Pleasant Forest: A Tale of Two Cemeteries

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.
 

Graveyards Can Be Happy Places: A Visit to Hickory Creek

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

Middlebrook Cemetery: The One That Made Me Sad

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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Cedar Springs Presbyterian Cemetery: Forgotten But Not Gone

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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The Desecration of Davenport Cemetery: What Is WRONG with People?

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.

My Graveyard Stories

Since I was a little girl visiting the old churches in the Smokies, I have enjoyed exploring graveyards.  But in March 2014 I took this interest to the next level when I started visiting, photographing, and writing about cemeteries on a regular basis.  I try to tell a story, talk about what feelings or ideas a particular graveyard inspires for me, and include information about the history of the cemetery and some of the people who rest there.
The purpose of this post is to collect all the links to those stories to make it more convenient for interested readers.  I’m also including a “teaser” and a favorite picture. (You’ll notice the quality of the pictures improves as the months go by–at least I think so!)
Dust to Dust
In this first post, I visit Byington Cemetery and Ball Camp Pike Baptist Cemetery, both in Northwest Knox County.
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Graveyards and Country Roads
Brimer Cemetery and Beaver Ridge Cemetery, which are across the road from each other in Northwest Knox County, are covered in this post.
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A Visit to Third Creek Cemetery
This Northwest Knoxville Cemetery inspires thoughts on the huge problem of cemetery upkeep.
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And This Is Why They Call It Gallaher View
Beautiful views abound in this popular post about Edgewood Cemetery in West Knoxville.

An Afternoon at Grassy Valley
Grassy Valley Baptist Church Cemetery in West Knoxville is a reminder of a time when the Kingston Pike area of West Knoxville was still a grassy valley.
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Dutchtown, Loveville, Graveyards, and Progress
This post muses on how graveyards like Concord Mennonite Church Cemetery maintain oases of beauty amidst development in West Knoxville and elsewhere.
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Graveyard Roundup
In this post I visit cemeteries in South Knoxville, Northwest Knox County, and the Great Smoky Mountains.
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Island Home Baptist Church Cemetery
Here I cover a South Knoxville Cemetery in the historic Island Home neighborhood.
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My First “Foreign” Cemetery
This cemetery is farther afield–I took these pictures while visiting my son at Notre Dame.
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The Mystery of Lebanon Cemetery
Another Northwest Knox County cemetery that I found with the help of Siri, and the history of which is a little obscure.LC 8
A Churchyard without a Church
Located in the Solway community, this African-American churchyard is missing its church, but people are still being laid to rest at Branch Hill Methodist Cemetery.
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What’s in a Name
Mount Pleasant Baptist Church Cemetery is another African-American cemetery, this one no longer active, located in West Knoxville.
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Rocky Hill Baptist Cemetery
This surprisingly large cemetery lies in the heart of the Rocky Hill community.
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The Living and the Dead
In which I explain why and how I write my cemetery stories, in response to a minor uproar caused by my prior post.
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Byrd’s Chapel, Old and New
This graveyard in West Knox County is one of the prettiest ones I’ve seen.
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One Cemetery, Two Names
I’ve driven by this tiny graveyard on Oak Ridge Highway thousands of times, and it was exciting to explore it at last.
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Stanton Cemetery
You’ll find this graveyard along a trail in the South Knoxville Urban Wilderness.
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An Autumn Afternoon at Holloway Cemetery
This “pauper’s cemetery” in West Knoxville is overgrown but picturesque, at least in the autumn.Holliway 27
Smoky Mountain Graveyard
You’ll have to climb a steep hill to find this small family cemetery on the Gatlinburg side of the Smokies.
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A Grey Afternoon at Grigsby Chapel
This Methodist cemetery is in the heart of Farragut.
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Stoney Point Baptist Church Cemetery
This is a charming and well-kept graveyard in the Hardin Valley Community.
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The Desecration of Davenport Cemetery
In which I tell the sad story of a graveyard that has succumbed not to age or neglect but to deliberate destruction.
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Cedar Springs Presbyterian Cemetery: Forgotten But Not Gone
In which I profile a very old cemetery that I would like to see highlighted for its history.
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Middlebrook Cemetery: The One That Made Me Sad
In which I explore a cemetery with a sad and mysterious history.
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Graveyards Can Be Happy Places: A Visit to Hickory Creek
In which I write about a lovely cemetery rich in history that will leave you feeling joyful, not sad.
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Pleasant Forest: A Tale of Two Cemetery
A beautiful historic cemetery marred by one section that is not being properly maintained.
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A History-Filled Afternoon at Lebanon in the Fork Presbyterian Cemetery
A cemetery in a beautiful location, it is home to Knox County’s oldest marked grave.
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Bookwalter Cemetery: Pretty But Not Peaceful
Hemmed in by neighborhoods and a busy road, this beautiful old cemetery has a troubled past.
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I will add to this page every time I write about another cemetery, so you can bookmark it to make sure you don’t miss anything!
 

Stoney Point Baptist Cemetery

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.
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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.
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Stoney Point 3It’s a beautiful graveyard, and possibly the most well-tended one I’ve seen.
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Not only that, but probably two-thirds of the graves had flowers on them, even the oldest ones.
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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.

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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.
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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.
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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.
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UPDATE:  A reader has confirmed for me that Mrs. Lee and her son were tragically killed in a house fire.
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To see the rest of my graveyard posts, click here.

A Grey Afternoon at Grigsby Chapel

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Pictures don’t look as pretty on grey days at winter’s end, but that’s the kind of day it was when I stopped by Grigsby Chapel United Methodist Church Cemetery a few weeks ago.
I don’t have as much context for this post as I’d like.  Perhaps any local historians could chime in down in the comments, but I couldn’t find much online about the church, the cemetery, or even the Grigsbys, even though they have not only a church but a road named for them!
At least I know where they are now:
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Grigsby 25As you can see, this cemetery has been here for awhile.  The church was established in 1851, and the earliest marked burial is dated 1864.  One online source suggested that earlier graves are unmarked.
It’s still an active cemetery, with the most recent burial occurring in 2013.  Which means that alongside the traditional stones we have ones with more modern touches:
Grigsby 33I don’t know the story of this young man, but his stone touched me, with a picture of him forever frozen in one happy moment in time.  But the graves of children always get to me, even when they are very simple:
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One family was especially unfortunate:
Grigsby 35Someone still comes back and remembers this little fellow:
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And these twins:
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In almost every older graveyard I’ve visited, you’ll find one area with all the older stones.  Not so here.  It was odd how mixed up everything was, and even though this is an exceptionally flat graveyard for hilly East Tennessee, the graves were scattered more then usual, with less of an attempt at making rows.  Not that I care–straight lines are boring anyway.  But it’s unusual.
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Grigsby 1There are a lot of Kelleys buried here.  Also many Newcombs (spelled various ways), along with members of the Vinsant, Lovelace, Bates, Herron, and Letsinger families.  Some stones appeared to be hand-lettered.
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Grigsby 21For whatever reason, the older stones here were extremely hard to decipher.
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Grigsby 16This cemetery is mown and free of sticks or old flowers.  Of course, like all cemeteries, there are a few broken stones, along with signs that the site has experienced growing pains over the years.
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Grigsby 22It’s always a treat to find a relative.  The young mother below is my fourth cousin, twice removed:
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Grigsby 29It’s hard to read, but this is a lovely traditional epitaph:

Grigsby 17Sleep on my dear and take thy rest.  God called thee home for he thought best.

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Smoky Mountain Graveyard

I cannot tell from the map of the footprint of the still ongoing wildfires whether this little graveyard, just a stone’s throw from Gatlinburg, is in the affected area, but there can be little doubt that other graveyards and historic structures have been destroyed and that the views are going to be different for awhile.
There’s nothing like stumbling upon an unexpected graveyard.  And I don’t mean that in a spooky way!  It happens more often than you’d think, as I’ve told you before:  Stanton Cemetery on the Meads Quarry Trail; the tiny graveyard at Charter E. Doyle Park; even Greenbrier Cemetery was a surprise to me when I first encountered it on a family picnic to Metcalf Bottoms.
I love hiking and I love graveyards, and when the two serendipitously collide, all is right in my little world.  So I was tremendously excited to tackle a very steep hill on our recent Smoky Mountain walk, and to be rewarded at the summit by an old family graveyard.
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Fighting Creek Cemetery is a small graveyard (more correctly called William Stinnett Cemetery according to those who ought to know) with a beautiful view, populated mostly by Stinnetts and Bohannons.
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One can hardly imagine a more beautiful place to be laid to rest, or a more challenging one for those in charge of the burying.  The most recent grave here dates from 1990, and it’s hard to imagine how a heavy modern coffin could make the trip up the hill.
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The earliest burial I saw was from 1877.  There were many stones that couldn’t be read, and probably some that were never written on at all.
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Of course there were babies.  There are always babies.
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There’s a little trail at the back of the cemetery that doesn’t go anywhere anymore, but the picture I took looking back through the leaves is my favorite:
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Neither I nor most of the other folks who hike through the Smokies know the stories of those who gave up their homes so that the land they loved would be forever preserved.  But at least the presence of this graveyard and others like it lets us know they were there, and that we should appreciate their sacrifice.
And if you would like to help the people who now live on the borders of the Park, who have lost homes and businesses in the fire, please consider a donation to Dolly Parton’s My People Fund.
 

Throwback Thursday: An Autumn Afternoon at Holloway Cemetery

I know most of y’all are probably champing at the bit for Spring to arrive.  Me, not so much.  I’d like at least one good snowfall first.  But today, I want you to stop thinking about Spring for a few minutes and instead remember Autumn.
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I’m behind in recounting my graveyard adventures, and I seriously considered not posting this and going with something more seasonal, but you know what?  These pictures are just too pretty not to share.
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Holloway Cemetery is at the corner of Bakertown and Robinson Roads, and I’ve driven past it hundreds of times.  When I was in high school, it was on my shortcut from my home in Cumberland Estates in Northwest Knoxville to the home of one of my best friends in West Knoxville.  Graveyards weren’t on my radar in those days, I guess, although I’ve certainly driven past it as an adult as well.  My daughter Emily was the one who noticed it recently and suggested we should check it out.
When we first got out of the car, we thought it might turn out to be a disappointment.  There was just one tiny grave near the road, a little baby who apparently someone is still remembering:
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We combed through the underbrush and found nothing until we walked all the way up the hill, which is where the rest of the graves are.
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Apart from the fact that the name on the sign appears to be spelled wrong, my research didn’t turn up much about this place.  I have no idea who is responsible for its upkeep, but at the risk of offending whoever it is, it really could use some.
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I don’t just mean that it needs mowing.  I’m going to be charitable and assume that our visit just happened to fall around the time they were getting to mow it.  The problems I noticed were a bit more serious.
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It has taken some time for things to get into such a condition.  Some of those trees have been growing for years.  The interesting thing about this place, though, is that there are some relatively recent burials and signs that people have been visiting regularly.
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I wasn’t able to discover anything about the history of the land or the cemetery, and it’s interesting to note that whoever the Holloways were, none of them were buried here, unless they are among the many buried namelessly.
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The latest burial here took place in 2001, a member of the Garrett family.  The Garretts are the only family here with more than two graves to their name.  There are a lot of them, including most of the more recent and better-tended graves.  Interestingly, the earliest marked grave–1890–belonged to a woman who was born a Garrett.  If I had time, I could probably find out more, but I don’t have time to fall down that particular rabbit hole today.
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Here’s a selection of some of the most interesting stones:
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Even though the condition of this cemetery made us both sad, I was so grateful to Emily for suggesting it.  October never looked so beautiful.
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Edit: I’ve learned since this writing that this was at least originally a pauper’s cemetery, which would help answer some of my questions.