It’s time for a few more stories from Knoxville, Tenn.’s Calvary Catholic Cemetery.
As I wandered down toward the front of the cemetery, I noticed one of the larger plots had Easter lilies carved into the side of the entrance. They were, I thought, in remarkably good shape. It made me curious to know if George W. Callahan’s firm had created them. I wrote about him in Part I.
I regret that I didn’t photograph all the markers in this plot because the Condon family that occupies much of it has a great deal of history. But it was one of those days where I was photographing more randomly than usual. The most eye-catching monument in the plot is the one for Blanche Condon. Her grandfather, John Condon, is buried beside her. His obelisk is equally impressive. So I started looking more closely into the family.
From Ireland to America
A native of County Clare, Ireland, John Condon was born in 1824. He arrived in America sometime in the 1840s. He married Bridgett Gray in 1852 in Syracuse, N.Y. They would have seven children together. Eldest son Michael was born in 1846 in Springfield, Mass.
The family would settle in Rogersville, Tenn, in the 1850s. From information I found on Ancestry, it appears John Condon joined the Confederate Army to fight in the Civil War. One article I found said his fellow comrades in arms in the Third Tennessee Confederate Regiment, Engineer Corps called him the Irish Johnny Reb. John was wounded on more than one occasion. As an accomplished stone mason, his responsibilities were essentially those of a construction foreman.
As a prisoner of war, John was sent to Camp Chase in Columbus, Ohio for 10 months before being released as part of the exchange that followed the fall of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863.
After the war, the Condons moved to Knoxville. There they founded a successful family railroad construction contracting business, with Michael learning quickly from his father. He would prove to be the most successful of the Condon children. John would continue to list himself as a stone mason in the 1880 U.S. Census.
John died in 1885 at the age of 60. Records indicate his cause of death was due to “softening of the brain.” That could have been a stroke or from some kind of trauma. Newspaper articles indicate he hadn’t been well in the weeks that led up to his death.
Michael married Catherine Moore in 1869. They would have 13 children over the course of their marriage. Their fifth child was Blanche Marie, born on Jan. 1, 1877. You can find her name in the Knoxville newspapers, reporting her travels and her attendance of various convent schools with her elder sister, Katie. They were often accompanied by their father, Michael, who is often referred to as “Col. Condon”. By now he was also an Alderman. Blanche also appears to have attended Knoxville’s Girls High School at some point.
“She Was a Rose Most Fair”
But Blanche was attending the Notre Dame Convent’s school in Baltimore, Md. when she contracted typhoid fever. She died there on Sept. 17, 1894 at the age of 17. Her death and funeral were written about extensively in the Knoxville papers. Her father, a member of the local board of education, closed schools for the day. The cortege was said to have been one of the longest Knoxville residents had ever seen.
I found this tribute to Blanche in a Knoxville newspaper:
Blanche’s monument is beside that of her grandfather, John Condon. Unfortunately, the sun was shining so brightly behind it that it appears darker in the photo than it is.
Tragedy Revisits the Condons
Unfortunately, tragedy revisited the Condon family just six years later in 1900. On May 10, Michael Condon, his friend and work colleague, Mortimer Shea, along with their wives, were enjoying a ride in the Condon’s surrey near their home. Apparently the horses became unruly and in their distress, took a curve too fast. The surrey was thrown violently against a telephone and electric light post. The men, who took the brunt of the impact, were killed. Catherine Condon and Mrs. Shea, while injured, survived. Michael Condon was only 52 at the time of his death.
I did not photograph Michael Condon’s marker but he is buried in the Condon family plot. I noticed an article stating that following his death, Michael’s son Edward Condon and George W. Callahan would be taking over Michael’s business affairs.
The Condons’ eldest son, John “Johnnie” Condon married Fannie Crenshaw in 1893. She gave birth to a son, Robert, in 1895 a few months after the couple had moved to Macon, Ga. She died only five weeks later. Johnnie married again to Minnie Bannon in Savannah, Ga. in 1898, by then a lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He fought in the Spanish American War and according to newspaper reports, and had contracted malaria during his service. His health compromised, he died at age 31 on March 3, 1901. Robert went to live with his grandmother, Kate, in Knoxville.
Ed Condon, who was 24 when his father died, was quite successful in the railroad construction trade. But over the next few years, his mental state deteriorated. On Dec. 7, 1905, he disappeared from his mother’s home. His body was later found on Jan. 24, 1906 in the Tennessee River in nearby Concord. He is buried in Calvary Catholic Cemetery in the Condon plot.
Johnnie Condon’s son with Fannie, Robert, died from meningitis at the age of 13 on March 3, 1909. Despite facing so many family tragedies, Kate held on for many more years. At age 86, she died in 1937. Both she and her grandson are buried at Calvary Catholic Cemetery.
Some names will make you look twice at a grave marker. When I saw the name of Mary A. Mary, I admit I did a doubletake.
A native of New York, Mary Ann Huhn married German immigrant Frank Mary around 1869. That’s when she became Mary Ann Mary. When I looked into the family’s background, I discovered that Frank had a sister back in Germany who was also named Mary Mary. Frank died at age 56 in 1906. His name and dates are on the other side of Mary’s marker. She died in 1910 at age 61.
There’s also a Mary D. Mary buried at CCC but I’m not sure how she’s related to the family. She was married to a man named Joseph Mary. I’m sure the teasing they both got could be intense.
Following in His Father’s Footsteps
Two graves I randomly photographed were for Daniel Joseph Corcoran and his mother, Nell. I learned later Daniel’s father and Nell’s husband, Thomas, is buried there, too. I don’t know if I just didn’t photograph his grave or he doesn’t have a marker. He didn’t have a memorial on Find a Grave, so I made one for him.
A native of Knoxville, Thomas was born in 1880 and married Ellen Margaret “Nell” Dunn in 1907. Daniel was the third of the four children they had together. Thomas joined the fire department in the days of steam-powered fire engines. He worked as a fireman for 33 years, retiring around 1935. He had been suffering from an illness near the time of his death. But it was a cigarette that caught his clothing on fire while he lay in bed that was the cause of his demise. He died at the age of 56 from his extensive burns.
Born in 1910, Daniel would follow in his father’s footsteps. He joined the fire department at age 20 around 1930. He served as battalion chief at No. 3 Fire Hall in North Knoxville. At the time of his death, he was acting assistant chief of the Knoxville Fire Dept.
Never married, Daniel lived with his mother, Nell. His brother, John “Ed” Corcoran, was a policeman. Daniel had a heart attack and died at the age of 41 on May 30, 1952. According to newspaper reports, Nell and other family members were at his bedside at the hospital when he passed away.
I am sure Nell was heartbroken when Daniel died. She outlived all but one of her children, Mildred “Aggie” Corcoran. Nell died at the age of 84 on Sept. 24, 1970. She is buried with Daniel and her husband, Thomas.
Next time, I’ll visit nearby Lebanon in the Fork Cemetery. It’s a much smaller cemetery than Calvary Catholic Cemetery but still full of great stories behind the stones.
Tom S. Foster said:
The “Mary A. Mary” story was cute in that, my wife’s name is Mary. I have a half-sister who’s first name is Mary (though she goes by the name of Molly, her dad’s mother’s name). My Mary and I will be passing through Knoxville soon on our trip to Indy. Speaking of Indy…a couple of days ago was searching info on where one of my best all-time friends from way back when was buried. The cemetery in Indianapolis where he is: St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery. He (Tim) passed away from pancreatic cancer at the age of 27 about Valentine’s Day, 1979. I was the last person besides his wife to see him alive. Anyway, the cemetery where he’s buried has also the famous Chevrolet brothers: Arthur & Gaston Chevrolet buried there. Gaston won the 1921 Indianapolis 500 race.( That’s 100 years ago)
I hope to see where Tim is buried, along with his father, and, maybe his mother. I have not been there since his funeral.
Hi, Tom! It may not be easy for you to do but if you want to see a humdinger of a grave, check out Asbury Cemetery in Knoxville. A.J. “Pete” Kreis died in 1934 after he crashed while practicing for the race at Indy. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/19673633/a.-j.-kreis