Are you back for more stories from Old Gray Cemetery?

Let’s start with Lazarus Clark (L.C.) Shepard, who is thought to have been Knoxville’s first embalmer and undertaker. With a name like Lazarus (whom Jesus brought back to life from the dead in the Bible), perhaps it was inevitable that he ended up with that career.

A native of Connecticut born in 1816, Shepard spent the first 30 or so years of his life in that state. L.C. learned woodworking from his father. He married Emily Strong in 1837 in Bridgeport, Conn. It wasn’t until around 1854, after the Shepards had their four children (the last one died in childhood), that they moved to Knoxville.

Once in Tennessee, L.C. opened a furniture store but it burned four years later. For the next nine years, he worked as foreman of the rail car building department for the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia (E.T.V. & G) Railway, which had just extended its lines to Knoxville.

Conducted a President’s Funeral

In 1867, L.C. went back into the furniture business, adding to this a plant for the manufacture of coffins. Furniture stores often sold coffins in this era before funeral homes. At some point, L.C. trained to be an embalmer. This training became popular during and shortly during the Civil War when preserving the bodies of dead soldiers for shipment home became critical.

L.C. became Knoxville’s first resident undertaker and conducted the funeral of President Andrew Johnson in Greeneville, Tenn, in 1875. I don’t know how he was bestowed with the honor but it was probably because Knoxville, 70 miles away, was the nearest city with an embalmer/undertaker.

An 1871 Knoxville Chronicle advertisement for L.C. Shepard’s business. The ad extols his use of Taylor’s Patent Corpse Preserver.

In 1884, L.C. joined Edward Mann and Thomas Johnson to form Knoxville’s first formal undertaking establishment, Mann & Johnson. In 1892, the firm became known as E.B. Mann Undertaking Company. Today, it’s known as Rose Mortuary. L.C. was also a charter member of the first IOOF (Independent Order of Odd Fellows) lodge instituted in Knoxville, was three times an alderman of the seventh ward, and a trustee of the Tennessee School for the Deaf and Dumb.

The Shepard monument is the only white bronze (zinc) marker in Old Gray Cemetery.

Emily Shepard was active in Knoxville society, and had a heart for the down and out. She helped establish the Industrial Home for Youths, which three years after her death became St. John’s Orphanage. Emily died of cancer in 1882 at the age of 68. The Rev. Thomas W. Humes, whom I wrote about in Part I, was one of her pallbearers.

Clients could custom order what they wanted on the plates of their white bronze monument from a catalog.

The story behind the decline of L.C. Shepard is unclear but his obituary states that in later life, he made a bad business investment and never engaged in business after that. Ads for the business were still appearing in newspapers in the 1880s, however. Notice of his death in The Tennessean said he died a pauper. After a fall in 1900, L.C.’s last few years were spent at Knoxville City Hospital, where he received many visitors. He died on Feb. 15, 1902 at the age of 85.

A Secret Hiding Place?

I’m not surprised that the Shepards have a white bronze (zinc) marker, the only one at Old Gray Cemetery. They were much cheaper than granite or marble markers. As a funeral director, L.C. would have been very familiar with them and possibly ordered it himself when Emily died in 1882. All that had to be done after his death was to add a panel with his own birth and death dates.

Did bootleggers hide illegal booze in Shepard’s monument?

Legend has it that the hollow monument (all of them were) was a drop-off point for bootleg liquor during Prohibition. The panel shown here supposedly served as the entry point to a secret compartment for alcohol and monetary exchanges. Rust over the decades has permanently sealed the metal door.

Mind you, this kind of thing has been said about many white bronze monuments over the years, but has rarely been proven. However, the rusting of the panel suggests is just might have been tampered with over the years. This kind of rust is something I’ve rarely seen on these markers. So maybe the rumor is true in this case.

I could not write a complete story about Old Gray without telling the story of the Horne brothers, who were Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. You can’t pass their nearly life-size monument without stopping.

Brothers in Arms

Born in 1843 in Tennessee, John Fletcher Horne was the middle of the three children of the Rev. George Horne and Amanda Luttrell Horne. His sister, Margaret, was born in 1836. Younger brother, William, was born in 1845.

It is unknown who paid for the monument for the Horne brothers as both parents died before they did.

John served as a sergeant with the Kain’s Battery Tennessee Light Artillery. Younger brother, William, was an assistant quartermaster with the 42nd Georgia Infantry. Both brothers returned to Knoxville after the war. John never married and worked as a merchant for the rest of his life. William married Catherine Kelso in 1872 and they had four children. Both brothers worked together as J.F. Horne & Son Liquor Distributors in later years.

William died in 1891 at the age of 46 from typhoid fever. His wife, Catherine, died in 1897 of a “uterine hemorrhage” died at 51. Their son, Henry, had died at age 12 in 1889. All three are buried together at Old Gray Cemetery.

It is unknown if either Horne brother resembled the soldier that marks their graves.

John Fletcher Horne never married and died in 1906 of cancer.

John died in 1906 of cancer. From what I can tell, he was popular among his fellow veterans and was instrumental in organizing Confederate reunions. It was perhaps his fellow brothers in arms that helped in getting the monument made and placed at the cemetery. It is not something I see often on an individual soldier’s, or in this case soldiers’, grave site.

There’s an interesting footnote to this one. The Horne statue stands with his back to the massive Union Soldiers Tower next door at Knoxville National Cemetery. A few articles I read stated that family of the Horne brothers or the Horne brothers themselves insisted that any monument erected in their honor must have its back to the Union Soldiers Tower. Since it wasn’t constructed until 1901 and he died in 1891, I doubt William had a say in the matter. John, who died in 1906, might have but the truth is unknown.

The Marble City

I didn’t know until researching Old Gray that Knoxville was known as the Marble City in the 1800s. Its quarries provided an ample supply of Tennessee Marble, a highly polishable pinkish gray stone. You can find Tennessee Marble in famous buildings such as the J.P. Morgan Library in New York and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Frank S. Mead is on the left. He was the first president of the Ross Marble Company.
(Photo source: McClung Historical Collection)

According to an article by Paul James, the Ross Marble Company paid for land next to what would become the Ijams Bird Sanctuary and opened up a quarry to extract Tennessee Marble. The site later became locally known as Mead’s Quarry in honor of Frank S. Mead, the company’s first president. He was also owned the Republic Marble Company (at times known as Ross and Republic Marble Co.), which produced grave markers and monuments.

A Quarry Transformed

By the Great Depression, however, demand for the Tennessee Marble plunged and quarrying operations everywhere felt the pinch. Switching to gravel and limestone production, both Ross and Mead’s quarries survived for several decades. By 1978, both were defunct and, particularly Mead’s Quarry, became illegal dump sites.

Arthur Mead worked closely with his brother, Frank, at the Republic Marble Company. He died from injuries he sustained in February 1895 when the sled he and his friends were riding struck a tree.

After thousands of volunteer cleanup hours and the dedication of Ijams park staff, the Ross and Mead quarries have expanded Ijams and jumpstarted Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness, created by Legacy Parks Foundation. The Foundation has over 40 miles of trails within South Knoxville alone. Apparently there are also two cemeteries within the area that I need to explore.

Many of the markers at Old Gray came from stone mined out of Frank S. Mead’s quarry.

Mead’s Quarry was the source for grave markers and monuments in Knoxville cemeteries. The Mead family monument, a large Celtic cross, was sculpted by Knoxville’s David H. Geddes, who owned the Knoxville Monument Works.

It was erected when Frank Mead’s older brother, Arthur, died in a tragic sledding accident on Feb. 6, 1895. He was only 33. He and Frank had worked together in managing the Republic Marble Company. Frank S. Mead was 71 when he died in 1936 of a cerebral hemorrhage.

We’re not quite done at Old Gray. Stay tuned for more in Part IV.