have to pay for two hotel rooms and can cook some of our own meals.

Despite living so close to the Smokies, my family rarely visited when I was a child.  Once a year at the most we picked up some fried chicken at the Kentucky Fried Chicken at the last stop light in Gatlinburg–it’s still there!–and took it to Metcalf Bottoms for a picnic.  My father hated Gatlinburg so we hardly ever stopped there, although we did stay at the Glenstone Lodge just one time.

Gatlinburg has changed a lot since those days–it’s even changed a lot since I was in college.  The family owned gift shops that used to line the streets (like Rebel Corner, which was lost to a fire), full of hokey gifts like Indian headdresses and souvenir shot glasses, are mostly gone now.  In addition to a lot of tacky t-shirt shops and martial arts stores, there are many nicer gift shops.  Ripley’s seems to have taken over the town.

I do love The Village.  Anchored by the 50-year-old Pancake Pantry, this copy of a old-time European town is attractive and peaceful, and we love the German restaurant there.  The golf course at Reagan Terrace Mall is well done too, with little plaques at each hole that detail the history of Gatlinburg.

There’s more to Gatlinburg than the main strip, though–there’s a side of it that many tourists never see.  It reminds me of those Old West Towns with their false fronts, which made the little buildings behind them seems fancier, with two stories instead of one.  That strip isn’t the real Gatlinburg.  Back behind it there are homes and neighborhoods.  And there’s history.  We discovered some of it when we were there.

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 Keep reading this blog and you will discover that there’s nothing I love quite so much as a stroll through a graveyard.  Taking a shortcut, my teenagers discovered an enormous cemetery that was established in 1830.

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 In nearly 40 years of driving through Gatlinburg, I had never seen it or known that it was back there, just one block behind all the excitement.

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My little boy kneels by the stone of an infant, which made him sad.

From the graveyard, you can see all the activity down below, all the changes that have come about since 1830–really most of them since 1930.  Yet the graveyard remains, testimony to the Gatlinburg that once was White Oak Flats, and most of all to the Ogle family, who were the first settlers.
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ogles everywhere

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My children have learned to enjoy visiting cemeteries along with me.

Two nice surprises in the graveyard: this trillium (I think!) . . .

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and my Great-Uncle Clayton’s grave! I had no idea he was there!

The graveyard wasn’t the only surprise in store for us.  We found a shortcut back to our condo that took us right past this lovely Methodist church.

Gatlinburg Methodist Church

Look at the interesting contrast in the photo below.  I call it “Two Spires” and it’s a view of the steeple of the church above juxtaposed with the top of the Space Needle, as seen from Reagan Terrace Mall.

two spires

Maybe there’s a message for us in the sign below:

Please consider donating to help alleviate some of the suffering of those who have been affected by this tragedy.  There’s a partial list of efforts available here.