I took a few weeks off but I’m back to finish up my visit to Concord Masonic Cemetery. As I was looking at my photos from that day, I realized I had yet to include one of the huge magnolia tree that dominates the middle of the cemetery. It’s hard to believe they can get this big but they can.
I know many people who like to romanticize these trees and they are beautiful to look at. However, we had one such tree (not as big as this one) on the property of the first house we lived in when we moved to Georgia in 1973. It was my job and that of my sister to take big buckets and pick up the magnolia leaves that dropped onto the ground under it. Let’s just say it was not my favorite task growing up.
Enough of my childhood memories. Last time, I shared with you the saga of the Smiths, a family with divided allegiances during the war that made up their differences in the year that followed.
It’s definitely a bit different to come across Union grave markers in a Southern cemetery but as I explained in Part I, Tennessee was a wildcard during the Civil War. While more Tennesseeans fought Confederacy than the Union, a fair share of those from the Eastern part of the state fought for the North. One of those men was Samuel Gilson.
A Transplant Puts Down Roots
A native of Rushville, Ind., Samuel Gilson was born in 1830. His father, Daniel, died in 1841. By the 1850s, Samuel had moved to Tennessee. What brought him there is unknown but he married Catherine Jane Lonas on Feb. 7, 1855 in Knox County. By 1860, he and Catherine had three children. But the Civil War would soon change everything.
On April 18, 1862, Samuel enlisted in the Union Army. He was assigned as a First Lieutenant to the Sixth Tennessee Infantry, Company D. He mustered out on April 6, 1863, having served a total of 11 months. I don’t know if he was wounded during his service but his record does say he was suffering from lung disease at the time.
Samuel and Catherine had more children over the years, and acquired more land. Over the course of their marriage, they would have a total of 15 children with most living to adulthood. According to the 1870 Census, Samuel’s personal estate was worth $3,000. I suspect his health began to decline in the 1880s because he began to receive a military invalid’s pension in December 1885.
By the time Samuel passed away on June 10, 1900 at the age of 69, his circumstances appear to have changed. A notice of insolvency was posted in the Knoxville newspaper requesting those who were owed money to submit their claims. He would share a marker with Catherine, who would die eight years later. His epitaph reads:
In Loving Remembrance of Our Father
Farewell dear father, sweet thy rest, weary with years and worn with pain,
Farewell till some happy place, we shall behold thy face again.
I found some articles concerning a war claim brought by a son-in-law of Samuel Gilson, John Henson, married to their daughter Sallie. Apparently during the Civil War, the Union Army had taken $945 worth of oats and corn from Samuel’s farm to feed soldiers. Henson, acting on behalf of his now “insane” mother-in-law Catherine, was requesting the U.S. government to reimburse the family for that amount. He was just one of many whose claims became part of a Senate Omnibus Bill that was debated in 1914. I don’t know if the adult Gilson children ever received any money from the bill. John Henson died in 1910.
I do question the claim of Catherine being labeled “insane” since she was living with one of her daughters at the time of her death in 1908. Perhaps Henson did it to give the claim more clout, I don’t know.
Six Children, None Survived
When grave markers are in poor condition and I cannot make out names and dates, I will often just snap pictures and hope I can figure out who they are later. That was the case of the Burgess family. I had no idea when I photographed their graves that this couple would endure so much tragedy during their 10-year marriage.
Born in 1857, Schwartz Christian (S.C.) Burgess was son of saddler Edward Burgess and Mary Brown Burgess. Some records say he was born in Virginia, others say Tennessee. According to the 1880 U.S. Census, he was working as a blacksmith and still living with his parents in Cleveland, Tenn. That’s about 70 miles from Concord.
It was on April 14, 1887 that S.C. married Minnie H. Boyd, whose family was from nearby Philadelphia, Tenn. He was 30 and she was 20. They made their home in Concord and later in Philadelphia, where Minnie’s parents lived.
Their first child, a girl, was born on June 9, 1888. They named her Willie. She died on Sept. 4, 1889. I did not get a picture of her grave marker but she does have one.
Willie’s brother, John Edward, was born on July 1, 1890. He lived to the age of three, dying on July 14, 1893. I didn’t get a photo of his grave marker either, unfortunately.
Lester Boyd Burgess was born on Nov. 9, 1896. He died on July 16, 1897, only three years and two days after his brother, Johnnie. I could find no newspaper clipping but I did photograph his grave marker.
Minnie gave birth to a daughter, Mary Lester Boyd, on Dec. 13, 1894. She died on April 29, 1898 at the age of three. A previous newspaper article indicated the cause of death was brain fever.
“Her Death Casts a Gloom”
Only a little over a month after Mary’s death, Minnie gave birth to another daughter, Anna Boyd Burgess on June 15, 1898. Minnie became ill a few months later and died on July 27, 1898. She would join her four children in the Concord Masonic Cemetery.
S.C. was left with two children. Anna, whom I already mentioned, and a little girl, Minnie Louise, who was five. But tragedy could not leave S.C. Burgess alone. Only a few weeks after his beloved Minnie died, his daughter Minnie Louise, died as well.
Death was not quite finished with the Burgess family. The last child, Anna, died at the age of four months on Oct. 17, 1898
S.C. Burgess Remarries
It’s difficult to imagine what S.C. Burgess was going through. In the year 1898, he buried not only his wife but three of their children. Newspaper clippings indicate he stayed close to his Boyd in-laws in Philadelphia. He was also not ready to give up on a life for himself. On Nov. 7, 1899, he remarried to Elizabeth “Lizzie” Smith. She and S.C. were both 42. According to the 1900 U.S. Census, they were living in Loudon County with S.C.’s father Edward. S.C. continued to work as a blacksmith.
By 1910, S.C. had given up the blacksmith trade and was dealing in real estate and insurance. His father, Edward, died in 1911. Lizzie died at age 62 on Aug. 28, 1920 after a brief illness. She is buried at Concord Masonic Cemetery but I did not get a picture of her grave.
In 1931, S.C. remarried again to 37-year-old Loma Rodgers. S.C. died on March 31, 1934 after a sudden illness at age 76. He is buried at Berry Highland Memorial Cemetery in another part of Knoxville. Oddly, his first name is misspelled on his marker. I am using a photograph of his grave marker from Find a Grave taken by Michael McNeal.
It’s interesting to note that S.C.’s obituary highlights that he was a pioneer in the marble trade. Nothing I read up to this point indicated to me that this was the case and that his main career in his younger days had been that of blacksmith. So this was news to me. Loma would die 33 years later on Sept. 17, 1967 at age 73. She is buried at Berry Highland Memorial Cemetery with S.C.
This wraps up my Volunteer state adventure and my cemetery visits for 2018. Next time, I’ll be in sharing stories from cemeteries in Florida and Alabama.