Last week, I introduced you to Nashville’s Mount Olivet Cemetery. Today we’re going to meet some more people who influenced the Music City’s history.
When someone’s face is emblazoned on their monument, you can bet they were usually someone important. So I knew William Brimage Bate had likely distinguished himself and made a mental note to look him up when I got home.
Lawyer, Confederate general, governor, and U.S. senator are all words that describe General William Brimage Bate. Born at Castalian Springs in Sumner County, Tenn. in 1826, his education was limited to a few years in a log schoolhouse known as the Rural Academy. When the Mexican War began in 1846, Bate volunteered for service in a Louisiana regiment. He re-enlisted and served as lieutenant of Company I, Third Tennessee Infantry.
After the war, Bate returned to the family farm and established a newspaper, the Gallatin Tenth Legion. In 1849, he was elected to the Tennessee General Assembly. After graduation from the Cumberland Law School in Lebanon, Tenn. in 1852, Bate opened a law practice in Gallatin, serving a term as district attorney general.
In 1856, Bate married Julia Peete, daughter of Colonel Samuel Peete of Huntsville, Ala. Col. Peete is buried at Mount Olivet near his daughter. Bate declined the Democratic nomination for Congress in 1859.
A strong believer in states’ rights and secession, Bate volunteered as a private in the Second Tennessee Infantry of the Confederacy. Elected colonel, he served with his regiment, first in Virginia and later in campaigns which included Stones River, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, Franklin, and Nashville. Before the end of the war, he attained the rank of major general.
Bate was wounded on three different occasions, most severely at Shiloh. When a surgeon suggested amputating his leg, Bate refused. He walked with a limp for the rest of his life. One report I read said he was shot out from under his horse more than once. While with the army at Wartrace in 1863, he declined the Tennessee gubernatorial nomination.
After the Civil War, Bate started his law practice in Nashville and continued to be involved in Democratic Party politics. Elected governor in 1882, he was re-elected two years later. In 1886, he was elected to the U.S. Senate to succeed Washington C. Whitthorne, and Bate remained in that office until his death on March 9, 1905.
William and Julia had four children during their marriage. Their first two daughters, Mary and Suzanne, lived well into adulthood. But daughters Jennie and Amanda would die before they were 15.
Julia Peete Bate was well educated and musically talented. Because she lost her mother at the age of three, she was used to running her widowed father’s household. It came in handy when her husband climbed the military and political ranks.
Julia joined her husband in Washington and enjoyed being a member of the Washington Ladies’ Literary Club. She was passionate about supporting causes that supported veterans. She died in 1910 and is buried beside her husband and her two eldest daughters. I especially like the inscription on the back of her marker, taken from Proberbs 31:26.
The life of Benjamin Joseph McCarthy was not as distinguished as that of General Bate. But his family monument, which is close to that of the Bate family, is one of those you tend to notice.
Born in 1842 in Warren County, Ga., McCarthy spent most of his life in Nashville. He married Annie Elizabeth Hood sometime prior to 1871. They had several children. Much of McCarthy’s career was helping run the foundry of Phillips & Buttorff Manufacturing Co., which created many cast iron items from skillets to stoves. The company operated from 1858 to the mid 1900s.
The cube is said to represent the earth and earthly existence. Some monuments have a cube or square inverted to point the corners downward and upward. This is meant to illustrate the directions of earth and heaven.
One of the largest monuments in Mount Olivet is for the Furman family. A native of Pennsylvania, Francis Furman owned Furman & Co. Wholesale Dry Goods and Notions on Nashville’s public square from 1870 until around 1890. His death certificate lists his occupation as “capitalist.” He died in 1898 at the age of 80.
Furman Hall on the campus of Vanderbilt University is named in his honor as a result of a $100,000 donation by his widow after his death. Furman never attended the university but his funeral was conducted by Vanderbilt co-founder Alexander Little Page Green. Inside the building is a sculpture of Francis Furman by Danish artist Johannes Gelert.
Gelert also designed the Furman’s monument at Mount Olivet. I was curious to know how the Furmans were connected to Gelert and learned that won top honors for “Wounded American Soldier” at the 1897 Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition in Nashville.
The roof of the monument is born up by caryatids, female figures in Greek dress like those on the porch of the maidens standing on the Athenian Acropolis.
The last story I’m going to share is about a tomb we caught sight of on our way out of the cemetery. Pyramid tombs are not common in the Southeast so when I see one, I pull over to look! The tomb for “Major” Eugene Castner Lewis is indeed impressive.
The entrance to the walkway is guarded by a pair of Sphinx, symbolic of the Memphis Rite, a Masonic order. Lewis was an active Mason during his lifetime. The two heavy aluminum doors once opened to reveal steps that lead down into the crypt. Because of vandalism, the doors are now welded shut.
When I looked into the past of Major Eugene Castner Lewis, I learned why an ancient theme went beyond his Masonic ties. Among his many accomplishments, he was the director of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Lewis was the one who suggested that a reproduction of the Parthenon be built in Nashville to serve as the centerpiece of Tennessee’s Centennial Celebration in 1897. It’s the only building that survived.
Born in 1845, Eugene Lewis’ parents were George T. and Margaretta Barnes Lewis. George Lewis was the general manager of the Cumberland Iron Works and knew many of Nashville’s movers and shakers.
During the Civil War, Eugene Lewis attended the Pennsylvania Military Academy. Although he never served in the military, he was referred to as “Major Lewis”. After he graduated in 1865, he served as an assistant engineer with the Memphis, Clarksville and Louisville Railroad. He would be involved in the railroad industry all of his life.
Lewis served as the president of Sycamore Mills (a gunpowder maker) and designed at least two bridges over Sycamore Creek in Nashville. Lewis also joined the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway as an industrial engineer. He was elected to its board of directors in 1896, and he served as its chairman from 1900 to 1917. He and his wife, Pauline, had several children. Pauline died at the age of 40 in 1902.
Lewis died in 1917 of stomach cancer.
Had the weather been better that day, I would have spent more time at Mount Olivet but January is not the greatest time for any cemetery visit. Still, I’m glad I got to see what I did and spend some time with a good friend.
Next week, I’ll be stopping by next door at Nashville’s Calvary Cemetery.