Summer Fun: Exploring History

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.
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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!).
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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.
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We discovered that Bull Run Park has a swimming area and made plans to go back and enjoy it!
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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!
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After looking at the cabins, we went back into the woods and explored the Arnold-Hall Cemetery, where David Hall (a Revolutionary War veteran) is buried along with other members of the families.  Y’all may know I love cemeteries, so that was a treat for me and the kids indulged me!
That’s it for this week.  I’ll be honest–I can no longer promise to do something every single day.  But I DO have some plans for next week!
For more summer fun, read on:
Why We Can’t Have a 70s Summer and What We Are Doing Instead
The Summer Fun Continues . . .
More Summer Fun
Summer Fun Update
Summer Fun:  Vacation
That 70s Summer
In Which I Grow Lazy

A Confederate General's Great-great-great-granddaughter Speaks Out

I was eight years old, curled up on the naugahyde sofa in my grandmother’s basement, when I found my great-grandmother’s copy of Gone with the Wind, the commemorative movie edition.   I read it literally to pieces and I can recite the entire first paragraph by heart.
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In grade school I was taught that the Civil War, to my surprise at the time, was NOT inspired primarily by the desire to continue to enslave African-Americans, but by an argument over States’ Rights.
My great-great-great-grandfather was a Confederate brigadier general, and I was raised on family legends of his valor.

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My ggggrandfather Confederate General James D. Hagan, who was born in Ireland.

Up until my house burned down, I owned a small Confederate battle flag, which at one time I displayed along with the flags of the United States, Scotland, and Ireland, a small tribute to my ethnic heritage as I understood it at the time.
This is where I come from.  I am proud to be a Southerner.  In my blog bio, I describe myself first of all as “Catholic and Southern.”  That’s at the core of who I am.
Like many Southerners, particularly those with ancestors who served in the Confederate army, I feel an attachment to statues like the one in Charlottesville.  But the character of those who rallied on Saturday in protest prove that its removal is necessary.  This confederacy of dunces would have been denounced by General Lee, who was not even in favor of secession, and by James Hagan, who was repatriated and worked for the U.S. government for the fifteen years prior to his death.
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My oldest child, Emily, at the grave of her great-great-great-great-grandfather, General James D. Hagan

 
As his descendant, I disavow and repudiate the Unite the Right protesters and anyone who shares their hateful beliefs in the strongest of terms, and I call upon all descendants of Confederate soldiers to join me in condemning them.  They don’t represent the South and we don’t need these modern-day Carpetbaggers to tell us how best to preserve our heritage.
We do no honor to the memory of the Confederate dead by supporting disgusting displays of racism.  I do not judge my ancestors as harshly as some might– they were the product of a different time.  But that time is long past.  If you feel that Robert E. Lee deserves to be honored and remembered for valiantly fighting for what he believed in–his home state of Virginia–then do what he asked after the fighting ended: “Remember, we are all one country now. Dismiss from your mind all sectional feeling, and bring [your children] up to be Americans.
 

Fall Break in Kentucky

Would you believe until last year I had never spent a night in Kentucky?  I’ve driven through it on the way to points North, unsurprisingly, but somehow went almost 50 years without vacationing in a state I can drive to in an hour.
We remedied that last October during Fall Break, a modern invention that did exist when I was a youngster.  It’s a great time to travel and we had an entire week off from school.
First we went to Mammoth Cave.  That’s the longest known cave system in the WORLD, y’all.  And it’s a National Park, which means it’s inexpensive to visit.  And you could easily spend days there.
We stayed in nearby Cave City, which is mostly known as the city near Mammoth Cave, or at least that’s the way it looked from the exit where our hotel was located–a strip of hotels and fast food and touristy things.  But we are adventurers and we found the REAL town and explored it.
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Look at that sweet little main street! We walked up and down looking in windows (everything was closed for the evening, sadly) and seeing what there was to see.
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I didn’t get any pictures but one of the charming things–and to William and Lorelei’s delight–several of the shops had cats in residence, hanging out in the window displays.
At one end of town we found a park with a little Civil War history, and also a tiny IGA at which to buy snacks for our room.
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Of course we didn’t come for Cave City; we came for the CAVE, and we spent two days exploring, which included walking around the grounds, taking in the museum exhibits, and going on cave tours.
Here’s some of what we saw above ground.
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The railroad cars are part of the very interesting history of the cave, its discovery, and early tourism.  Would you believe that part of the cave was used as a tuberculosis hospital for a time in the belief that the air would be good for the lungs?
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Look, y’all! A graveyard! I find them everywhere I go!
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When you visit Mammoth Cave, you should plan ahead, unlike us, and book guided tours in advance.  Some of them were unavailable to us because we did not do that.  Also be aware that some of the tours are quite strenuous, with lots of climbing.  But don’t worry, even with those caveats we found plenty to see.
We went on two cave tours, the first one being to see the first cave to be rediscovered in more-or-less modern times.  Native Americans were using it over 5,000 years ago, and we were able to see some extremely well-preserved artifacts.
Here’s the mouth of the cave, seen from above before we went in and then from below as we climbed the stairs back up.
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It was VERY big and VERY dark in there.  Our guide turned off all the lights so we could see what real dark looks like.  Answer:  like nothing.  Wave your hand in front of your face and you will see NOTHING.  Then he lit one match and it was cool to see how our eyes adjusted to see the entire room with just that tiny amount of light.
He also showed us where saltpeter was mined in the cave during the war of 1812.  Due to conditions in the cave, the site doesn’t look as though it was abandoned 200 years ago but remains well-preserved.  Here is a picture from this area of the cave.
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This was an easy hike just to get a feel for the cave.  The next day we did a more picturesque and much harder hike.  It was kind of bizarre to enter a cave through a door into a hill.
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This cave had more of the formations you’d expect to see if you’ve been in “touristy” caves like Ruby Falls.


Whenever we left a cave we had to go through a process of washing the bottoms of our shoes to prevent the spread of white nose syndrome, which has killed a large portion of the bat population.
There is much more of Mammoth Cave to see, and I would love to go back there someday.
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Our vacation was a two-part affair, with some days planned and some left open.  At our motel we found a brochure for a nearby attraction, and we decided to visit Kentucky Down Under on our way to Louisville.
This was a good choice.  The kids are STILL talking about this place.

Kentucky Down Under is a zoo, but an unusual one.  It’s family-owned, for one thing, and if it’s not obvious from the title, there is a focus on animals from Australia.  But there are other animals here as well, including Great Pyrenees dogs who serve as protectors and roam freely throughout the zoo.
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This was the first animal we saw, just after we left the gift shop.  William was thrilled, because crocodilians are one of his favorite groups of animals.  After we spent some time with him, we hopped into the golf car we’d rented and began to explore.
We got yelled at by talking birds and surreptitiously petted a coati.  Here they are, along with some other animals we saw.

Next we arrived at the more interactive part of the zoo.  We listened to a talk by one of the keepers, and then those of us who wanted to (William) got to pet a snake.

Much more to my liking, we were able to pet some draft horses in their beautiful pasture.  Kentucky is almost as pretty as Tennessee, y’all.

Then we got to watch some sheep-herding in action!
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And finally, the piece de resistance, the part that William is still talking about months later–we got to pet kangaroos! (Also a terrifying emu and some capybaras!)

Seriously, y’all, did you SEE that emu?  Anyway, it was a wonderful experience and I highly recommend this zoo.
Oh, and I almost forgot to include that this zoo has its own cave, Mammoth Onyx Cave, which as far as they know is not linked to the Mammoth Cave system.  It’s not lighted so you get to wear actual head lamps and it was a really pretty cave–with the price of the tour included in zoo admission.
We’d had quite the busy day already as we headed to Louisville, where we were meeting friends and upgrading our lodgings quite a bit by staying in a bed and breakfast called The Inn at Woodhaven.  The four of us stayed in the attic.  Take a look at this place!  These were taken in our attic.
Louisville 21Louisville 19Louisville 18Louisville 17Here are some of the common areas.
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And here are some taken outside.

On our first day in Louisville, we went to another zoo!  We have decided in the past year that we will make it a point to go to the zoo every time we are in a city that has one, since that’s something we all enjoy.
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Now, it would be hard to compete with the peak experience of petting kangaroos! But we did enjoy the Louisville Zoo.  Here are pictures of some of our adventures.







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Louisville seems like an exciting city with a lot of fun places to check out.  Besides the zoo, we also visited downtown to see the Cathedral of the Assumption and to get a bite to eat.
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Louisville 9We didn’t get to spend as much time looking around the Cathedral as we would normally because they were practicing for a wedding and we didn’t want to disturb them.  Here are some pictures of the nifty area of restaurants where we found a place to eat, just around the corner.

I’m telling you about the Kentucky trip a little bit out of order because I want to save the best for last, as it were.  So now I’m going to share about the Lincoln day trip we took.  Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky, so we visited the site of his birthplace and of his boyhood home, as well as a little town with monuments and a museum.
Here are some photos from the home site, which includes a museum and a super-fancy monument that I’ll bet you never knew existed!
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Three miles down the road lies Hodgenville, Kentucky, with its town center dedicated to Lincoln, and housing a very special museum.
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The museum is in a storefront on the square.  The downstairs has several re-creations of scenes from Lincoln’s life.  The place is a delightful jumble of all kinds of artifacts.
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Upstairs there is an entire room of art inspired by Lincoln because the town has been hosting an art contest annually for many years and now there is an amazing array of truly creative pictures.  Here are two of my favorites.
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I like this one for its Christian symbolism.
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This one is amazing.  I don’t know whether you can tell but it’s actually made up of other images of things that were important in Lincoln’s life!
Finally, we made a stop at Lincoln’s boyhood home a short distance away, which would have been the first home he remembered.  There is no museum there, but here are some pictures of the fields where he worked and played.
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We loved the Lincoln portion of our trip and could not believe we had been living so close to this important piece of history for so long without visiting.
Now, finally, I am going to tell you about the other planned event of our trip, the whole reason we came to Louisville at precisely this time of year, the annual Louisville Jack O’Lantern Spectacular.  Y’all, it was indeed spectacular.  I could not stop taking pictures, the best of which I will share below.
There was a jack o’lantern to symbolize each of the 50 states

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as well as ones commemorating people who had died,

showcasing current events and famous people,

and representing films, pop culture, literature, and fictional characters.

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And there were all kinds of more typically carved pumpkins as well.
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We wandered slowly on a trail through the woodsy park marveling at all the wonders we were seeing.  It was a lot to take in and a perfect way to spend an autumn evening.
So that was our trip to Kentucky, and this was a LONG post.  We squeezed a lot of fun into fall break last year, but there is still more to see and do in Louisville, and I wouldn’t mind spending another weekend in that attic!

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.
 

A History-Filled Afternoon at Lebanon in the Fork Presbyterian Cemetery

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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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Book Review and Author Interview: The Order of the Blood by Page Zaplendam

“Sometimes I think, what if I don’t feed

When a vampire’s abilities and defects never fully develop, taking on the head of England’s biggest vampire sect could be a bad idea.

Ever since he was turned, John Grissom, bacteriologist, has worked to find a cure for the disease. A powerful peer of the realm approaches him about research into the immunological properties of vampire blood, but Grissom discovers a far more gruesome scheme at play. He, his newly acquired assistant Henrietta, and the Prussian Van Helsing, a veteran vampire hunter in the employ of the Foreign Service, must seek out the elusive vampire lord before he sets in motion a domino effect leading to Napoleon’s successful arrival on British shores.

I recently was offered the opportunity to read and review Order of the Blood:  The Unofficial Chronicles of John Grissom by Page Zaplendam. (Full disclosure: I received a free copy of the ebook but my opinions are my own.)

Now, y’all know I love to read.  And I have always enjoyed historical romances and fantasy.  This book has both.  Still, I was a little skeptical when I began to read.  After all, there have been a lot of vampire novels written recently.  What more could there be to say?

But John Grissom is not your typical vampire: debonair, bloodthirsty, seductive, and headed straight for hell.  Nor is he a modern vampire: gorgeous, angsty, tortured, all-powerful.  Instead he is a Catholic gentleman of the past (England, 1809), a scientist living with what he believes to be a disease, subsisting on the blood of animals and feverishly researching to find a cure.  Moreover, he still needs his glasses, is not super-strong or super-fast, and has no problem with daylight.

And he isn’t the only unwilling vampire attempting to live a virtuous life–indeed, the opening scene of the novel takes place at a support group meeting for the Afflicted, which will look very familiar to anyone who knows the format of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting! It is there that he first spots Dr. Isherwood and his daughter, Henrietta, who will become his assistant and ally and possibly more than that in the future–I’ve been promised there are sequels on the way!

Besides introducing us to the main characters, including an ancestor of the famous Van Helsing, the novel is full of political intrigue and plotting that Grissom, an unlikely action hero, must attempt to thwart.  Zaplendam knows how to paint a picture of the era–the characters are clearly of their time (while still being relatable) and I loved all the little details such as the use of appropriate slang terms.  You can tell the author did her homework–she didn’t just plop modern characters into an old-fashioned setting.  I also appreciate that Grissom is a moral vampire whose Catholic faith and the state of his soul are important to him

This is a short novel, but every word counts.  A lot happens in this book and I am impressed by Zaplendam’s ability to world-build and create distinct–and likeable–characters with such economy.  I was sorry to see the story end and the first thing I asked the author was if there would be sequels.

I don’t want to spoil the story for you by saying any more.  Instead, I’ll share what I learned from the author herself when I interviewed her after reading the book.

Q: How long have you been writing fiction? Is this your first published work?

A: I have been writing fiction with the intent of becoming an author for at least seven years. It’s been difficult to fit it in when I have so many other time commitments. This is my first published fiction piece, the first of many.

Q: Why have you chosen to use a pen name? 

A: For a variety of reasons, but mainly to protect my family – publishing is so very public – and because I write in multiple genres.  Like other authors, I decided to use a pen name to help with creating and maintaining a specific author identity. Once I publish in a different genre, it will be under a different pen name.

Q: How does your Catholic faith inform your writing?

A: Excellent question. In regard to this book specifically, it always bothered me that in the vampire narrative, there was no exercise of free will. Our faith teaches us that we have free will; we can either cooperate with God’s graces or deny them. But becoming a vampire via the usual method – where one is turned against one’s will – seemed unfair and simplistic. 

Imagine a Catholic man, a hard-working, Mass attending father of a family. Coming home late one night he’s victimized by a vampire – and all of a sudden he’s an evil, murderous vampire? Not only does the individual not will to become a creature of evil, participating in evil, but how many people do we know that are evil for evil’s sake? We are far more complex than that. 

So I wanted to show the struggles that are likely were the vampire narrative actually a possibility. I re-imagined it this way, as a disease, because our faith teaches us that it is an impossibility for anyone, even Satan, to make our moral choices for us. A disease was the most rational explanation for vampirism, in order to explain how an individual could be affected by vampirism without it inhibiting their ability to exercise their free will. 

Ultimately, we must choose the good. Faced with the difficulties of requiring blood to survive, the age old moral question of taking another’s life for the sake of maintaining one’s own life, comes into play. Given the recent revealing videos on Planned Parenthood, I find this question to be especially relevant since it is one of the biggest justifications for abortion (life of the mother).

In the broader sense of how Catholicism informs my writing, I have to say ‘treatment of subject.’ As a Catholic writer, the final outcome of a story must be a moral outcome. Even if the writer is dealing with immoral elements, or temptations to sin, or perhaps even engages in sinful things, or is torn about the immorality of a given situation, the final conclusion, the takeaway as it were, must be reflective of objective morality (which Catholicism has the exclusive right to determine). In that respect, a Catholic writer can never justify premarital sex or divorce in their writing, or write about it in such a way that it would propose an occasion of sin for the reader. At times, it can take delicate handling, more so when using romantic elements. 

Q: What are your literary influences?

A: There are so many, but in particular Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. I don’t know that they have influenced my writing so much as they have influenced me and the things I love (which in turn influence my writing, so I must think there is a correlation there.) One can’t escape modernity though. We are a product of our age. And I really like that we can write things now in ways that would have been considered unacceptable in times past. I can start a sentence with ‘And,’ I can have my characters express what they are really thinking without the imposition of social restraint (as one sees in 19c novels for example). Of course, there is a certain artistry to being able to write within given parameters, no doubt. But I really enjoy being able to write in my own voice, which finds a lot of humor in a realization of the obvious.

Q: Why romance? Why vampires?

A: I was torn about what genre to place this in. Is it a historical? A paranormal? A romance, per se? The romance aspect of it was intended from the outset to be a side story, and I think I accomplished that. What can I say? At heart I am a romantic. I especially love the idea of how complicated life could get for an individual suffering from a disease that might endanger the loved one. There’s a lot of fodder there for conflict and drama, a writer’s dream really. 

And vampires because I haven’t yet come across a vampire narrative that really satisfied me. Vampirism is an extremely old narrative historically, almost medieval, and it was a response to the inability of medieval man to explain certain events. Vampires were among the ‘bogeymen’ of old. As far as folk villains go, a vampire is nearly iconic. As one who really loves folklore and fairy tales, that in itself was enough to intrigue me. 

Q: Vampires are ubiquitous in popular culture.   Is it a fair criticism to say that there’s nothing new to say about them?

A: I’ve often asked myself that same question about fiction as a whole. There are just so many books out there. What new thing could possibly be written? And the truth is, we aren’t writing new things in the sense that we are bringing something new to the table. It’s more like discovering a new facet of the same gem. We are dealing with the same old human nature, but we can arrive at new insights into that nature. That is the artistry of being a writer no matter the genre, no matter the subject matter. And all the more reason for fiction to be written from a Catholic moral perspective. Of anyone, Catholic writers are in the best position to understand the human soul and human nature, because we have the true (Catholic) understanding of it. 

Vampires are ubiquitous, sure, but in so far as a re-imagined vampire narrative can act as a platform for revealing the complexities of what it is to be human, I think there is room for development. 

Q: What about the sexual undertones of vampirism?  (SPOILER) At the same time that John assured Henrietta’s father that nothing happened between them—meaning nothing sexual—I felt that the intimacy of the sharing of blood was akin to the intimacy of a sexual act.  

A: That’s a provocative question (no pun intended), thank you. Part of vampire lore includes the power of the vampire over the victim, his ability to influence his victim and subject him. It is an invasion, not only physically, in the sense that the person is physically subjected against their will, but it is also a psychological invasion. I didn’t want to discount that aspect, but I wanted to be able to explain how it worked to some degree. 

While nothing happens between John and Henrietta that would endanger her physical purity or mental/spiritual innocence, we see a sudden jump in their knowledge of each other. This jump would normally come after greatly increased association with each other (which in turn would typically only occur if they were courting), so it puts an unorthodox (for the time period) sort of intimacy between them that creates tension. Not only do we have a physical attraction there (we are attracted first with our eyes), we also have increased awareness of what makes the other person tick. Evil vampires are going to use this to their advantage. Grissom, as a man of honor, feels like he knows more than he has a right to know.

Q: Some Catholics would opine that to write about vampires is to dabble in the occult.  How would you answer such a criticism? 

A: I think a thing is what it is, only if that is what it is. 

In other words, if something is in se occult, than it can’t be otherwise. If one were to present a Ouija board, something which in se deals with the occult, as possibly not such a bad thing, yes, it would be dabbling in the occult. But I don’t believe vampirism necessarily falls under ‘occult.’. First, because vampires begin as humans. In my book, they retain their humanity. Like I said, the idea that man can lose his free will through no fault of his own is actually against Catholic teaching. The Unofficial Chronicles is a recognition of that by re-imagining vampires as humans with a free will. 

Secondly, would we say that a movie such as the Exorcism of Emily Rose dabbles in the occult? It deals with the demonic, it’s for entertainment. The occult, so far as I understand it, requires a glorification of or at least an impartiality towards the demonic. But treatment of subject. A writer can have a character who is a satanist – as long as that satanism is presented as an evil and that satanist as a sinner. In the Exorcism of Emily Rose the demonic is unquestionably recognized for the evil it is and the possession case is merely the vehicle, the background, to the greater drama of the trial. It is because of that that it is acceptable to Catholics. Juxtapose it against the The Exorcist, which relies on the sensationalizing of a possession case for its entertainment. 

I think those are the major differences between my novel and many of the vampire novels that are out there. In my novel, vampirism is not in se part of the occult, but a disease which does not in se produce a demoniac, and it’s the vehicle by which the greater story is revealed. 

Q: What’s next for John Grissom? 

A: Like the first book, book 2 has mystery, suspense, and bit of romantic drama. We see him using his defects as strengths and discovering new things about himself. I decided to go North into Derbyshire, for several reasons, one among them being that that’s where Pemberley is and I wanted to give a nod to Pride and Prejudice, one of my favorite books since I was a teenager. But the thing I am most stoked about is the new paranormal threat Grissom will be dealing with. It’s very exciting. And a shade gruesome, like book 1.

Page Zaplendam is the pen name of a writer of speculative and fantasy fiction. Page does not believe in vampires, or that the world will end in the immediate future. Then again, truth is always stranger than fiction.

To learn more about Page and her writing, check out the links below:

Website: www.pagezaplendam.com Facebook: www.facebook.com/pagezaplendam

And I encourage you to purchase the ebook!

Either here: Buy Order of the Blood (ebook) or Paperback from Amazon

Or here:  Buy Order of the Blood from Smashwords

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nablopomo

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

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!