The final chapter of my December 2018 adventure around Knoxville, Tenn. takes place in the Concord Masonic Cemetery. This cemetery is located in Concord, now considered a bedroom community of Knoxville. My husband’s parents live about a mile down the road. I didn’t know until I started researching the cemetery that at one time, Concord was a booming community back in the day.
History of Concord
Concord was founded and platted in 1854 on land owned by James M. Rodgers, who laid out 55 lots and gave the new town its name. Some think he took it from the nearby Concord Cumberland Presbyterian Church, where Rodgers was a member. He began to sell lots in 1855, but later moved to California.
In the 1880s, Concord became the center of a large Tennessee marble production and shipping industry. Several quarries were located near the Tennessee River in Calloway’s Ridge. Quarries on the south side of the river shipped Tennessee marble to Concord to take advantage of the town’s rail connections. By 1887, Concord was the second largest community in Knox County and was a regional transportation hub.
But changes would come to Concord. By the 1930s, new building materials decreased the use of Tennessee marble, and the marble industry went into a decline from which it never recovered. The impoundment of Fort Loudon Lake inundated about a third of the town (most of the business district) by 1944. Portions of the railroad were relocated to higher adjacent ground and continued to carry freight, but passenger service stopped. Cars and new transportation routes also contributed to Concord’s slowed growth.
Cumberland Presbyterian Meeting House
The cemetery is located around what is now Chota Lodge #253’s building, chartered in 1856. A sign describes the history attached to the place. I am guessing that the building now standing was built in 1870 and is not the one mentioned in the first half of the sign. Someone reading this may have more information about how this all came about but I couldn’t find the full story online.
Currently, the Chota Lodge #253 meets in this building in the cemetery and it looks as if it has undergone some renovations in recent years.
The cemetery itself has about 1,160 memorials on Find a Grave but I am sure there are many unmarked that are not documented. As you can imagine, many of the men and women buried here were Masons or members of the Mason’s auxiliary for women, the Order of the Eastern Star.
The Smith Family Struggle
Today I’m focusing on the Smith family, many of whom are buried in this cemetery. Their story reflects a struggle experienced by many in the state because of its role in the Civil War. As the last state to secede from the Union and the first to rejoin, loyalties in Tennessee were definitely divided, even within families.
I stumbled upon a great article by Mona B. Smith on the http://www.KnoxTNToday.com web site. She notes that “parts of this story are based on the book “I Remember Granny,” written by Beulah Lee Smith Prater Pratt about her grandmother, Cynthia Gambill Smith.
The oldest grave (in terms of death date) in the cemetery belongs to James Monroe Smith (1814-1865), who is pictured below. Smith, once a wealthy landowner and slaveholder, bought land in the 1840s that was part of the farm where Admiral David Farragut was born (for whom nearby Farragut was named). James and his wife, Cynthia Gambill Smith, had 10 children.
When the Civil War started in 1861, James and his two oldest sons, Mark and Frank, joined the Confederate Army. Son William, a teenager, was tasked with staying at home to look after the family. In 1862, James learned that his two youngest daughters were ill with cholera. He raced home to be with the family but when he arrived, Alice had just died, and three days later Louise passed away. The two little girls were buried in the family cemetery.
Family lore relates that James changed out of his uniform into some old clothes and was resting when Union soldiers arrived. Cynthia told them that the only one there was an old man helping her with the death of her child. A Union soldier recognized James but told his fellow soldiers, “He isn’t here,” and they left. James returned to his unit in Virginia.
A Son Makes a Choice
By 1864, William was 17 and decided to joined the Confederates. When James heard that William had left, he was furious. He went to William’s camp and took him back home. As soon as his father left, William ran off to fight for the Union Army until the end of the war. As you can imagine, this did not sit well with his family.
Cynthia had her own part in the Civil War. I found a 1951 newspaper article describing a story she told her grandson, William’s son Dr. James Hardin Smith (who became a minister like his father). She denied drawing a map for Confederates of where Union troops were located as they mobilized toward Fort Sanders Heights, but she did admit to describing to them where they were so they could make a map themselves. She was reportedly held prisoner by Union officials in Nashville for six weeks but was ultimately released.
James, Frank, and Mark returned to Concord to find much of their property in ruins. James had been warned by neighbors that if he came back to live there that he would be killed. On July 19, 1865, after being attacked by two Union men with clubs in Knoxville, James was fatally shot in the back while returning home on horseback.
James’ murder was reported in William Brownlow’s newspaper, The Knoxville Whig, with Brownlow’s views taking a decided pro-Union slant. East Tennessee sent a large number of men to fight in the Union Army during the Civil War. Some were James Smith’s neighbors.
James was buried in the family cemetery with his two little girls. I believe this marker was likely made after Cynthia died on June 11, 1904. She was 85 when she passed away. According to Mona Smith, it was Cynthia’s wish that James and the girls’ remains be moved to Concord Masonic Cemetery to be buried next to her and they were. Alice and Anna Louise’s graves remain unmarked.
Can a Family Heal?
Understandably, sons Mark and Frank left the area. Frank moved to Middle Tennessee and became a teacher while Mark purchased a farm in Roane County. William became a minister and notably, a high-ranking Mason. I wondered, did the family remain divided after the war?
The 1951 article I mentioned earlier (hopefully) answered that question for me, at least regarding the relationship between William and Frank, and with their mother.
When the war was over, the two brothers (William and Frank) were the closest friends through life. It was said their mother ‘loved them just the same until the angels took her home’.
Mark, Frank, and William are all buried near each other in Concord Masonic Cemetery.
There’s a sad postscript to this story. Another Smith son, John “Breck” C.B. Smith, was a child when his brothers fought in the Civil War. Breck made headlines when he died in 1891. A constable in Roane County, Breck was murdered at age 34 when he received a shotgun blast of buckshot, which killed him immediately. He left behind a wife and several children. John is buried in Cave Creek Cemetery in Roane County.
There are more stories yet to come from Concord Masonic Cemetery.
Sheila A. Quinn said:
This is very interesting to me as I graduated from Farragut High in Concord, Tn. I had no idea this cemetery was there.
Gail Williams Welch said:
I really enjoyed this historical information about the Concord Masonic Cemetery! All four of my grandparents, my parents, & my brother are buried there. Also, an aunt & an uncle along with many family friends are buried in that cemetery!