Catholics are especially called to pray for the dead on All Souls Day. We are encouraged to visit a cemetery to do so if possible. So to commemorate this day, I am giving my readers a virtual visit to a graveyard.
I was delivering a meal to a new mother two years ago when I happened to pass Glenwood Cemetery on Central Avenue Pike in Powell, a very old cemetery located next to a somewhat newer church. I came back later in the day to take pictures but new got around to writing a post. I will come back later to give more detail about the cemetery and those who rest there, but for now, please just enjoy the pictures, read the names, and pray for the dead.
Some lived long lives, some barely lived at all. Some lived and died long ago, some were buried recently. Some are fondly remembered, some are forgotten. God knows and loves them all.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace. Amen.
Remember summer? It seems so long ago! Not the hot part–that lasted well into October here–but the not-being-in-school-and-having-daily-adventures part, which ended for us in early August.
We’ve had adventures since then, if not so many; what I lack is the time to share them here. But since I have a spare moment, I’m going to write a few words about our lovely fall weekend.
I love fall so much that I really can’t stop smiling when I’m outside at this time of year! And I’m blessed to live in a part of the country that really knows how to put on a fall colors show. Plus there is always something going on every weekend–multiple things, actually.
The Farmer’s Market will only be happening for a few more weeks, so Emily, Lorelei, and I headed downtown first thing on Saturday. We hadn’t counted on the football game. No, we didn’t get caught in traffic, but the normally free and plentiful downtown parking sported Event Pricing of $20. This being Knoxville, that meant we had to park five whole blocks away and pay the meter about three dollars. On the bright side, it was a beautiful day for a stroll.
We had hot apple cider and pumpkin bread, enjoyed free entertainment provided by the various buskers, and bought eggs, cheese, apples, and some vegetables too. Then we went to the 90th anniversary open house at the Tennessee Theatre.
I first set foot in the Tennessee Theatre in the 1970s, watching Gone with the Wind for the very first time, courtesy of my grandmother. I was so lucky to be introduced to it in exactly the kind of place it was made to be seen! Knoxville’s “Grand Entertainment Palace” narrowly escaped demolition around 1980, and underwent extensive restoration and renovation in 2005. It’s truly a treasure and it was such a treat to get to go backstage to explore the dressing rooms and the green room, to see the Mighty Wurlitzer organ up close, and have time to take all the pictures I wanted.
We dropped off Lorelei to volunteer for Feral Feline Friends of East Tennessee while we had coffee at my sister’s house, then went home and finished off our fall fun by taking the dog to the park.
Sunday morning Lorelei, William, and I went to Mass (John being under the weather). Our parish has a rosary procession at the Catholic Cemetery on the first Sunday of November, and I wanted to go, but since circumstances did not permit, I decided to honor the dead in my own way. After we ran errands and I returned the kids and the groceries to the house, I went off to explore a graveyard a bit closer to home. A reader of one of my other cemetery posts alerted me to the existence of Pleasant Chapel Cemetery.
I will write more about it later after I’ve had a chance to do a little research. It has been way too long since I visited a new graveyard. It was so peaceful there. I wish I could share the smell of the leaves and the dirt and the sounds of chirping insects so you could experience the full atmosphere. Anyway, I was happy to be there and to say a prayer for all the dead, who are unlikely to be Catholic but would surely appreciate the prayers anyway.
Then I came home, made coffee, and sat on the front porch to start reading The Gift of Invitation, which I will be reviewing here this week.
It was a perfect fall weekend, and I am sad to see it end. Now on to Election Day! (Yikes!) How do you like to spend fall weekends?
Y’all, it is HOT. And our access to a swimming pool is gone. It is hard to want to leave the air conditioning to have summer adventures, but we managed three days of fun this week.
I couldn’t get it together till Wednesday, when we had to leave the house for an appointment anyway. Immediately thereafter, we drove downtown to visit Blount Mansion.
I vividly remember my own first encounter with this bit of Tennessee history as part of a seventh grade field trip–I was unimpressed and thought it wasn’t much of a mansion at all! This time I was absolutely enthralled with such details as panes of glass installed in 1792–the first glass windows in town–and still there to be looked through over 200 years later, and the desk on which the Tennessee Constitution was signed, and William Blount’s very own fancy shoe buckles still in their original box.
Our guide did a great job of bringing history to life for us. We spent close to two hours in the museum, the house, and the gardens, and Lorelei was NOT bored which she had come expecting to be.
Thursday we went out for ice cream for the third time this summer. (Did I mention it was hot?) Lorelei and I enjoyed it but William did not like how fast the ice cream melted in the heat (we were very messy by the end!).
Friday was really exciting. Last week William had a follow-up appointment with his oral surgeon in Oak Ridge. There was a traffic jam along our usual route back over the Clinch River to Knoxville, and Siri routed us a way I had never seen before. Along this lovely country road we spied signs for an historic cabin and cemetery, and we passed right by a park. On Friday, I told the kids we were having an adventure and we drove back to explore these places.
We discovered that Bull Run Park has a swimming area and made plans to go back and enjoy it!
Next we headed to the David Hall Cabin, and were conducted on an informative tour of this two-hundred-year old cabin and a couple more by the one of the owners, whose wife’s father was raised in it. The Baumgartners live behind the cabins on four of the original 50 acres. We thanked Mr. Baumgartner for all he and his family continue to do to preserve this history for us to enjoy and learn from!
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is a decently kept cemetery, with a few exceptions. By now I have learned that there are always exceptions.
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.
As I wandered through the cemetery I noted the signs below. I knew there would be a story behind this.
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.
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!
*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.
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.
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.
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.
Daffodils getting ready to bloom on her grave
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Grave of Elizabeth Carrick
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:
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.
This is just a lovely cemetery that anyone with an interest in Knoxville history will enjoy.
So you chose to walk around Mead’s Quarry and took the Tharp Trace Trail starting at the harder end. Don’t feel bad because you are going to come upon a nice place to slow down and catch your breath not far from the end of the trail. Stanton Cemetery is now maintained by Ijams, so not only is it in good shape, the answers to many would-be mysteries, like the one below, are explained on the information sign above.
You can’t tell by looking at my pictures, but these two stones, while side by side as you would expect for a husband and wife, are facing the opposite directions. Mr. and Mrs. Dempsey, therefore, are not really lying next to each other. They sleep separately in death as they did in life, because they were divorced!
The day I visited this cemetery the leaves were just perfect for pictures.
I imagine these folks are the ones whose name the cemetery bears:
There were many sweet and touching baby headstones in here. This hand-lettered one tugged at my heartstrings:
This little girl’s old-fashioned names are back in style today:
From graves marked only with rocks to others with unusual decorations and creative inscriptions, there is a lot of variety here. Notice particularly the name and the date on the stone below–apparently the Simpsons had strong feelings about the coming Civil War.
Something about this place–perhaps the secluded location–gives it an especially peaceful feeling. Luckily, you don’t have to walk the hard part of Tharp Trace to get to it. Mead’s Quarry is a hopping place these days, but you can reach this oasis of calm with only a few minutes’ walk.
Perhaps you’ve wondered how I choose which cemeteries to visit and write about. There isn’t just one answer. Sometimes I choose one that I’ve driven by many times and have always wanted to visit. Sometimes lately I ask my phone for advice on the nearest cemetery! And sometimes I just happen to see one I’ve never seen before and I stop.
That’s what happened a couple of weekends ago, when I was up early on a Saturday taking Lorelei to a Girl Scout event at St. John Neumann School. Driving home, I decided to take the back road, a road (Yarnell) I hadn’t driven in many years, and this little church caught my eye:
And there was a graveyard behind it! I was so excited! I couldn’t stop right then, but I went home to take care of my duties there with plans to return before picking up Lorelei. When I did, I was rewarded with this:
This is truly one of the loveliest, most picturesque, and peaceful graveyards I have encountered. I took over 50 pictures here!
The whole graveyard is bisected by a winding drive, with graves on narrow strips along either side.
The earliest burial in this cemetery was 1866, as far as I can tell–and members of that family (the Marcums) are still being laid to rest here today.
Yes, this is still a very active cemetery, with several burials this century, and flowers on many of the graves.
It’s also a very nicely kept place, with only a couple of exceptions:
Some people might question my fascination with tombstones, saying that our deeds should serve to memorialize us, not monuments erected over our graves. I think that’s why the baby graves are so important–these little ones never had a chance for action. If their parents are gone, these stones may be all that’s left to show they ever existed, that they were important, that they were loved.
Many of these little ones have their death certificates posted on Find-a-Grave, and it’s heartbreaking to read about the ailments that killed children back then.
Like all graveyards, this one has its mysteries, starting with this one:
I figured there must be a good reason for a Jewish couple to be buried in a Christian cemetery, and it didn’t take much research to discover that Mrs. Kraut was born into the Stansberry family, many of whom are buried here.
Another mystery is the pattern of graves in the cemetery. Just behind the church are many older graves, most from the 1940s, and the remains of stone pathways.
As you walk the path away from the church, graves on both sides are much newer looking. But if you walk all the way to the end, the neat layout gives way to scattered 1800s graves, many too old to even read clearly.
Byrd’s Chapel Methodist Church was organized in 1934, so the graves directly behind it make sense. But death records show a cemetery here called Byrd’s as early as 1915. Did this start as a family graveyard that became a community cemetery and only later a church site? I have not been able to find out.
Here are a few final things that caught my attention:
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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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:
Also notable here are ornate stones with long and unusual inscriptions. I wish I had been able to decipher them all.
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.