A 400 Million Year Old Cemetery

What constitutes a cemetery? Do you ever think about the idea of a burying ground that transcends the strict and cultural definition of a traditional cemetery?

A 400 Million Year Old Cemetery?

What constitutes a cemetery? I understand there are legal classifications and procedural definitions. But, do you ever think about the idea of a burying ground that transcends the strict and cultural idea of a traditional cemetery?

Is a pet cemetery actually a cemetery? If humans designate land where they bury their pets, it certainly fits my definition of a cemetery. Is human interaction needed for it to be considered a cemetery? I’ve read about elderly elephants who are aware they are going to die. They migrate to ancient elephant graveyards where their relatives come to mourn their passing. There are no humans to designate this as a cemetery…but the elephants think it’s one. What about pre-historic graveyards; the final resting places of beings that lived millions of years ago? Is it unreasonable to stretch our imaginations by exploring the far reaches of what, actually, constitutes a cemetery?

Sometimes, I enjoy contemplating the actual definition of a cemetery. One of these internal contemplations happened on a trip to explore Cowan Cemetery.

Cowan Cemetery

I recently took a trip to Meigs County, Tennessee to visit Cowan Cemetery. This cemetery dates back to the 1850’s as a cemetery for Cowan family members. There are many fieldstones here denoting unnamed gravesites. A few of the fieldstone markers are hewn into triangular shapes. Though not perfectly angled, they remind me of endstones from tent gravesites found in some Tennessee cemeteries and other cemeteries in the southeast. One grave marker displays fantastic “Hand of God” symbology. The hand, clutching lilies and roses, is downward facing with an outstretched pointing index finger.

Cowan Cemetery is a short paddle away from an area known as Rattlesnake Point. Rattlesnake Point is where my Father’s family used to hold their yearly family reunions on the banks of the Hiwassee River. The Hiwassee River is a tributary of the Tennessee River. Its unique geology makes for joyful fossil hunting. I spent those family reunions searching for fossils on the banks of the Hiwassee river. I clearly remember the first time I found a fossil. Though my family wasn’t at all interested in my explorations, I fantasized that I would be recognized as a great dinosaur fossil hunter by the scientific community.

Fossilized Rock

In reality, the fossil I found wasn’t from the Dinosaur era. Instead, it was filled with Brachiopod fossils from the Devonian period. This geological period dates back 400 million years; long before Dinosaurs appeared on earth.

I often think back to my first fossil find and its influence on my interest in cemeteries. When you think about it, that rock is similar to a cemetery in that it is the final resting place for hundreds of beings. It’s kind of like a cemetery; a 400 million year old Brachiopod cemetery.

Little White Church Cemetery – Jasper, Tennessee

cemetery_signLittle White Church Cemetery Sign

Research of one cemetery leads to questions about another cemetery.

While visiting the Jasper, Tennessee library to research my Submerged Cemetery Documentary, I found Little White Church Cemetery just across the parking lot.

It was a sweltering July afternoon and I almost opted for my car’s welcoming air conditioning instead of trudging across the asphalt to view the grave plots.  As is normally the case when I think I won’t find anything interesting, I found a cemetery full of grave sites encompassed by 18″ to 24″ concrete walls.

I’m sure I’ve seen this type of design before.  However, I’m confused of its purpose and functionality.  Is the high wall design intended to keep people and grazing animals from walking on the grave?  Do the walls prevent potential erosion problems?  

This cemetery is well maintained.  The grass was long on the day of my visit.  However, it is certainly being cut on a regular basis.  Do these walls inhibit proper mowing maintenance?  It takes a lot of work to mow grass in a cemetery.  I imagine the lawn mowing guys either use a weedeater inside the grave enclosure or lift a small push lawn mower over the walls to perform their mowing.  I do wonder if small animals (including snakes) accidentally fall inside the cordoned off perimeter and find themselves unable to escape.

Despite the heat of this blazing hot late July afternoon, the trip to Little White Church Cemetery sparked a curiosity about these grave walls. 

If any of my readers know the purpose or history of these grave plot walls, please leave a comment below or send me a private message.

Little White Church Cemetery – Blansett
Little White Church Cemetery – Child’s Gravesite
Little White Church Cemetery – Concrete Wall
Little White Church Cemetery – Enclosed Gravesite
Little White Church Cemetery – Family Plot
Little White Church Cemetery – Georgia Watkins
Little White Church Cemetery Grounds
 
Little White Church Cemetery
gravestone_little_white_church_cemetery
Little White Church Gravestone

The Submerged Cemetery at Mullins Cove

The Submerged Cemetery at Mullins Cove
commonly referred to as: Long Cemetery #2

 

 

gravestones underwater
The Submerged Cemetery at Mullins Cove

 

By 1807, Henry Long was living in Jonesborough, Tennessee after moving from Virginia.  But, Henry wasn’t satisfied living in Jonesborough. His sights were set deeper into this newly formed state.  Tennessee had been admitted into the Union only 11 years earlier.  Opportunities here were plentiful.

Henry Moves to Mullins Cove

Henry, along with two companions, boarded a crudely designed raft. They were swept past the confluence of the Holston River and French Broad River.  These two rivers form the headwaters of the Tennessee River. Of course, back in those days the river was still known by such names as The Hogoheegee and The Great River of the Cherokee.

confluenceConfluence of the Holston and French Broad Rivers

This was an unmanaged river. There were no dams back then to stem its flow. The river flooded with spring rains and nearly dried up with summer droughts.  Henry navigated his craft downstream past Knoxville and Chattanooga. Chattanooga was a Cherokee trading outpost at the time.

Henry initially settled in the Sequatchie Valley where he operated a successful Livestock Trading Business.

Mullins Cove – Marion County, Tennessee

By 1811, Henry and his new bride Zilpha moved to an area of Marion County known as Mullins Cove where they acquired 2000 acres.  From the tall mountaintops down through the fertile bottom land they hacked their way through thick canebrake that inundated their land.  Here, they successfully raised a family and continued with their stock trading operations.

mullins_coveMullins Cove (in the distance) from the Tennessee River

Zilpha Buried in a Cemetery on Dry Land

Zilpha passed away in 1860. She was buried in a small cemetery on their land. This cemetery was on a slight hillrise about 1/4 mile from river’s edge.  Henry died in 1875.  He was buried alongside Zilpha. As generations came and went, some of their descendants were buried there, too.   For example, Henry and Zilpha’s great grandson Moses Merritt Long was buried in the cemetery in 1881 after dying at only 3 months of age.

The land stayed in the family but big changes were coming to this area. There was a need for improved river navigation. There was also a need for electricity for the burgeoning population of Euro-Americans who were streaming into the area.

Hales Bar Dam on the Tennessee River

By 1905, Chattanooga businessman and engineer Josephus Guild had begun construction of the first multi-purpose hydroelectric dam built across a navigable waterway by private industry.  His company, The Chattanooga and Tennessee River Power Company devised this dam for a two-fold purpose.  The dam would improve river navigation along a treacherous stretch of river known as the Tennessee River Gorge and it would also provide electric power to the burgeoning population of Chattanooga, Tennessee.  This dam was located across Hales Bar; about 5 miles downstream of the cemetery.

A Cemetery Underwater

By 1913 Hales Bar Dam opened for operations.  The lake level behind the dam rose to 626.2 feet MSL (above Mean Sea Level).  By the 1920s, The Chattanooga and Tennessee River Power Company had merged with several other companies to form a new company called Tennessee Electric Power Company (TEPCO).  TEPCO desired to increase the operating capacity of Hales Bar Dam by fastening flashboards across the crest of the dam.  These flashboards raised water levels in the upstream lake by an additional 3 feet to 629 feet MSL.

hales_bar_damHales Bar Dam Powerhouse

It is unclear whether lake waters were lapping at the cemetery’s perimeter at this time or if the cemetery was already completely under water by the 1920s.

As it stands today, the ground surface of the cemetery appears to be approximately 631′ MSL.  However, mechanical action of river currents cause silt to move from upstream locations toward downstream locations where natural collection occurs.  The damming of the river caused this silt to collect in such areas as Mullins Cove.  Considerable silting has taken place over the decades.  Because silting raises ground levels, it is entirely possible the cemetery’s elevation was lower in the 1920s than it is today. This means the cemetery might have already been flooded in the 1920s after the lake level was raised to 629′ MSL.

Tennessee Valley Authority – Hales Bar Dam

In 1933, The Tennessee Valley Authority came into existence.  Plans were quickly devised to acquire Hales Bar Dam.  By 1939, after that transaction was complete, TVA owned and operated the dam.  

TVA had bigger plans for Hales Bar Dam.  As part of TVA’s mission to further improve navigation along the Tennessee river, TVA sought to deepen the navigation channel between Hales Bar Dam and the newly built Chickamauga Dam 33 miles up stream.  Prior to 1946, the minimum depth of water upstream to Chickamauga Dam was 6′.  However, a 9′ minimum depth was required for large steamers and barges operating in the area.  Between 1946 and 1949, TVA increased Hales Bar Dam’s operating pool.  Lake levels were raised by an additional 5 3/4′ allowing for improved navigational depths all the way upriver to the foot of Chickamauga dam.

underwater cemeteryThe Submerged Cemetery at Mullins Cove

With the raising of lake levels an additional 5 3/4′ to approximately 634′ MSL, the cemetery was most certainly underwater by 1949 even if it hadn’t been underwater beforehand.

Cemetery Relocation Strategy

TVA has a structured cemetery removal procedure.  When TVA builds a dam, they perform an environmental impact study.  One component of this study is a search for cemeteries in affected areas.  If a new dam is to cause a cemetery’s flooding, TVA will seek family consideration as to whether or not the cemetery or individual grave sites will be moved to an appropriate location.  If family members of those buried in the affected cemetery wave the right to have the grave sites moved, TVA respects the family’s wishes.  If family agrees to a removal, TVA develops a plan for a respectful relocation of affected grave sites.  In fact, TVA has relocated grave sites from more than 550 cemeteries within their river system since their inception in 1933.

TVATVA offices in Chattanooga, Tennessee

However, the submerged cemetery at Mullins Cove is a special case.
According to TVA officials, this cemetery was flooded prior to TVA’s involvement with Hales Bar Dam.  Because of this, TVA seems to defer to perceived prior agreements that family members would have made with TEPCO.

Superseding the already mentioned reasons why the grave sites were not moved, there is evidence of a 1944 agreement with Long Family descendants.  This agreement supposedly provides that the grave sites should remain in place.  (I have not, yet, acquired an actual copy of this agreement.  I will update this information should I acquire this agreement.)

Hales Bar Dam Failure

When the Chattanooga and Tennessee River Power Company drew up plans to build Hales Bar Dam, they performed many topographical studies.  However, significant geological studies were not performed.  If current geological models had been available in 1905, engineers would have realized Hales Bar contains a bedrock of Mississipian Age Bangor Limestone.  This particular type of Limestone is very susceptible to water erosion and development of subterranean karst formations.  The karst formations in the area of Hales Bar form a fractured, cavernous system on and below the riverbed.  Hales Bar Dam was built on a faulty foundation.  On the very day after Hales Bar Dam filed it reservoir, engineers noticed water bubbling downstream of the dam.  The dam was leaking due to the fractured bedrock.

limestoneLimestone Was Hales Bar Dam’s Undoing

This leakage was a known problem at the time of the dam’s acquisition by TVA.  However, TVA thought they had a solution.  Pumping grout into the internal structure of the bedrock would surely plug all the holes and prevent further leakage.  Although this repair held, initially, leaks soon returned.  At its worst, water was flooding under the dam at a rate of 2000 cu. ft./second.  The loss of water was so great that the dam had trouble generating electric power because there was not enough overspill to turn the turbines.

Nickajack Dam Replaces Hales Bar Dam

TVA worked for two decades to repair this problem.  By the 1960s, TVA deemed the dam economically unviable.  TVA proposed a plan to build a replacement dam 6 miles down river in a more geologically hospitable segment of the Tennessee River.  This dam is called Nickajack Dam. 

Nickajack dam opened in 1967 and remains in operation today.  By September 1968, Hales Bar Dam was dismantled allowing for free river navigation across Hales Bar.  Nickajack Dam maintains lake levels at approximately 633 feet MSL give or take a foot or two on a daily basis.
Therefore, the cemetery is at, or very near, surface level year-round.

Although the dam at Hales Bar is no longer in existence, a section of the old lock system and remnants of the powerhouse are still visible.

Zilpha’s Gravestone in Mullins Cove Cemetery

When I began researching the cemetery at Mullins Cove, I found news articles claiming Henry, Sarah, and their child Moses were buried there. However, this just did not check out with my genealogical research.
Although there was a Sarah on the family tree, it did not make sense that Henry would be buried right next to Sarah who was his daughter-in-law.
Initially, I was confused that Henry would be buried next to his daughter-in-law.  As I continued to study the gravestones, I discovered that it was not Sarah buried here but was, in fact, Zilpha.  The news articles I had read (and still continue to find) made a mistake about this grave site and gravestone.

Zilpha LongThe Submerged Cemetery at Mullins Cove

The years have not been kind to Zilpha’s gravestone. It is almost illegible even in the best of visibility and at times of low lake levels.  It is especially difficult to read when the sun is overhead.  Many of my first visits to the cemetery were during morning or afternoon hours.  However, during these visits, I could never get a truly good read of the inscriptions on the three gravestones.  Lighting makes a huge difference in my ability to read a gravestone.  So, during late summer of last year, I began visiting the gravestone during the evening hours when the sun was setting just behind Stoker Ridge in an area of the Tennessee River known as Bennett Lake.

sunsetThe setting sun helps me read gravestone inscriptions

Now, I need to sidetrack for just a moment to make a point of interest.  I normally try to start my day early and visit cemeteries in the morning hours.  This time-of-day gives me the best chance of reading inscriptions.  A tradition in Upland South cemeteries is that gravestones often face east.  Therefore, the rising sun illuminates inscriptions of gravestones.  Early morning light makes them easier to read.  However, the gravestones in the Mullins Cove cemetery face west.

TVA Fixes Headstones and Protects Long Cemetery

I have no documentation on the original orientation of the gravestones.  However, in 1999, in a response to public outcry, TVA righted the gravestones at the same time they built a protective fence of riprap around the perimeter of the cemetery.  The gravestones had been tilted for years. Whether or not the gravestones originally faced east is unknown. However, when the gravestones were righted, they were placed facing west.  Now, personally, I like the fact that they are facing west.  High hilltops rise directly east of the cemetery’s location.  Therefore, the face of the early morning rising sun never truly illuminates the gravestones.   However, by late summer, when the sun is beginning to move southward on the horizon, its angle as it sets over Stoker Ridge is low enough that the face of the gravestones are aglow with deeply rich September sunsets.

September’s setting sun allows for better reading of all three gravestones.  When I began scrutinizing their inscriptions, I slowly realized news accounts of Sarah’s burial here are inaccurate.  Zilpha is buried here, not Sarah.  There is a curious thing about Zilpha’s gravestone.  Zilpha spelled her name ZILPHA.  However, the last two letters in Zilpha’s name are transposed AH instead of HA.  Since the gravestone is difficult to read, a cursory glance at the last two letters could lead someone to believe that SarAH is buried here.  I surmise that someone misidentified the gravestone years ago.  Now, when a news agency reports on this cemetery, the misinformation is regurgitated.  

After intensive study with many different angles of sunlight and many levels of lake water, I have been able to determine the writings are as follows:

ZILPAH [sic]
wife of
HENRY LONG
BORN
Sep 22 1792
DIED
Oct 04 1860

HENRY LONG
BORN
May 16, 1782
DIED
SEPT. 16 1875

Moses M.
Long
1880 – 1881

According to my genealogical research, Moses Merritt Long is very clearly Henry and Zilpha’s Great Grandson, not Henry and Sarah’s child as some news agencies have reported.  Since Moses is buried here, I have often wondered if his parents are also buried beneath the water’s surface.

Aerial Cemetery Photography

Using an aerial videography platform, I have surveyed the entire lake bed in the area of the cemetery looking for other grave sites. Even when lake levels are at their lowest, there are no other apparent submerged grave sites.  However, during one of my early scans, I found another cemetery several hundred yards away in a wooded plot on dry land.  After paddling to this cemetery, I found many Long family descendants including Moses’ father, James Long.  However, there is no sign of Moses Mother, Rhoda Emma Greer Long.

The Submerged Cemetery at Mullins Cove

Rhoda Greer Long gave birth to Moses Merritt Long in November 1880. She named him after her father Moses Greer.  Moses Merritt died 3 months later in 1881.  After Rhoda’s husband, James, died in 1907, she moved away from Mullins Cove and lived her remaining years in Chattanooga where she died in 1936.

Rhoda Long and Moses Long – A Re-connection

Think about what was happening in 1936 in the area of the Mullins Cove Cemetery.  The waters had already risen and were already lapping at the perimeter of the cemetery making it difficult, if not impossible, for Rhoda to visit her son’s grave site.  When I thought about that, it made me sad. So, I to took flowers to Rhoda’s grave site in Chattanooga in memory of her son Moses Merritt Long.

Now, I know this probably sounds a little bit crazy, but when I was visiting Rhoda’s grave site, I had this feeling deep within me.  I don’t know how to describe it but it was almost as if Rhoda and Moses were aware that I had visited each other’s grave sites and they were, somehow, appreciative of the re-connection.

the_cemetery_detectiveThe Submerged Cemetery at Mullins Cove

 

Timeline:
1782 Henry Long born
1792 Zilpha Long born
1807 Henry Long moves from Jonesborough
1808 Henry Marries Zilpha
1811  Henry Long moves to Mullins Cove
1855  James Long (Henry’s Grandson, Moses’ Father) born
1855  Rhoda Long born
1860  Zilpha Long dies
1875  Henry Long dies
1875  James Marries Rhoda
1880  Moses Merritt Long born
1881  Moses Merritt Long dies
1905  Construction begins on Hales Bar Dam
1907  James Long dies
1913  Hales Bar Dam completed
1920s  Flashboards raise lake levels to 629′ MSL
1933  TVA formed
1936  Rhoda dies
1939  TVA acquires Hales Bar Dam
1940  Chickamauga Dam completed
1949  TVA raises lake levels by 5 3/4 feet
1967  Nickajack Dam completed
1968  Hales Bar Dam deconstructed
1999  TVA rights gravestones and builds perimeter of riprap
2014  Keith Harper discovers and becomes fascinated with The Submerged Cemetery at Mullins Cove.

*References and Supporting Documents are Forthcoming.  

 

Fryar Cemetery – Wauhatchie Tennessee

Fryar Cemetery in Wauhatchie Tennessee is on land steeped in Civil War history.

Fryar Cemetery GravestonesFryar Cemetery is in an area steeped in Civil War history.  Especially notable is The Battle of Wauhatchie.

I have passed the monument hundreds of times.  On my way into Chattanooga on trips from Nashville and Huntsville and from anywhere west of the city, I spy it within my peripheral vision just off the Tiftonia exit several miles prior to the end of Interstate 24.

A Civil War Monument

A large diameter sphere sits atop a column largely obscured by Tennessee’s unofficial “weed”, the Mimosa tree.  Once off the interstate, other distractions obscure my view of the monument.  The Golden Arches of McDonald’s and a smiling Hardee’s star rise above all local remembrances of the Civil War.  In fact, when I see all the fast food restaurants, I chuckle (ironically) at the thought of what went on here in late October 1863.  

Von Steinwehr Monument
Von Steinwehr Monument

The Battle Of Wauhatchie

During the Battle Of Wauhatchi, Union supply lines were a prime target for Confederate troops.  Starving the invading northern soldiers would force their retreat.  At least, that’s what Confederate General Braxton Bragg anticipated.  However, the fight, decided in large part by the actions of Brig. Gen. Adolph von Steinwehr, opened the Cracker Line.  The Cracker Line allowed supplies to reach Union troops.  This newly acquired availability of supplies fueled their Battle for Chattanooga in November of that same year.  It was to his cunning in battle that the Von Steinwehr Monument was dedicated.   The monument, dedicated to a man who fought a battle to ensure his troops would not starve, now stands amongst a collection of fast food signs.  I mean no disrespect when I point out the irony.

I reached the Von Steinwehr Monument by pulling onto Parker Lane in between the aforementioned McDonald’s and a Quality Inn.  The lane is blocked after a 1/4 mile.  However, I parked and walked the rest of the way via a graveled road.

Civil War era tunnel
On the road to Fryar Cemetery

The Road To Fryar Cemetery

After viewing the monument, I continued along the gravel road.  Imagining the history and the battle which took place in these hills, I was sure there must be a Civil War burial ground nestled somewhere on this wooded land.

The constant roar of 18-wheelers and the deafening rumble of a nearby freight locomotive detracted from my harkening to an earlier time when gunshots and canon fire would have been equally as loud.  The gravel roadway stretched onward through a tunnel beneath the railway and alongside a meandering creek.  

No Civil War burial ground was to be found.

The easy downward slope of the road came to an end at the beginning of a steep incline cresting at the top of the hill.  Vegetation gave way to a chain link fence and within its confines I noticed the familiar shapes of tombstones in an upland south cemetery.  In this case, Fryar Cemetery.

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Notable Burials

Fryar Cemetery is denoted by several of its earliest burials from 1855.  The Fryar family name is inscribed on many gravestones here.  The Hixson (in some cases “Hixon”) families also represent early burials.

One of the most notable burials is that of Wauhatchie Bill.  William Fryar (“Wauhatchie Bill”) is famous for wearing a Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen pin on his lapel.  This angered the railway union greatly.  Bill was arrested for wearing the pin since he was not an accepted member of the Brotherhood.  Seeing his misdeed, he agreed to remove the pin and was fined $10 for the misdemeanor.  

This land is now within the boundaries of Reflection Riding; a protected area.  The land is well kept and pleasant to explore although it does not appear to be currently active.  The most recent burial was in 1984.

"Fryar

"Isaac

"Jeremiah

McDonough - Fryar Cemetery

Watkins - Fryar Cemetery


Ingobo Hixson - Fryar Cemetery

Eller Grave Marker - Fryar Cemetery

 

 

Video of Kings Point Cemetery – Chattanooga Tennessee

Kings Point Cemetery is one of the more fascinating cemeteries I’ve researched thus far in 2017.  
The Kings Point article is posted here:  Kings Point Cemetery  
However, this cemetery warrants further examination.  I developed a video to bring a visual aspect to the written article.  I hope you enjoy.

 

Tall Hill Cemetery – Hixson, Tennessee

 

Tall Hill CemeteryTall Hill Cemetery in Hixson, Tennessee is on a wooded, neglected plot in the middle of an area experiencing tremendous change.

I like to think that I embrace change. Change is good. Change is necessary to keep things moving and keep life exciting. But when it comes to our communities and our ways of life and the historical significance of our neighborhood cemeteries, I’m a bit nostalgic. Sometimes change can overstep its bounds.

Tall Hill Cemetery

 

The Area Around Tall Hill Cemetery – Out With The Old

Surrounding Tall Hill Cemetery is a dated subdivision with houses built in the 1970s. Homeowners take pride in their subdivision, as they have for generations. However, big changes are coming to this community. This once sleepy area near Chattanooga Tennessee has fallen into the sights of major development companies. The subdivisions of the 1970s, like the one in the neighborhood of Tall Hill, are out of fashion these days. Newer, bigger design strategies call for the leveling of all that is old. With real-estate signs popping up along the roadside of Highway 153 like the red carpet being rolled out for Agamemnon, it won’t be long until the secluded nature of this immediate area experiences a demise from the pride that comes from soaring real estate prices.

Tall Hill CemeteryIn fact, that change has already affected the land immediately across Hwy 153. Hills and farm houses which once inhabited Grubb Road were razed in the early 2000s. Roads, a farm, and a way of life for many people disappeared to make way for a sports store and a sprawling black-topped parking lot. A few hundred yards away, bulldozers were quite during my visit but I could readily see barren land that was once a wooded hillside only a few weeks ago. As I drove to Tall Hill, my map showed the cut-through of a small country lane shaded by old growth trees but, alas, that lane was bulldozed away, along with a natural hillside, to make way for retail space.

Tall Hill Cemetery – Succumbing To Change?

Tall Hill CemeteryTall Hill Cemetery is one of those cemeteries at highest risk for being wrongfully impacted by construction efforts. Tall Hill is long forgotten and neglected. Many relatives of those buried here have moved away or passed-away themselves. Save for a roughly maintained pathway into the heavily overgrown burial ground, there would be no visual indication of anything other than a wooded lot. Someone in the area keeps the narrow pathway cleared to several grave sites. However, vegetation and fallen trees have obliterated many of the gravestones in the innermost sections. Beneath the overgrowth, I scrambled in a crouched posture to view the few remaining gravestones and the myriad sunken grave sites. I wonder what has happened to the gravestones that were once placed atop these now vacant graves.

The earliest grave marker I found had a DOD of 1910. The remaining readable gravestones spanned years up to and including the 1970s.

Cemeteries Need Protection

As I drove away, passed the real-estate signs advertising high-end development projects, I fantasized about the property development companies in the immediate area devoting some of their resources to protecting and rehabilitating Tall Hill Cemetery.

 

 

Yes, change is good. And so is protecting the historical significance of our long forgotten neighborhood cemeteries.

 

 

Tall Hill Cemetery

 

Tall Hill Cemetery

Tall Hill Cemetery

Tall Hill Cemetery

Tall Hill Cemetery

 

Kings Point Cemetery – Chattanooga, Tennessee

Kings Point Cemetery - Service Road

Kings Point Cemetery – Abandoned, Neglected, but not Forgotten

The sign on a rusty locked barricade warns of penalties for willful destruction or removal of U.S. Government property but “No Tresspassing” signs are not to be found. This service road does not appear on roadway maps. Conversely, the documented road (Pine Street) located 1/4 mile away from this location still exists on maps but no longer exists in reality.

Why has Pine Street, the main road leading into Kings Point Cemetery, vanished from reality? And, why has Kings Point Cemetery fallen into such a state of abandonment?

Kings Point Cemetery in Hamilton County, Tennessee dates back to 1830

A once prestigious cemetery containing notable figures in Chattanooga’s history, Kings Point Cemetery dates back to the mid 1800’s with some of the earliest burials from the Silvey family. As such; some local historians refer to the burial ground as Silvey Cemetery. It is on land now owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

TVA first became prominent in this immediate area in the 1930s when Chickamauga Dam was built on the Tennessee River 6 miles upriver of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Kings Point’s setting is high atop a hill overlooking Chickamauga Dam. The cemetery’s perch saved it from the fate of many other cemeteries in the area flooded by rising waters of the Tennessee River. Once the hydroelectric dam was completed in 1940, rising lake levels caused the relocation of 24 cemeteries. To TVA’s credit, the Governmental Agency prides itself on being sensitive to cultural issues such as the impact from their operations on area cemeteries.

3_graves

In fact, TVA has responsibly moved more than 550 cemeteries, in total, within its jurisdictional boundaries.

Their efforts of building the dam required TVA to purchase much of the surrounding land. Kings Point was acquired in the 1930s and officially closed in 1938. According to a gravemarker survey performed in 1941, the last known burial was in 1933.

When Pine Street was placed into disuse, clear access into Kings Point Cemetery was no longer available.
kings_point_cemetery

Kingspoint Cemetery has since fallen into complete disrepair. With scores of sunken gravesites, toppled tombstones, and a collapsed mausoleum, extreme caution must be heeded by visitors. A thick carpet of Periwinkle obfuscates landscape contours. Voids and obstructions are not readily apparent.

sunken_grave

Of the few epitaphs which can be read, interesting stories emerge. A stark example is that of Sam Cleage Lumpkin who was “Murdered Over a Dog Fight.”

Notable Burials

The most notable burials in Kings Point are those of the Woodward Family.

In today’s world of instant sharing of selfie pics via Facebook and Instagram, we can only imagine piling the entire family into a horse-drawn wagon for a day-long outing to have a professional photographer shoot a group picture. However, in February 1897, 10 members of the Woodward family excitedly took a family excursion. They loaded 10 family members into a wagon pulled by the family’s two horses on their way to Chattanooga for a family photograph.

At the railroad tracks near Orchard Knob Avenue, the whistles and bells of an oncoming passenger train went unheeded by the wagon driver. 24 year old George T. Woodward encouraged his horses across the tracks but not before Southern Railway Engine No. 846 barrelled into them. Bodies of the family were, reportedly, thrown as high as telegraph wires. The sole surviving family member, 3 year old Vergie Woodward, was discovered unhurt on the engine that pulled the train. The next day’s newspaper headlines read: “NINE MEMBERS OF ONE FAMILY HURLED INTO ETERNITY.”

All 9 family members killed by the tragedy are buried in Kings Point.

Can you imagine the sadness which surrounded these gravesites on this hallowed ground 120 years ago?

With the proven cultural sensitivity TVA has provided cemeteries in the past, it seems responsible to reopen Pine Street allowing free access and rehabilitation efforts to take place at Kings Point Cemetery.


fenced_cemetery_plot

As with many abandoned cemeteries I visit, Kings Point is not included in Google Maps. I’ve suggested it to their database administrators in hopes it will be added soon. That said, the location map is included below. The cemetery is located on the map at the end of Pine Street which juts off Hwy 58.

Shaw Cemetery – Red Bank, Tennessee

Red Bank Cemetery

Shaw Cemetery AKA Red Bank Cemetery

It’s a familiar scenario. I’m driving on a road I’ve driven a hundred times before. All of a sudden, I look up and notice gravestones on a hillside. Thus is the tale of how I found this cemetery in Red Bank, Tennessee.

Cemetery Obscured By Trees

Just past Hardee’s on Morrison Springs Road heading into Red Bank, Tennessee, a small grove of trees covers a hillside behind a rental house. The property owner recently cleared scrub brush from the hillside to increase visibility around a difficult intersection. I’ve driven this road dozens of times but I’ve never known there to be a cemetery anywhere near here.

Loaded into my Garmin Nuvi GPS is a database of over 150,000 cemeteries. I use this as a backup to Google Maps and Billion Graves.  This GPS file helps me locate cemeteries. Although I’ve used this system to find hundreds of cemeteries all across the United States, I’ve never known about a cemetery in this area. However, with the scrub brush cut away, I caught a glimpse of a tombstone atop the hillside. I was so unaccustomed to seeing tombstones on this stretch of land that the vision through my eyes didn’t register in my brain until I almost reached the intersection at Dayton Boulevard. “HEY!!! There’s a cemetery up there.” Spinning around, I took a right on Oakland Terrace and then a 180° left onto a small side street. There, between and behind two residences is Red Bank Cemetery (the sign says “Shaw Cemetary[sic]”).

Red Bank Cemetery (Or Is It Shaw?)

The grave sites in Red Bank Cemetery date back as early as the late 1800s though the majority are from the mid 1900s. A survey of recorded grave markers can be found on the Hamilton County Genealogical Site Red Bank is a small enclave city completely surrounded by Chattanooga, Tennessee. Being so close to Chattanooga and the Civil War battles fought in the surrounding areas, I expected to see significant markers with names of civil war veterans. However, mentions of soldiers from the Civil War were difficult to find.

The cemetery is well maintained and is apparently still in somewhat modern use with the most recent marker reading a DOD 1997.

Whether it’s known as Shaw Cemetery or Red Bank Cemetery, I’m glad the property owner cleared away the trees giving greater visibility to this grave yard.

Red Bank Cemetery

gravestones in red_bank cemetery

Tilted Gravestone

As mentioned above, Red Bank Cemetery is not listed in the Google Maps database. As of the writing of this blog post (January 2017) I’ve submitted the location to Google and I hope it will be added soon.

Celestial Alignment Behind a 100 Year Old Gravestone

Celestial alignment behind a 100 year old gravestone.

I blithely strolled through this cemetery when I first discovered this celestial alignment.
With sun setting low on horizon this chilly autumn evening,
I was in the right place at the right time just as it kissed the horizon.
A lone sunbeam glinted perfectly through the little boy’s outstretched hand.

Osage Orange (Hedge Apples) as a Cemetery Fence Row

Osage Orange trees used as a fence row in Forest Hills Cemetery Chattanooga, Tennessee

In addition to great sunrises and cooler weather this time of year, I always enjoy finding Osage Orange fruit during early morning autumn walks in my local cemeteries.

Osage Orange Fruit Signifies The Coming Of Autumn

Osage Orange (Maclura Pomifera) were used for generations by Native Americans – particularly the people of the Osage Nation. Workers crafted bows and other weaponry from its sturdy yet flexible wood.

Osage Orange trees tend to grow in dense proximity to one another. Because of this, they are often used as a natural wind break. In the 1930’s 100’s of millions of Osage Orange trees were planted in the plain states to help guard against wind driven soil erosion during the dust bowl years. This resulted in large-scale distribution of the tree.

Cemeteries Use Osage Orange Trees

Because of its widespread use, public entities, such as cemeteries, used the tree as a means of inexpensive, natural perimeter fencing.

The fruit exudes a sticky white latexy substance that was used in olden times as a natural insect repellant. The fruit’s outside has a wrinkly, craggy appearance.

I am always interested in looking for Fibonacci sequences when I’m observing trees and their fruits out in nature but no discernible Fibonacci sequence is readily apparent on the Osage Orange fruit.

Although not as widely used, now, as it was in the early to mid 1900’s, Osage Orange trees are still very commonly found.

As you can see here, I found quite a few specimens strewn freely on the ground of Forest Hills Cemetery in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Osage Orange Trees in Cemeteries

References:
http://lancaster.unl.edu/enviro/pest/nebline/hedgeapple.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maclura_pomifera

“Magic Forest” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
Forest Hills Cemetery Chattanooga, Tennessee.