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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Here’s what it looks like.

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

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

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

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

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For more of my graveyard musings, click here.

 

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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 we visit cemeteries in South Knoxville, Northwest Knox County, and the Great Smoky Mountains.

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Island Home Baptist Church Cemetery

Here we 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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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!

 

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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 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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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:

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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:

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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.

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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.

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Yes, this is still a very active cemetery, with several burials this century, and flowers on many of the graves.

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It’s also a very nicely kept place, with only a couple of exceptions:

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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:

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When you start paying attention, cemeteries start popping up EVERYWHERE.  Seriously, just take one day to pay attention to how many of them you drive by.  You know how it is, when you see something every day you sort of stop seeing it at all.  So last Saturday I decided to visit two cemeteries that I pass on a regular basis.

First stop was Grassy Valley Baptist Church Cemetery, which is located at the church of the same name at the corner of Lovell Road and Kingston Pike.

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This isn’t your secluded, peaceful location, as you see above, though I suppose it was way out in the country when it was founded in the late 1880s.  Here’s the original sign:

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You know what they say about East Tennessee–there’s a church on every corner.  And most of them look more or less like this one:

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This is a nicely kept cemetery, especially given its proximity to a major road and businesses.  It’s trash-free, the grass was mowed, and the broken stones were minimal, although there’s always room for improvement:

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This cemetery is full of Kirbys and Llewellyns.  Wow, there were a lot of them.  Which made sense when I looked it up afterwards and found that the Kirbys donated the land for the cemetery and the Llewellyns donated the land for the church.

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Woody, Gray, and Grady were other common names.  The church was founded in 1880, and I think 1890 was the earliest burial I saw, with the latest being in 2003.  That one was the spouse of someone who had died a long time ago, though.

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I saw no evidence that this is an active cemetery.  Most of the burials took place from the 1890s through the 1940s.  But people are still visiting the graves:

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Every graveyard I’ve visited has baby graves.  Every graveyard is the final resting place for people who lived long and happy lives and people who met with tragic and early ends.  I wonder about the stories behind some of the stones I saw in this one, and feel so bad for parents who lost their children:

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Also notable here are ornate stones with long and unusual inscriptions.  I wish I had been able to decipher them all.

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Grassy Valley Baptist Cemetery is a pleasant and beautiful oasis in the commercialized ugliness of Kingston Pike, a reminder of what this area must have been like in earlier (and not that much earlier) times.

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