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It was a beautiful autumn day almost exactly a year ago when I finally visited Bookwalter United Methodist Cemetery, which had been on my list for years.  It is a large–over 4,000 graves–cemetery, and has been in continuous use from the 1880s to the present day.

Many of the earliest graves are those of the Swiss/German immigrants who settled the nearby area now known as Dutch Valley.

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Atop a hill with views of Sharp’s Ridge, Bookwalter Cemetery transcends its humble location, hemmed in by a busy street in front, train tracks in back, and neighborhoods on both sides.

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The peaceful silence one associates with cemeteries was notably absent.  In addition to traffic and train noises, I was assailed by the sounds of barking dogs, blaring radios, and bawling babies.  Most disturbing of all, at the back of the cemetery I was transfixed by an argument going on in an adjacent neighborhood, where a landlord was banging on the door of a rental property and making telephone calls to his renter who was evading his attempts to collect rent.  I could not tear myself away from this troubling drama  of the living unfolding just yards away from this not-so-peaceful resting place of the dead.

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The section of the cemetery nearest to the railroad tracks is partly devoted to the graves of infants and small children, although there are others scattered throughout the cemetery.  This post is being published in October, a month set aside for mourning pregnancy and infant losses, so it seems appropriate to point out that heart-wrenching stones and tiny graves are not only a thing of the distant past.

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This is a decently kept cemetery, with a few exceptions.  By now I have learned that there are always exceptions.

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I have learned that the city has taken on responsibility for the maintenance of the cemetery, taking over from the Police Department which had been mowing it for the sake of the surrounding neighborhoods.  Why is the city having to do this?  Well, that is an interesting story which we will get to below.  But first, a sampling of some of the modern-day stones and epitaphs which caught my eye for one reason or another.

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As I wandered through the cemetery I noted the signs below.  I knew there would be a story behind this.

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There was actually a surprising dearth of information about Bookwalter Cemetery online*, and this lack of historical background may be significant to what I did find–a series of legal documents indicating that the state had been forced to involve itself in the affairs of one portion of the cemetery.  Like many old cemeteries, this one doesn’t have clear ownership, and what was worse, neither did the graves.  Several people laid claim to the same plots and there were insufficient records kept to indicate whose claim was true.  A complete survey of the cemetery had to be conducted, determining how many plots there were and which had bodies therein, with arbitration being conducted to make sure that everyone who laid claim to a plot got one.  What a mess.

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So I am providing you–and me–with another cautionary tale:  before you buy a plot make sure the cemetery you choose is owned by a responsible company that is not only going to provide upkeep but that also maintains accurate records!

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*EDIT:  A reader tells me (see comments below) that the first half of the cemetery is properly called Bookwalter United Methodist Church Cemetery and is maintained by the church, and that the back half is Bookwalter Community Cemetery and is maintained by the state.  I did look for information on the church’s website before writing this post, and there is no mention there of the cemetery.  I also checked public records in which the cemetery appears as a single entity.  I appreciate his clarification.

For more cemetery stories, visit this post.

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PF41Pleasant Forest Cemetery is a hard one to miss.  It’s enormous, for one thing, and it’s on a well-traveled road. I’ve driven by it many times and it’s been on my list to visit for awhile.  Occasionally my graveyard trips are serendipitous and unplanned, but for a place this large, I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to explore.

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I visited over a year ago, and maybe it’s because I’m expecting some unpleasantness that I’ve held off writing about it for so long.  But I’ll get to that.

First of all, the good stuff.  And it’s really, really good stuff.  The cemetery is immaculate, with obvious efforts to clean and repair stones.

This is an historic cemetery, established over 200 years ago, making it one of the oldest in the area.  And the people who run it are obviously cognizant of and proud of its rich history.  This cemetery even has its own website!  The history of the place is recorded there in great detail, as are the names of most of the folks buried there.  Here’s the earliest grave:

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And there are other graves just as primitive, the hand-carved names rendered illegible by time.

There are many that you can read, though, even some very old ones.

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If you read the inscriptions, you will have seen that some of the stones carry names important in Knoxville history.  One of the things I loved about this cemetery is how it appreciates and showcases history–even its own.

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But this is also very much a living cemetery, with an assortment of interesting and beautiful memorials to folks who died relatively recently, and whose families are still regularly visiting and decorating their graves.

Pleasant Forest is large, hilly, well-kept, and beautiful, as I’ve said.

But there’s another part of this cemetery’s story.  In fact, there’s another part of this cemetery.

The part I’ve been showing you is on the right side of Concord Road heading south.  It’s large, and bordered with a combination of wooden and wrought iron fencing and stone walls.

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But if you cross the busy road, you’ll see another side of this cemetery.

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Here’s what it looks like.

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The contrast to the pristine conditions on the other side of the road couldn’t be stronger.  As I walked the grounds I was unable to make sense of what I was seeing–the exposed red earth, the tumbling stones, the un-raked ground.  And as I read the names I began to get a sinking feeling.  Surely this couldn’t be what it was beginning to look like–an African-American section of Pleasant Forest looking for all the world like an ad for separate and unequal?

But that’s what it is.  Here’s what a little online research turned up:  “Pleasant Forest Cemetery is an old cemetery, founded in 1796. It lies on both sides of Concord Road about one-half mile south of Kingston Pike. Most of the cemetery receives some maintenance. I am told that State of Tennessee provides money for cutting the grass. The cemetery functions as two cemeteries. The portion east of Concord Road and the southeast corner of the portion west of Concord Road are a black cemetery. The white portion of the cemetery which receives state maintenance funds was fenced early in 1989. The black section was fenced out and appears [in 1989] to receive little to no maintenance.”

Now, the black section that’s physically part of the larger cemetery isn’t treated any differently from the rest of it.  I am at a loss to explain why no one is caring for the other section.  Look, I KNOW maintaining cemeteries is a labor of love and largely taken on, in the case of historic graveyards, by volunteers.  But this is part of the same cemetery, under the same ownership now, according to publicly available records, whatever the case may have been originally.  What excuse can there be for ignoring this part of it so completely (as of March 2016, when I was last there)?  If the excuse is that it doesn’t receive state maintenance funds and the other side does, that doesn’t comfort me much.

I expect publishing this post will lead to my enlightenment on these matters as it often has in the past.  I hope it will not also lead to unpleasantness.  As always in these pieces, I’m just describing what I see, and what I’m seeing looks bad.

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For more of my graveyard musings, click here.

 

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Wow, y’all.  If you are interested in history you really need to visit Lebanon in the Forks Presbyterian Cemetery.  Honestly, my visit left me a little awestruck.

But let me back up.  Emily and I went walking Saturday, as we are wont to do.  We picked our destination off a list of Knoxville Greenways, and ended up on the Holston River Greenway, which we had not visited in years.  My pictures from our walk will probably turn up in another blog post, but it’s not a super-long trail and we weren’t ready to go home when we finished walking, so we decided to drive around for a bit.

Now, I’ve lived in Northwest Knoxville, West Knoxville, South Knoxville, North Knoxville, and now Northwest Knox County, but never in East Knoxville.  So this is always a fun area for me to explore.  And as we drove I remembered that I’d seen a cool old cemetery somewhere across Boyds Bridge.

We found it on Asbury Road, right at what signs warn drivers is a “non-negotiable turn,” which also happens to be right at the Forks of the River (where the Tennessee splits into the Holston and French Broad, for those who don’t know).  Lebanon in the Fork is what it’s called, and it lays claim to the title of oldest cemetery in the county.

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The church that once stood there is gone now–burned in a 1981 fire–but its predecessor was built on this site before Tennessee was even a state (1793).  And people were being buried here before then–trappers, hunters, and soldiers–although their graves are unmarked.

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Mrs. Elizabeth Carrick’s grave is marked, though–and hers is the oldest marked grave in the county.  According to an 1875 history of the church penned by Dr. J.G. M. Ramsey:

Among the first Christian interments here was that of Mrs. Carrick.  It occurred on the day of the contemplated attack upon the infant Knoxville by the Indians, Sept., 1793.  All the inhabitants who would bear arms had gone to its defense, and relations and remains of Mrs. Carrick were brought down in a canoe, on the Holston River and deposited in the church yard, attended and buried by women only.

Another grave of note is that of Francis Alexander Ramsey, father of the aforementioned historian, builder of Ramsey House, and Tennessee–or should I say FRANKLIN–statesman.

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Inscription on Ramsey’s grave

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Ramsey’s grave from the side, showing his wife’s inscription

The cemetery is overflowing with Ramseys, actually, including the historian, as well as quite a few McNutts, some Dicksons, and many other interrelated families.  The last burial here took place in 1976, but the majority were during the 1800s.

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There are a number of epitaphs that I’m sure would be delightful, but they are just too old to read.  There are also some unique carvings.

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We’ve got war heroes here from three separate conflicts.  The Ramseys’ Confederate sympathies landed them in deep trouble, according to the histories I consulted.

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I don’t know the story of the fellow buried below, but I’m imagining that he died as a victim of the Gold Rush.

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I’m not going to waste too much time complaining about the condition of a 200 year old graveyard that hasn’t seen active use in a hundred years, but I really wouldn’t need to anyway because this place is mostly in great shape.  There are a few overgrown graves and the steps that once led into the cemetery are impassable (but they’d be inaccessible at this point anyway), but over all this graveyard is being well cared for.

There is no fence around the churchyard, which is surrounded on all sides by property belonging to the quarrying operation further up Asbury Road, but there are obstacles in place should you try to wander too far:

 

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Dr. Ramsey’s history describes the site like this:  “[T]he site for the church edifice was an eminence in the center of a beautiful grove of cedars and other trees, covered by vines forming a dense arbor and a shady bower which excluded the sun.”

At least one of those cedars still stands, and the eminence on which the graveyard sits makes for some impressive views.

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This is just a lovely cemetery that anyone with an interest in Knoxville history will enjoy.

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What better day than the Feast of All Souls to write about a cemetery? I may seem a little strange the rest of the year but today I am on topic and I have a beautiful graveyard to write about.

You may remember that my last graveyard story was very sad, about a cemetery whose history is lost and whose inhabitants seem forgotten.   But not all graveyards are like that.  If you’ve been reading along, you’ll know that each location has its own atmosphere and its own story.

Hickory Creek Cemetery, located next to Mount Pleasant Church on Buttermilk Road in West Knox County, is a HAPPY cemetery.  And it was a happy accident that I went there some weeks ago.

Emily and I were out walking at a park we’d never been to (about which more another time!) and we decided to ask Siri if there were any cemeteries nearby.  She directed us to Hickory Creek, and I could tell right away that it was a special place.

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For one thing, it has something living there, or at least hanging out, and I don’t mean a ghost! I’m sure you’ve heard of a junkyard dog, but how about a graveyard cat?

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It was hard to stop taking pictures of this photogenic little fellow.  Isn’t there something comforting about the idea of a cat sleeping cozily on your grave, or is it just me?

And then this happened:

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Plus this is a well-cared-for graveyard in a beautiful natural setting.

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Naturally, there were some broken stones.  I’ve come to realize that these things happen with the passage of time.  The oldest grave I saw in this still-active cemetery was dated 1801.

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And yes, there were babies and little children:

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This little girl died almost exactly 100 years before the little girl whose grave, above, lies in the newer part of the cemetery.

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This baby boy got a larger than usual monument to his short life.  This picture also shows one of the houses located next to the graveyard.  If I were going to live next to a cemetery, I’d pick this one.  And there’s that cat again!

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Gone to be an angel . . .

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Asleep in Jesus . . .

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Someone decided to purchase a new stone for this little boy.  Perhaps a brother or sister who still remembers and misses him?

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Long epitaphs are a prominent feature of this cemetery.  Unfortunately, they are hard to read even in person, so I hope you’ll be able to decipher even a few:

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Detail from the above stone:

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The rose may fade, the lily die
But flowers immortal bloom on high
Beyond the taint of sinful powers
Our son is safe in Eden’s bowers.

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I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

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To live in loving hearts is not to die.

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Detail from above stone:

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Thy life was beauty, truth, goodness, and love.

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I love the stone below and imagine that this old lady was much loved.

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Couldn’t ask for a better epitaph than this:

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Simple though it may be, the inscription below brought me to tears:

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I hope I am imparting a little of the flavor of this place to you . . . it felt to me like the people who rest here lived good and full lives, that they were loved in life and are remembered in death.  That’s why it felt like a happy graveyard to me.  But there’s more!

This cemetery is also rich in history:

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The place is simply teeming with Hardins, starting with this famous fellow:

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Courtesy of Wikipedia, here’s the text of his memorial in full:

JOSEPH HARDIN
FARMER-SOLDIER-STATESMAN

Born April 18, 1734 in Virginia of English Ancestry.
Died July 4, 1801, in Hardin Valley, Tennessee.
A strict Presbyterian, stern and fearless in discharge of duty.
Loved and trusted by his friends, feared by his enemies.

PIONEER-PATRIOT-PATRIARCH

Major 2nd N.C. Minute Men, Salisbury District, 1775.
Captain Tryon Co., N.C. Light Horse, Cherokee Expedition, 1776.
In battle of Ramsour’s Mill and at Kings Mountain, 1780.
Colonel for Western Counties (Tenn.), 1788.
Lost three sons in Tennessee Indian Wars.

Member Committee of Safety, Tryon Co., N.C., 1775.
Member Provincial Congress at Hillsborough 1775 and at Halifax 1776.
Member General Assembly of N.C., 1778-79 and (from Tenn.) 1782-88.
Organizer State of Franklin, Jonesboro, 1784-1785.
Member General Assembly, Territory South of the Ohio, Knoxville, 1794.

For his military services during Revolutionary War and Indian Wars he received in 1785 from North Carolina,
3000 acres of land in the middle district, now Hardin County, Tenn. named for him.

Check out this gentleman below, one of the original Tennessee Volunteers!

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Pioneer settlers:

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Died in the Second World War:

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Mr. Lovelace’s grave above gives me an opportunity to take you down the hill to the newer part of the cemetery where folks are still being laid to rest today.  Now, this is one of those graveyards where all the names are recognizable to anyone who lives in the area–Lovelace Road, for example, is close by, and of course Hardin Valley is a large community.  Some of the names I saw repeated over and over again: Bridges, Davis, Duncan, Fain, Grubb, Hope, Liles, Rice, and Williams.  And the really neat thing is that those names are still turning up at the “modern” end of the cemetery, emphasizing the history of this community and the part these families continue to play in it.

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This is a long post with a lot of pictures.  I want to share just a few more of stones that I found interesting or unusual.

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I’ve never seen this marbled effect before, but it’s pretty.

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Here’s something else I’ve never seen:

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Yesterday at Mass Father Haley told us about the Polish custom of gathering at the graveyard to picnic amongst the graves of dead relatives  He described a daylong celebration, a joyful occasion.  Hickory Creek Cemetery is just the kind of place I would pick for such a party.

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HC 29For more of my cemetery adventures, visit this link.
NaBloPoMo November 2015

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Now, maybe you are thinking that’s a strange title.  Because shouldn’t visiting cemeteries make you sad?  Well, if they all made me this sad I’d stop visiting them.  Of course I feel sorrowful when I see baby graves.  Occasionally poor maintenance distresses me.  But these feelings are offset by my excitement over some mystery, or my enjoyment of the beauty of a particular graveyard, or the fun I am having taking pictures or planning out what I am going to write about.

But then I visited Middlebrook Cemetery and every time I think about it I feel sadder.

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This was a cemetery I had been making a mental note to visit every time I drove down Middlebrook Pike toward town.  It’s located at the corner of Keith and Middlebrook–or what used to be the corner, back when Keith still connected to Middlebrook.  I passed that cemetery countless times as a child, when driving over Sanderson Hill was one of our go-to routes from Cumberland Estates to West Knoxville.

It didn’t take me long to realize this wasn’t going to be one of the more picturesque cemeteries I’ve visited.  Having to pull right into the cemetery to park–next to the car of some neighborhood resident who is using it as a permanent parking place–was the first clue.  The weeds and trash which were the first thing I saw when I got out of the car didn’t help.

Then there’s the location.  I know the cemetery was established in 1878, and it can’t help what’s happened to the countryside since.  But there’s not even a fence to provide separation from the less-than-pastoral surroundings, and precious little vegetation, except for weeds.

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Let’s talk about the weeds, shall we?  Someone (the City of Knoxville, I’m sure, and I’ll explain why in a bit) is mowing the cemetery and probably removing at least some trash.  But when weeds cover approximately 90% of the graves, that’s going to take a lot of work–or weed killer, anyway–to eradicate.   Normally I spend a lot of time taking pretty pictures in graveyards.  It was hard to find anything pretty about this one.  My best pictures, below, are interesting partly because of the weeds.

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Information on the history of this cemetery is hard to come by, at least on the internet where we unpaid lazy types do our historical research.  I found an article on the City of Knoxville website detailing plans to clean up this cemetery and, I believe, four others in the West View area, and to connect them via the Greenway system.  I suspect that this cemetery HAS been cleaned up and that it once looked much worse.  There has been a recent attempt to kill some weeds, which you can see here:

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There were a few more plots on the west side of the graveyard that had received this treatment.  The article was written in 2012, so I hope that the cleanup efforts are ongoing and have not been abandoned.

If you are a regular reader, you know that I often share pictures of baby graves, like these:

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I could have posted SO MANY of these.  I stopped taking pictures.  I could not figure out what was going on.  Yes, old graveyards have lots of infant and child graves.  We all know times were hard back then.  You might be surprised to know how many baby graves there are even in newer cemeteries.  But here it was almost every grave.  Of course I wondered why.

The above-mentioned article provided a possible explanation, although even this is steeped in legend as apparently records from the founding of this cemetery are lost.  Some say that a home for unwanted children once stood near this spot, and that these are the graves of some of its residents.  You will notice that many of the stones above list only the name of the child, so it’s possible.

Now, there are some family plots, or at least husbands and wives buried together, or stones obviously chosen with care, like these below. So what exactly is going on here?

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I didn’t find any clues as to why particular people would have chosen this as their final resting place.  The earliest online records don’t indicate who owned the property before it was a cemetery, and in any case even though the sign says it was established in 1878, almost all the recorded burials don’t begin until some years later.  I’d say the majority of the graves date from 1885 – 1920.  While there are a few names that appear more than five times in the Find-a-Grave database (Nelson, Day, Goode, Brown, Smith, Hood, Pressley, Rutherford, Weaver, and Wilson) it’s not obvious that this was ever a family cemetery or even a local cemetery, and as far as I can tell it isn’t associated with the nearby church.  While many of the names are still familiar in Knoxville today, none are memorialized by nearby streets to indicate that they were particularly prominent citizens of the area in the past who might have been landowners or founders of churches.  In fact, where Find-a-Grave includes death certificates, people buried here appear to have come from all over town.  So it’s a mystery.

And there are more mysteries.  There are a few recent (relatively) burials here, indicating that (I’m guessing?) there are people still living who feel they have ties to this place.  These graves are already in sorry shape:

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And here’s the biggest mystery of all:  who is responsible for this cemetery?  And that’s a question that really has no answer, because NOBODY KNOWS.  That’s right, the origin of this cemetery is so lost in time that if you head over to KGIS and look at the owner card for this cemetery, it reads UNKNOWN.  Which is why it’s in the shape it’s in, and why the city has stepped in to try to fix it up.

So what with all the babies, and the lost history, and the weeds, I guess it’s no surprise that I still feel melancholy when I think about this place.  I promise to share a happier cemetery with you next time.

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For more (and much nicer) cemetery adventures, check out THIS POST.

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If you live in West Knoxville and like shortcuts, you’ve driven past it hundreds of time–this old, old graveyard not quite at the corner of Westland and Ebenezer, sitting right in front of the driveway to the Maple Grove Inn.  Nameless, signless, churchless, this cemetery has been a final resting place for Knoxvillians for about 200 years, and is still being used today.

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It has a name, actually, although I had to look elsewhere to find it–two names, really, depending on your source.  KGIS calls it Ebenezer Cemetery; Find-a-Grave calls it Cedar Springs.  KGIS lists the cemetery itself as the owner; other sources indicate that it is owned by Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church, which locals will recognize as the home of a prominent congregation with a large complex of buildings a mile or so north of the cemetery.

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If Cedar Springs owns it, you wouldn’t know it from their website.  I was disappointed by the absence of any reference to the history of the cemetery or even to the history of the church–which surely must be a rich one after 200 years.  As you can see above, whoever owns it no longer maintains the sign that once indicated (I presume) grave locations.

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Maple Grove Inn (where I have attended a wedding or two in the past) is no better.  Their website says nothing about the history of the home and the people who once lived there, let alone anything about the cemetery, despite the fact that at least some of its people are buried here:

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This isn’t going to be one of those posts where I complain about the condition of the cemetery.  At least someone is mowing this one regularly.  Sure, there are a few broken stones, and some of the plots could use some hand weeding, but relative to some of the places I’ve visited, it’s in decent shape.  There are broken and unreadable stones, and a lot of bent wrought iron, but I suppose that’s to be expected in a place of this age.

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The many wrought iron encircled plots are a highlight of the cemetery.  Just take a look:

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I didn’t find as many graves of babies and little children as usual, but probably that’s because so many of the old stones are illegible.

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A precious one from us is gone
The voice we loved is still
A place is vacant in our home
Which never can be filled.

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Now her little voice is silent

And her dear head lying low

How I miss my precious darling

God in Heaven can only know.

How often does our thoughts on this silent tomb rove.

And when I say illegible, don’t think I am exaggerating:

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Check out (if you can decipher it) the inscription below–laid to rest in Knoxville, this person started out life in Iceland.  I would love to know what prompted a move to Tennessee.

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I love the hand-lettered stones.  Just imagine someone in the throes of grief making this stone to ensure the protection of the memory of a loved one.

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Here’s another one that looks like there might be an interesting story behind it.

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I’ve shared some poetic epitaphs above, but even the shorter ones will touch your heart.

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An honest woman here lies at rest

As e’er God with his image blest

If there’s another world, she lives in bliss

If there is none she made the best of this.

Friendly graveyard tip:  If you want to make sure your stone remains above ground and readable, don’t get one of these.  Just don’t.  You may think that you’ve picked a well-maintained cemetery and don’t have to worry about this kind of thing, but you never know.

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This is one of the earliest graves here.  Since the church was established in the late 1700s, I don’t know where they were burying people before that, but the earliest burial here was 1821.  The most recent was 2015.

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I’m sharing this because so far I’ve never seen another stone like it!

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That’s one of the fun things about cemeteries this old:  the variety of stones you encounter.  I thought this one was especially pretty.

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Many of the bigger cemeteries in Knoxville–Woodlawn, for example–have a special section for the original part of the cemetery where the older graves are.  What’s nifty about this one is that it’s all mixed up, resulting in juxtapositions like these, which I also love for the diversity of the folks who have come to lie here in more recent years:

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Here’s a name I recognize, and you will too, since Peters Road is just a few blocks away.  I am sure this cemetery is brimming over with people important to the history of the area–it would have to be, with its age and size–and it was frustrating not to be able to read so many of the stones.

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Presumably this is a member of the Baker family whose house is thankfully preserved as a restaurant at the corner of Peters Road and Kingston Pike.

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Here’s another name I’ve seen around the area, and someone is still leaving flowers on this 114-year-old grave.

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Here are some cool memorials to long-ago veterans:

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As I’ve said, many stones are unreadable in this graveyard, but luckily for us there is Find-a-Grave.  So I can tell you that some of the more frequently occurring names here include Beal, Bean, Bond, Brown, Coker, Medlin, McClellan, Nelson, Peters, Stone, Swan, Tillery, and Walker, some of which should sound familiar to anyone local.

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Victory Chapel Baptist Church (formerly Ebenezer Methodist Church, the successor of which–I’m assuming–is just on the other side of Ebenezer Road) stands right across the driveway from the cemetery, and it, too, has a graveyard–small, flat, immaculately kept.  You’ll see many of the same names here, and in fact it looks to me as if a few people were relocated here at some point.  I was very surprised when I was doing my bit of research on Find-a-Grave that I have a friend buried here.  Also, Conrad Cook, a noted gospel singer and songwriter, rests in this cemetery.

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So, in sum, this is a lovely historic cemetery and I enjoyed my visit.  But my time there was tinged with sadness too because this is a place that could be–and should be–so much more.  See, whoever this cemetery belongs to, as old as it is it really belongs to all of us with ties to this area, because it’s our history too.  And when we can’t read the stones, that history gets lost.  The PEOPLE get lost.  That’s a tragedy and it doesn’t have to be that way.

Obviously there used to be a sign here with at least some information.  How much would it cost–both in money and time–to put up a sign with the name of the cemetery, maybe a plaque with a little of its history, and a list of who is buried there and where their graves lie?   What can those with the responsibility for taking care of graveyards do to ensure that when we inscribe the words “Gone but not forgotten” on a stone, we are telling the truth?

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If you enjoyed this and want to read more of my cemetery stories, you can find them HERE.

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You know by now some of the reasons I like to visit graveyards:  the beauty, the history, the sense of peace I find there.

Well, sadly, my most recent cemetery visit left me feeling not enlightened and peaceful but ENRAGED.

I should have been more prepared, since I was told by the person who provided directions to this unmarked, off-the-beaten-path graveyard that he didn’t want to publicize its location due to past vandalism, but I was still taken aback by what I found.

Let me back up.  We found the trailhead without difficulty.  Our informant had told me that he himself went through and cleared the trail some years ago, for which we were grateful.  Passage is still relatively easy, and his directions were quite clear.

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We enjoyed wildflowers–and dodged MUCH poison ivy–along the way.  There were signs of human life left behind too, including several partly destroyed wooden structures the purpose of which I cannot even guess at, but of course I am curious.

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And then, at the top of a hill, by an impressive white oak tree, we found the graveyard–or what was left of it.

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This historical family graveyard, with graves dating back to 1840, has been systematically and brutally vandalized.

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As you know, I’ve written extensively about the problem of cemetery upkeep.  I’ve seen many neglected cemeteries with stones broken by the elements (or even cows!) or grown over with vegetation, but I’ve never seen anything like this.

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What kind of people think it’s fun to destroy not only a bit of their own local history, but basically wipe out the last remaining evidence that a living human person once walked the earth?  To me it’s almost like killing the person for a second time.

Go, if you would, to this find-a-grave entry to read a little about a wonderful man whose grave was desecrated, and wonder at the kind of people who would do this to his final resting place.

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I hope that when they are older and contemplating their own mortality they will look back on what they must have viewed as harmless hijinks with shame.

The rest of my cemetery blogging can be found right here.

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