Cemetery Discoveries

Lichen Growth on West-East Facing Comb Graves in Sparta, Tennessee

Comb Grave LichenI’m almost embarrassed to admit I’m pretty fascinated with lichen growth on gravestones.

During my visits to study comb graves of the Cumberland Plateau, I encountered quite a few comb graves with West-East orientation. Of course, you would expect this. It is very common for bodies to be buried with their feet toward the East. The reasoning behind this is when the rapture occurs, the body will rise up facing eastward toward the coming of Christ.
Because of this orientation, the right sides face south and the left sides face north. Remember back in elementary school (Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts) when you learned that moss gross on the north sides of trees? The same is sometimes true for gravestones.

You normally don’t see a drastic difference of lichen on the north vs. south side of a gravestone. However, since the roofs of Comb Graves are slanted, the north sides receive quite a bit less sunlight throughout the year allowing lichen to, more readily, grow.

Here is one example of lichen growing on the north side of this comb grave (left) vs. almost no lichen growth on the south (right) side.

2017 Cemetery Detective Year in Review

2017 was a fantastic year full of cemetery exploration.

2017 was a fantastic year full of cemetery exploration.
Highlights include:
Completing my Submerged Cemetery Documentary
Getting featured in an Adventure Magazine for my Cemetery Research efforts
Traveling to Spain to study the cemeteries in the north of the country.

Other highlights are listed below.

Check my main page to learn about my cemetery research for 2018.

December 2017 – Cemeteries, Cameras, and Flashlights

When I was in college, I learned the art of astro-photography and darkroom film development. Being an astronomy geek, I worked at the school’s observatory helping set up the telescope and cameras. Back then, we would spend all night shooting a roll of film then spend the next morning developing the film in light-proof canisters. A lot has changed in the world of photography. Yet, the scientific principles of photography remain the same; aperture, focus (and focal length) ISO, and shutter speed is what it’s all about. Of course, the creative side is another story.

In the month of December, I’ve reawakened my love of photography. Combining photography with my love of cemeteries, I’m working to increase my understanding of creative cemetery photography. Here is a picture I took last night at Chattanooga’s Forest Hills Cemetery. Expect more photography in the coming months.

cemetery photography

In addition to cemetery photography, I’ve devoted much of my free time in December to studying cemeteries affected by flood waters both natural and man-made. Here’s an on-location photo from a cemetery I’m researching outside of a nuclear power plant. Expect a brand new Cemetery Detective mini-documentary on this subject in the very near future.

I’d like to take a moment to wish a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all my readers and fans.
Please check back often. I have a lot of cemetery adventures in store for you in 2018.

My best:


November 2017 – A Church With A Rock In It

November was such a warm and pleasant month I spent much of it in outdoor pursuits including hiking, biking, and kayaking DeSoto State Park near Mentone, Alabama.

During one of my trips there, I found Sallie Howard Chapel also known as “The Church with a Rock in It.” This chapel was built around a huge boulder jutting into the inside of the church. The boulder acts as the outside wall behind the pulpit.
It’s a fascinating church (with cemetery) and the state park is well worth a visit.

October 2017 – Magazine Articles, Newspaper Write-Ups, and Travel Abroad

October has been one of the most interesting months I’ve had in quite some time.

Points of interest during October:

– Interviewed by The Royal Gazette (Bermuda’s National Newspaper): A reporter saw my video documentary on The Cemeteries of Bermuda.
The newspaper published a newspaper article about my visits to the island.

– Researched the Cemeteries of Northern Spain: After months of planning, I toured the country by train and bus to study the old world European cemeteries of San Sebastian, Pamplona, Figueres, Girona, and Madrid. I will be posting articles in the coming days. Please check back often.

– Featured in an Adventure Magazine: Get Out Chattanooga, our regional Adventure Magazine published a featured article on my research of The Submerged Cemetery at Mullins Cove. I spent a day with a reporter. She interviewed me as we paddled 7 miles round-trip to the submerged cemetery. The article on this particular cemetery was featured in the October Issue.

the cemetery detective

the cemetery detective article

Check back soon for updates on my cemetery research trip to northern Spain.

September 2017 – A Busy September for The Cemetery Detective

Although summer is not yet over, the beginning of September has brought a respite from the heat. Warmer temperatures will, surely, return. But, for now, I’m enjoying cooler temperatures while exploring our area’s most interesting cemeteries.

At the end of August, I produced a short video dealing with my fascination of Cemetery Fences (linked below). If you enjoy my videos, please consider subscribing to my Cemetery YouTube Channel.

I have several great videos in store for you in the coming weeks including a video documentary of my upcoming Cemetery Research Trip to northern Spain. While in Spain, I will research the cemeteries of The Pyrenees, San Sebastian, and Figueres. If you live in any of those areas of Spain, please drop me a note. I always love meeting fellow cemetery enthusiasts along my journeys.

The Chain Link Fences of Rotten Bayou Cemetery
I had never been a fan of chain link fences in a cemetery….until I visited Rotten Bayou Cemetery in Diamondhead, Mississippi.

August 2017 – Cemetery Documentaries and Continued Research

Sometimes I root through my archives of cemetery pictures, video, and research documentation.  After searching through hundreds of folders, I realize I’ve published only a fraction of my archives.  This month, I’m pleased to announce the publication of two cemetery documentaries that have been on my mind all summer.

1) The Submerged Cemetery of Mullins Cove
This is one of the most fascinating cemetery stories I’ve ever researched.  This cemetery has been affected by rising waters for more than a century.  The Submerged Cemetery at Mullins Cove investigates the life histories of Henry, Zilpha, and Moses Long.  It explores the topography and geology of Mullins Cove, Tennessee.  And, it researches the reasons why this cemetery is underwater.
15 Minutes in Length and PACKED with information.


2)  The Cemeteries of St. Thomas, Tortola, Bermuda, and Newport
Earlier this year, I was incredibly fortunate to be invited to work as delivery crew on a 62′ sailboat.  We moved the sailboat from Tortola BVI to Portsmouth, RI.  On this journey, I added to my list of cemeteries I’ve already visited in these areas.  
This Cemetery Documentary chronicles my trip, the excitement of traveling on the open ocean, and the cemeteries I explored along the way.

July 2017 – Upcoming Cemetery Research

It’s been a busy summer thus far.

During June, I attended the Association For Gravestone Studies Annual Conference in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  This was my fourth conference.  It is always an uplifting experience being around such knowledgeable and passionate cemetery enthusiasts.

At this conference, I gave a presentation on my research of The Submerged Cemetery At Mullins Cove.
I can spend hours speaking about this cemetery.  Its history is fascinating.  If your civic group would like me to give this presentation, please visit my “Public Speaking” page for scheduling information.

July is going to be busy, also.  I’m putting final touches on a new Cemetery Documentary to be released by mid-month.

Additionally, I’m preparing for a cemetery research trip to Northern Spain in the early fall.  I’ll visit the major cemeteries in San Sebastian, Girona, and Madrid.  I’m also planning on a tour of cemeteries in the eastern Pyrenees.  If you live in that area and are interested in the local cemeteries, I would love to meet you.

I’ll leave you with a couple photographs from my trip in May to the U.S. and British Virgin Islands:

Moravian Cemetery
Tortola Cemetery

June 2017 – Two Cemetery Projects Underway

Check back often for updates.

1) Underwater Cemetery:

I have become fascinated with cemeteries impacted by water.
Rising waters in rivers, drought stricken lakes, and coastal areas all have affected cemeteries.
I am currently studying a cemetery in the middle of a lake.
This will be the subject of my next mini-documentary and I will also make a presentation on this cemetery during the Association for Gravestone Studies Annual Conference.

If you’re planning on attending the conference, please look me up and say “hi.” I’d love to meet you.

Flooded cemetery underwater graves.

2) Cemetery Reclamation:

I’m writing this at 11:51 PM after yet another long day in one of our local cemeteries.
With a chainsaw, lop-shears, an axe, and a strong back, I’ve taken on a project of reclaiming a long-forgotten cemetery.
When I first visited, I could not walk from one end to the other due to thickets, thorns, and brier patches. Taking care to maintain the integrity of all grave markers, I have almost completed the reclamation effort. Stay tuned to this website and my YouTube channel for a complete update.

Abandoned cemeteries.
This cemetery was completely overgrown but I’m making great progress in finding all headstones by removing the vegetation.  When finished, I plan to leave many shade trees.  However, the undergrowth will be cut away.  Tombstones will be easy to find.

Stay Tuned…

A recent mini-documentary:
The Forgotten Cemetery of Polk County Tennessee

Nestled on a forested hilltop within The Cherokee National Forest lies Rock Creek Cemetery. Even its proper name is in doubt. USGS maps, local residents, and descendants of those buried here disagree on its name. As the forest closes in on Rock Creek, this cemetery risks being lost forever.

The journey is part of the adventure and this trip was no exception. Rock Creek is surrounded by the beauty of the Ocoee river valley. This abandoned grave yard contains notable figures in Polk County’s history. In addition to the town’s founding fathers, a Revolutionary War soldier is buried here.
Join me as I search for this culturally significant cemetery.

Rock Creek Cemetery – Polk County, Tennessee


2017 Extensive Research of Cemeteries:

Big plans are underway this year. Check this website and my YouTube Channel for frequent updates.
I love feedback. So, please leave your comments and drop me notes when you see something here you like.



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.

Rotten Bayou Cemetery – Diamondhead Mississippi

If good fences make good neighbors then Rotten Bayou is a very neighborly cemetery, indeed.

rotten bayou cemetery signI’ve never liked the feeling of being fenced in.
However, I do like the coziness that fences provide.
The Poet Robert Frost oft remarked that “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors.”

Evidently, this sentiment holds true even after death.

It’s an interesting phenominon the way in which cemeteries encourage the use of fences.

Fences can be implied by features as simple as low curbing around family plots and individual gravesites.
In some southern cemeteries, particularly in the Ozarks and Appalachia, this curbing is taken to an extreme level forming 24″ tall concrete fences.

Wood is regularly used in dryer climates. But, where the air is humid, decay degrades wooden fences rather quickly over time.

Fences made of wrought iron have been used in cemeteries for generations.

And lava, lava in volcanic island cemeteries
seemingly lasts forever.

Of all of the types of fences I’ve witnessed, one of the most interesting uses of fences is in a cemetery I recently visited in Diamondhead, Mississippi.

This is Rotten Bayou Cemetery. Being near Bay St. Louis on the Gulf Coast, its substrate is mostly granular sand. The cemetery has a long-held

Chain Link Fence in Rotten Bayou Cemetery

tradition that burial plots are free-of-charge as long as individual gravesites are clearly marked off.

This provision has lead many families to use chain link fencing as demarkation of their loved-ones’ gravesites.

Chain link as far as the eye can see.

If good fences make good neighbors then Rotten Bayou is a very neighborly cemetery, indeed.

Link to the YouTube video of Rotten Bayou Cemetery

The Cemeteries of St. Thomas, Tortola, Bermuda, and Newport

The Cemetery Detective explores the cemeteries of the US Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, and Newport Rhode Island.

This video and write-up chronicles my recent journey from Tortola, British Virgin Islands to Bermuda and then onward to Rhode Island. I was incredibly fortunate to be invited to work on a beautiful sailing vessel being delivered over 1700 nautical miles across the north Atlantic ocean. On my journey, I visited as many cemeteries as I could while still performing my duties.


I learned to sail several years ago.
While most of my sailing has been on inland lakes, I’ve logged about 3,000 offshore miles in the Caribbean and North Atlantic.

On my most recent trip, I was 1 of a 4 man crew delivering a 62′ sailboat from the BVIs, northward to Portsmouth, Rhode Island, USA.

I arrived in St. Thomas, USVI early on a Monday morning. Shots of Caribbean rum were freely handed out at the Cyril E. King airport. The drinks gave everyone a feeling we were truly in the islands, mon.

On the taxi ride to Charlotte Amalie Ferry Port, I noticed row after row of crypts stacked two to three high.  Since I only had 90 minutes on St. Thomas before my ferry departed, I sprinted across Veterans Drive for a quick visit the Moravian Cemetery of St. Thomas.

Distinguishing aspects of this cemetery included simple dirt burial mounds (tumuli) covering some graves.   The majority of interments are within above ground concrete crypts. I am still fascinated with the personalized memorials inscripted by family members and loved-ones.

Moravian Cemetery – St. Thomas

My trip on the Fast Ferry took about 40 minutes to reach Rhode Town, the capital of Tortola BVI. Once back on land, I walked miles and miles
to visit St. Georges Anglican Church Cemetery, St. Paul’s Cemetery at Sea Cow Bay, and numerous unnamed cemeteries tucked into the hillsides along the southern edges of Tortola.

Sailing The Atlantic

Sailboat delivery is something I first experienced in 2015.  Many boat owners like to keep their boats in warmer climates during the winter. Since ocean crossing requires the expertise of competent crew, owners hire crew members to move their boats southward in the fall and northward in the spring.

Delivery crews work at the whim of the weather.  A significant challenge in sailing a boat on the open ocean is the search for a weather window providing acceptable weather for the majority of the passage.  Once offshore winds were favorable, we motored out of Nanny Cay and along the Sir Francis Drake Channel.  Turning the boat to starboard at Frenchman’s Cay, we motored across the archipelago to spend one night at Jost Van Dyke before sailing northward to Bermuda.

For the next week, it was nothing but sky and water as far as the eye could see. But, we were kept company, somedays, by dolphins.

The Cemeteries of Bermuda

We arrived in Bermuda, unscathed from the journey.  Anyone who has sailed into Bermuda knows the reassurance you feel upon hearing Bermuda radio on channel 16.  The waters around Bermuda are notoriously dangerous.  However, navigation markers lead the way to the Town Cut at St. Georges.  With the yellow quarantine flag raised high, we cleared customs and were free to roam the island.  The next stop, after customs, was the White Horse saloon for Dark n’ Stormies.  Many tales of sea going adventures have been told here….and some of the tales are actually true.

This was my third visit to the island.  Using scooters for transportation during my visits, I have explored every major Bermudian cemetery (that I know of).


Christ Church of Scotland Cemetery
St. Peter's Cemetery
St. Peter’s Church Cemetery
St. Peter's Cemetery
St. Peter’s Cemetery
St. Paul's Cemetery
St. Paul’s Church Cemetery
St. Paul’s Cemetery Zinc Marker
St. Mark’s Cemetery
St. John’s Anglican Cemetery
Royal Naval Cemetery
steep cemetery
Old Devonshire Church Cemetery
military cemetery
Military Cemetery at Dawes Bay
Marsden Cemetery
Grace Methodist Church Cemetery
Emmanuel Methodist Church Cemetery



























































Sailing Across the Gulf Stream

After a quick supply re-provisioning trip to the local market in St. Georges, we quickly prepped the boat for its final leg of the journey.

Through the town cut leaving St. Georges and across the bowditch seamount, we readied ourselves for the ever treacherous waters of the Gulf Stream.

Sailing across the Gulf Stream can be a hairy proposition.  Weather and sea state can change in the blink of an eye.  Sailors have to be prepared to alter sail trim and reefing points at a moment’s notice.

Arrival In Rhode Island

Days and days passed but we soon sighted Block Island and Narragansett Bay.  I’ve been to Newport Rhode Island a few times and I always enjoy visiting the cemeteries there.

Sailing n’ Cemeteries

Sailing and Cemeteries
Sailing and Cemeteries

As you have probably guessed from this video. I have two obsessions, sailing and cemeteries. This final picture captures them both perfectly.

Thank you for allowing me to share my obsessions and my journey.

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
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
Sep 22 1792
Oct 04 1860

May 16, 1782
SEPT. 16 1875

Moses M.
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


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.  


St. Paul Cemetery – Pass Christian Mississippi

St. Paul Cemetery

In the gravestone world, there are taphophiles who study all sorts of grave markers. There are those who study Woodman of the World markers and there are those who study zinc (White Bronze) markers.

Zincs and W.O.W.s are intriguing and interesting to study. However, you don’t often see the two design strategies combined as one. Zinc W.O.W.s certainly do exist but rarely in such fine condition as this marker I found in a small cemetery tucked, unceremoniously, across a set of railroad tracks in a small southern Mississippi town.

The cemetery was bordered, on one side, by a marshy drainage canal about a half mile from a quaint white painted church. Two things were on my mind as I hopped out of my van. 1) How beautiful (and lucky) that I’m here at noon as the church bells are pealing the noon-time hour. 2) I better keep an eye on that drainage canal because there could legitimately be an alligator hiding beneath the water’s murky surface.

I strolled the cemetery grounds cautiously. After I noticed this Zinc W.O.W., all thoughts of man-eating aquatic reptiles vanished from my mind.

What a great marker in this small, southern cemetery.

St. Paul Cemetery

Below are a few more pictures from St. Paul Cemetery in Pass Christian, Mississippi.
Before posting this article, I looked on Google Earth street view. According to the pictures posted there, the cemetery sign, as seen in my picture, has been removed. If anyone in the area is reading this blog post, please let me know if the sign has, in fact, been removed. Also, I’d like to know the reason for the removal and the date on which it was removed. Thank you.
St. Paul Cemetery Grave Crypt
This cemetery grave crypt is situated beneath a tree providing ample shade.

St. Paul Cemetery grounds

St. Paul’s is a small cemetery with quite a few interesting gravestones. It is definitely worth the trip for anyone interested in Woodman of the World markers or anyone who loves studying Zinc grave markers.



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.


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.




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.