Florida Panhandle Adventure 2019: A Stroll Through Santa Rosa Beach’s Gulf Cemetery, Part I

In late January 2019, I went to Florida with my best friend, Christi, who lives in Omaha. She was ready to escape the freezing cold Nebraska winter for the much LESS cold Florida winter. This time we rented a place in Blue Mountain Beach on the Florida panhandle, east of Destin. I’ve been vacationing in that area of 30A since the 1990s.

I had never explored any of the cemeteries nearby so I decided to remedy that. Not far from our condo was Gulf Cemetery, which I had passed many times over the years.

Gulf Cemetery came from a patent granted by
President Woodrow Wilson in 1914.

Established by Patent by President Woodrow Wilson

Gulf Cemetery has a sign that explains some of its history. Burials unofficially began around 1910 when the city of Santa Rosa was established on Hogtown Bayou. What’s unusual is that the cemetery was officially established in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson signed patent 414345, which authorized the sale of 40 acres of land to the Gulf Cemetery Association.

I’d never heard of a cemetery established by a patent before. According to the sign, Gulf Cemetery and the Alango Cemetery in St. Louis County, Minn., are the only two U.S. patented cemeteries still in operation east of the Mississippi River. I’m still not exactly sure what that means.

This historic sign was placed in 2013.

The sign also notes that Gulf Cemetery has faced numerous obstacles since it opened. It was sold in error three times for delinquent property taxes and, more recently, was threatened by private development in 2006 when efforts to build an access road through it were thwarted. That one I can believe considering how rapidly the area has grown as a tourist destination. Originally, the cemetery was subdivided by various religious denominations but now the grounds are interdenominational.

The Gulf Cemetery Association was organized as a non-profit organization governed by five directors with the authority to establish the governing rules/regulations of the cemetery. The first directors were: M.L. Butler, W.H. Butler, George Gibbons, H.T. Lavermour, and John “Johan” Erickson.

According to Find a Grave, there are about 635 memorials listed but I know there are several more folks buried there than that. Several wooden cross with no names are scattered in the back.

I am intrigued with the words “still watched” on this sign.

On the day I visited, a number of cars came and went. Some folks appeared to be visiting graves but others I’m not so sure about. Maybe they were eating lunch. That may be why the sign on the tree is there. Still, I kept to myself while wandering around.

The Butler Family

The earliest burial recorded on Find a Grave at Gulf Cemetery is for Elizabeth Iola Notestein Butler, who died on June 22, 1913. She was the wife of Gulf Cemetery Association director Marquis de Lafayette (M.L. or Marcus) Butler, who I listed earlier. It appears that they spent most of their lives in Missouri and Minnesota (with a few years in Tennessee) before coming to Florida near the end of Elizabeth’s life. Even back then, retirees were heading south to enjoy their golden years in sunny Florida.

Elizabeth and Marcus married in Missouri in 1867. Marcus had served in the Missouri 69th Infantry, Company F, and later applied for his pension in 1922. The pair had several children together. One of their sons, William Henry Butler (the W.H. who was also a Gulf Cemetery director) moved his family down to the nearby Grayton Beach area before 1910. This must have enticed Elizabeth and Marcus to move south, along with a more agreeable climate.

Elizabeth’s inscription says “Mrs. M.L. Butler” and does not include her full name, which saddens me.

Elizabeth died on June 22, 1912. Her part of the monument she shares with her husband lists her as “Mrs. M.L. Butler”, which was not an uncommon thing to see back in the day. But it always make me a bit sad to see a woman’s name submerged into her husband’s on a grave marker. Yes, she was married. But she had her own identity apart from him that’s worth remembering.

Over the next years, W.H. was working to build a resort in the Grayton Beach area with the help of his son, Van. I’m not sure where Marcus played a role in all this but when he died in 1933, his marker states what he felt he’d done. “I founded this city and climbed the hill and laid me down to rest.”

Did M.L. Butler found Santa Rosa Beach? I can find nothing to support his claim in my research.

The name I find most in terms of who founded Santa Rosa Beach is Dr. Charles Cessna, who has a park named after him and a boat landing. One paragraph I found reads: “Dr. Charles Cessna and his newly formed company out of Chicago used the press all over the north to entice the rush of immigrants to America’s shores. Here was where a new life of prosperity awaited, not to mention the perfect climate.”

I do believe that Marcus’ son William and grandson Van were key players in the establishment of Grayton Beach and Santa Rosa Beach in the coming years. Van and his wife were schoolteachers for many years and one of Santa Rosa’s schools is named after him.

The Mysterious Marie Joubert

One old marker I found posed a true mystery for me. I was not expecting to see a grave stone with a French inscription in a coastal Florida cemetery. But the articles I read about the early years of Grayton Beach/Santa Rosa indicated many immigrants settled in the area. So perhaps it wasn’t unexpected.

Fortunately, Marie’s marker has gotten a good cleaning (from what I saw on Find a Grave) since I photographed it in 2019.

A native of France, Marie died at the age of 73 on Feb. 3, 1917 from a kidney ailment. Her death certificate states she was a housewife and a widow but does not list her husband’s name. I don’t know how she came to live in Florida. Her father’s name was T. Mollet. I noticed that her death certificate was signed by a W. Cessna, perhaps someone related to Dr. Charles Cessna.

Fine to the Finnish

There are nine Ericksons buried in Gulf Cemetery, a number of them children who died young. I was curious to know who they were. Born in 1883, John or Johan Erickson was a ship’s carpenter who emigrated from Finland sometime around 1901 or 1906. He and his wife, Anna, lived in Hibbing, Minnesota before moving to a homestead in Santa Rosa Beach by 1915. You might remember his name as one of those Gulf Cemetery directors I listed earlier.

Together, they would have six children. Son Onne (1909-1998), Alvar (1911-1915), Astrid (1913-1983), Otto (1915-1916), Elis (1917-1919), Elva Viola (1920-1921), and Alfred (1922-2019). As you can see, four of the six died in childhood.

According to Find a Grave, Elva Viola Erickson was bitten by a rabid dog and died soon after from lockjaw at the age of exactly 17 months.

I am thankful to Find a Grave.com for many reasons. Sometimes it is thanks to a bio that someone wrote that I glean my only information. According to the memorial made for Elva Viola Erickson, she was bitten by a dog and contracted lockjaw. She died soon after on Aug. 11, 1921.

John’s brother, Erick, is another sad story. Like his brother, he emigrated from Finland to America as a young man. But it appears he remained a bachelor and worked as a coal miner in the North for many years. According to his Find a Grave memorial, he contracted Black Lung and went to spend his last days in Santa Rosa Beach with John and his family. He knew his days were numbered.

Erick Erickson died of Black Lung from his years as a coal miner on April 20, 1916 at the age of 39.

Erick Died on April 20, 1916 at age 39. He was buried among John and Anna’s children. John eventually died at age 77 in 1960 and Anna died at age 82 in 1962. It appears that the Ericksons actually lived in Pensacola from the 1920s until they died. But John and Anna are both buried at Gulf Cemetery, along with some of their children.

Cause of Death: Acute Indigestion

Death certificates can be eye-opening documents. This was the case when I looked up Emma Draper Harris.

The daughter of British parents, Emma Draper was born on March 6, 1883 in Canada. She married Edwin Harris in Simcoe, Ontario, Canada in 1903. They had a daughter, Gertrude, a year later.

I don’t know when the Harris family moved to Santa Rosa Beach but Emma died on April 23, 1918. Her death certificate states the cause of death was “acute indigestion”. It notes this was her fourth attack and that she died during the last episode while eating dinner. I’m wondering if she had a heart attack.

Emma Draper Harris was 35 when she died of “acute indigestion”. Did she perhaps have a heart attack?

Another interesting tidbit on the death certificate is the undertaker is listed as none other than W.H. Butler, whom I mentioned earlier. Amid his many talents, was he also a funeral director? That’s curious indeed.

Three-War Veteran

Lastly, sometimes I come across a grave that just tugs at my heartstrings. That’s the case for Master-Sergeant Ermel Howard, whose grave marker has a toy Army jeep at the base.

Born in 1925, Ermel Howard served in the U.S. Army Air Corps before it became the U.S. Air Force during World War II. Then he went on to serve in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. After retiring from the military, Ermel worked as a government worker at Eglin Air Force Base Hospital. He died at age 92 on Dec. 10, 2017.

I think Ermel was pretty amazing to have served in three consecutive wars, a feat not many have accomplished. It’s folks like him who are the backbone of our armed forces and I appreciate all he did.

Next time, I’ll be back at Gulf Cemetery with more stories from Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.

A homemade sign in the corner of a family plot.

Sweet Home Alabama: Having the Last Word at Eufaula’s Fairview Cemetery, Part III

Today I’m finishing up my series on Fairview Cemetery in Eufaula, Ala. This burial ground is just different, I’ll be up front about it. The stories, the grave markers, the bricks…so many things. I could probably spend a few months looking into the lives of these people and not get bored. It truly grabbed my attention.

Fairview Cemetery in April 2017.

In this last installment, I’m going to talk about epitaphs. The inscriptions written on grave markers and monuments. Much of the time, people stick to names and dates to keep it simple. Not to mention it’s less expensive. But in previous decades, people put much more thought into what was going on a loved one’s marker. Some of what I read at Fairview definitely lingers in my mind.

Down With the Ship

Sometimes an epitaph doesn’t have to be lengthy to catch your eye. In the case of William Stratton Jones Rivers, it was one word. Drowned. I apologize for the poor quality of the photograph of his grave but it is well worn and the sun was bright that day.

William Stratton Jones Rivers was the son of a minister.

The son of Dr. Richard Henderson Rivers (a reverend) and Martha Bolling Cox Jones Rivers, William was born in Alabama in 1847. He married Sarah “Sallie” Dandridge Nickels in September 1866 in Montgomery, Ala. Together, they had several children.

Rivers was serving as a clerk on the steamship “George W. Wyly” (I’ve also seen it spelled Wylly) when it struck the Fort Gaines bridge across the Chattahoochee River in Clay County, Ga. on April 11, 1883. According to his Find a Grave memorial, his body was never found. But he has a marker at Fairview and there is a brick outline where his grave would be. So I’m not totally sure that’s true.

From the April 20, 1883 edition of the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser.

William’s wife Sallie was left to raise their six children on her own. I found a newspaper article that said the citizens of Columbus, Ga. took up a collection of $608.30 to help her. Captain S.J. Whitesides, managing owner of the Central Line of Steamers that the George W. Wyly was part of agreed to match that amount. She also received $2,000 from a life insurance policy William had through the Knights of Honor, a popular fraternal order of that era.

Sallie and her children, who were living in Florida at the time of William’s death, did the best they could without him. She never remarried. When she died in 1897, she was buried in Jehu Cemetery in Wewahitchka, Fla.

A Son’s Fateful Death

There’s a sad postscript. William and Sallie’s son, Thomas, followed in his father’s footsteps and became a steamship engineer. He died on March 14, 1901 when he was shot twice by deckhand Theo Jackson aboard the steamship “J.W. Hires” who then threw his body overboard. Thomas was only 22 when he died. His remains were discovered weeks later, identified by the clothes he was wearing and contents of his pockets.

An article reported:

Rivers’ body was found a month later near Pitts Landing, 30 miles below the place where he went overboard and seven miles below Eufaula. The body was brought to Columbus and placed in a casket, purchased by the Federation of Marine Officers Association to which he belonged, and later interred at his home in Wewahitchka, Florida.

Photo of the Steamship J.W. Hires, from which Thomas Rivers’ body was tossed after he was killed by a deckhand. (Photo source: Florida Memory, State Library and Archives of Florida.)

Theo Jackson was tried before Thomas’ body was located in early April and convicted of voluntary manslaughter, receiving a sentence of 10 years. I couldn’t find anything more regarding where he ended up after that. Thomas was buried beside his mother in Jehu Cemetery.

A Family of Substance

The Shorter family made its mark on Alabama history over the years. They have their own cemetery in Eufaula and I hope to visit the next time I’m passing through. John Gill Shorter (1818-1872), who served as governor of Alabama from 1861 to 1863, is buried there.

Eli Sims Shorter (1823-1879) was an Alabama Congressman from 1855 to 1859.

His brother, Eli Sims Shorter (1823-1979), was no slouch. He was elected to represent Alabama’s Second District in the U.S. House of Representatives, serving from 1855 to 1859. He also served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. An attorney, he served in the Confederate Army as colonel of the 18th Regiment Alabama Infantry.

Eli shares a monument with his wife, Marietta Fanin Shorter, and two of his sons, Clement Clay Shorter and William Augustus Shorter. Each has an interesting epitaph that I’d like to share.

Born in 1851, William Augustus Shorter was the second child of Eli and Marietta. He studied law at Lebanon Law School in Tennessee before working as a lawyer in Brooklyn, N.Y. He later practiced law in Atlanta before becoming president of the Georgia Dept. of the Grangers Life and Health Insurance Co. based in Rome, Ga. A bachelor, the role William relished most was as associate editor of the Rome Courier.

I am Free from Pain and Wish to Go to Sleep”

William was only 27 when in late September 1877 he became ill with “congestion of the bowels”. He suffered for five days, gradually weakening. I suspect he might have had an intestinal blockage but in those days there were few ways to diagnose it. One of his last words to a friend were, “I am free from pain and wish to go to sleep.” He died soon after on Sept. 28, 1877.

William Augustus Shorter was only 27 when he died in 1877.

William’s epitaph is a testament to his maturity despite his young age:

Although called to his reward
While yet so young, he had won
And merited a reputation for
Integrity of character, oratory
And scholarship seldom equaled
By one of his years.

William’s father, Eli, died only two years later after an illness of several weeks on April 29, 1879 at age 56.

Eli Sims Shorter had a more illustrious career than his son but his epitaph is decidedly different.

His epitaph is actually briefer than his son’s:

Scholar. Lawyer. Friend. Soldier. Patriot. Statesman. Christian.

William’s younger brother, Clement Clay Shorter (born in 1856) followed in in his father’s footsteps by pursuing a law career before jumping into the political ring. He served in the Alabama House of Representatives fro 1882 to 1888 when he finally reached his goal of becoming Speaker of the House at the age of 33. He was the youngest person to attain that rank in Alabama.

A “Trumpet Like” Voice

According to his obituary, however, Clement differed from his father and brother in that he was short of stature and struggled with health limitations they did not. But his speaking voice was noted as being “trumpet like” and easily captured the attention of listeners, making him a good fit for his new role.

Clement died of typhoid fever on June 16, 1890. I did not get a good photograph of his panel on the Shorter monument but I saw a better one on his Find a Grave memorial. His epitaph, focusing on his spiritual and leadership strength, reads:

He loved his God and trusted Him.
He loved his people and was signally honored by them.
His life completes a bright chapter in Alabama’s history.

William and Clement’s mother, Marietta, survived their father for several years after his death. She died while visiting friends in Atlantic City, N.J. on April 18, 1898. Her remains were sent back to Eufaula for burial at Fairview in the family plot.

Marietta Fannin Shorter was 67 when she died in Atlantic City, N.J. in 1898.

Marietta’s epitaph is somewhat typical for a woman of that time, emphasizing traditional feminine traits:

Her warmth of heart, sweet gentle nature, and brilliancy of mind made her easily adorn every position.
While her holy consecrated life, so pure and faultless, makes Heaven her eternal home.

Eli and Marietta did have two other children. Son Eli Sims Shorter, Jr., who is buried nearby with his wife, Wileyna Lamar Shorter, died in 1908. The Shorters’ eldest child, daughter Annie Shorter Leftwich, died in 1900 of pneumonia at age 51. She is buried with her husband, Col. Alexander Leftwich, in Presbyterian Cemetery in Lynchburg, Va.

“Not Slothful in Business”

Other epitaphs are interesting for what they focus on about a person. The epitaph for Eufaula banker Edward Brown Young (1802-1879) grabbed my attention for its mention of the word “slothful”. That’s not a word I often see on a grave marker. Edward was president of the Eufaula National Bank so being remarkably focused on his task and lacking in sloth-like qualities would be expected.

“Slothful” is not a word I often see on a grave marker.

Edward is described as:

Not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.

Death of a Young Wife

The epitaphs for wives who die young are often heartbreaking. Born in North Carolina in 1823, Mary Ann Rebecca White married a man 16 years her senior. A veteran of the Indian Wars, Major Jefferson Buford was from South Carolina. They married in 1839 and had four children together, one dying in infancy.

Mary died on July 16, 1852 in Eufaula at age 29. She shares a monument with Major Buford, although he married a second time in 1858 to widow Lizzie Juett McNeil. They had a daughter, Caro, in 1861 but she died in 1867. She is buried in the Buford plot at Fairview. After Major Buford died in 1862 from heart disease, Lizzie remarried. I’m not sure where she is buried.

Mary’s portion of the Buford monument is on top and features an epitaph I have not seen anywhere else. The picture was taken in full sunlight so I had to play with the editing a little to make the words readable.

Mary Ann Rebecca White Buford was the first of Major Jefferson Buford’s two wives.

Her epitaph reads:

None but he loser knows the worth of a true heart.

In That Home of Love

I’ll close out this post with three little words I saw on the back of the shared monument of Col. John Wallace Comer (1845-1919) and his wife Caroline “Carrie” Gertrude Seay Comer (1847-1888). It’s quite a grand monument, which isn’t surprising because of Col. Comer’s prominence as a Confederate veteran and businessman. He was also the brother of Alabama Gov. Braxton Bragg Comer, who served from 1906 to 1911.

Col. John W. Comer and his wife, Carrie, had no children together.

Carrie died at age 44 in 1888 and Col. Comer never remarried. They had no children. I have to wonder how he handled the next decades without her. He died in 1919 at age 74. On the back of their monuments you can see this.

Col. Comer lived another 31 years after Carrie died.

There are a number of hymns that include the words “some sweet day” in them. One is called “Some Sweet Day” and was written by S.H. Chord in 1892. Some speculate that S.H. Chord was the min­is­ter Spen­cer How­ard Chord (1857–1929), who is bur­ied in Cof­fey Ce­me­te­ry, El­letts­ville, In­d. Perhaps this is the hymn this epitaph refers to. The first verse goes like this:

Some sweet day when life is o’er,
We shall meet above;
We shall greet those gone before,
In that home of love.

Next time, I’ll be posting about my January 2019 adventures in Florida.

Sweet Home Alabama: Hitting the Bricks at Eufaula’s Fairview Cemetery, Part II

Last week, I introduced you to Eufaula, Ala.’s Fairview Cemetery. One thing I learned this week was that former NBCToday show host Katie Couric’s parents and sister are buried there. I did not get a picture of their graves, unfortunately. They’re buried in the newer part of the cemetery.

Fairview Cemetery in April 2017.

Fairview Cemetery features a number of brick-based graves in varying states of condition. I was unable to determine if Eufaula had a brick factory at one time. However, it’s not unusual for me to find brick-based graves in Southern cemeteries. They simply used what they had. Some graves at Fairview are clearly in poor condition and have not stood the test of time.

The brick frame of this grave site is falling apart. I don’t know if this was simply
from poor condition or vandalism.

Then you have those that are in decent shape but have no identifying plate to show whom the deceased was.

It’s my guess that these three graves are for a child and its parents.

Here’s an actual brick tomb with no identifying plate for the deceased. I’ve seen a good number of these over the years but usually in better condition.

The identify of whomever is interred within this brick tomb is unknown.

But there are a number of brick-based graves that are in good shape and have plates to identify the person buried there. Such is the case of young Samuel McLeod Garrett. Born in 1874 to carpenter James and Sarah McLeod Garrett, Samuel lost his mother when he was only a baby. His older sister, Ann Garett Cobb, helped raise him. A Civil War veteran, James died when Samuel was 14. He’s also buried at Fairview.

“Death Came as a Blessed Deliverer”

In 1898, Samuel married Alice Helms and they had a child. He had a good job as a compositor at Eufaula’s Daily Times newspaper. According to his obituary, he suffered poor health the last year of his life. He died at age 25 on April 26, 1900. The newspaper’s office announced it would be closed on the day of his funeral to honor his memory.

Samuel Garrett lost his mother in infancy. He was just starting a family of his own when he died.

Then you have a brick grave for high-ranking Confederate Civil War Col. Hiram Hawkins. Born in Bath County, Ky. on Sept. 9, 1826, Hawkins was one of the seven sons of Thomas and Mary “Polly” Deen Hawkins. He also had five sisters. He took over running the family farm and store after his father died of cholera.

Life of a Confederate Colonel

Hawkins was commander of the 5th Kentucky (CSA) Volunteer Infantry, which was part of the famous Kentucky “Orphan Brigade“. Hawkins helped raise the regiment in Eastern Kentucky in 1861, and commanded it as its Lieutenant Colonel before being promoted its Colonel. He led the regiment in such battles as Chickamauga, Resaca, Dallas, Atlanta, and Jonesboro, commanding it up its the surrender on May 6, 1865. After the war, he and his wife settled permanently in Eufaula.

Hawkins was first married to Mary Workman of Bath, Ky. on Sept. 8, 1853. She died on August 1, 1860 and is buried in Old Bethel Cemetery in Kentucky. His second marriage was to widow Louisiana Nuckolls Boykin on Sept. 22, 1864. He had met her that same year while recovering on “wounded leave” in Alabama. Col. Hawkins’ mother, Polly, lived with the couple after they married.

Photo of Col. Hiram Hawkins in his later years.

Col. Hawkins was president of Eufaula’s Union Female College during the early 1870s. Later he was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 1882 and 1884. He was also involved with many agricultural organizations around the state and pushed for more modern farming methods to be used.

Col. Hiram Hawkins served as president of Union Female College while his wife served as “Lady Principal”.

Mary “Polly” Deen Hawkins died on April 20, 1881 at age 76. Col. Hawkins’ wife, Louisiana, died on Aug. 10, 1895 at age 63. The two women share a beautiful monument.

Col. Hiram Hawkins’ mother died in 1881 at the age of 76.
Louisiana Nuckolls Boykin Hawkins died in 1895 at age 63.

Why Such a Simple Marker?

Col. Hawkins lived on for several years, dying on July 27, 1913 at age 87. I found it interesting that his own marker is a simple government-issued military marker that has his death date incorrect as 1914. For such a prominent citizen, this surprised me. However, I have a theory that his name/dates were meant to be carved onto the larger marker that his mother and wife shared.

Col. Hawkins’ grave is quite simple compared to those of his wife and mother. Was that his plan?
Were these symbols meant to refer to Col. Hawkins’ Masonic affiliation?

What leads me to that conclusion? I noticed that on one of the blank sides there is the Masonic compass symbol below a wheat sheaf. Being that women could not be Masons (only members of the Order of the Eastern Star, the Masonic auxiliary for women), this must have been carved in advance for Col. Hawkins.

So why were his name and dates never added to the marker? I can only surmise that there were no local family members left to pay for it. I noticed a newspaper item that said his will included 13 heirs, with one living in Oregon.

“Our Darling Vada”

There is a lasting mystery to the Hawkins family plot that I was unable to solve. On the end of the row of graves beside the one for Mary “Polly” Deen Hawkins is a marker for “Our Darling Vada”. It is topped with lily of the valley, which is meant to signify innocence and purity. Was this a child of Col. Hawkins and Louisiana that died in childhood? Any biography I read on the Colonel or his wife said they had no children. So the identity of Vada remains a mystery.

Was this a child of Col. Hiram and Louisiana Hawkins?

Two Little Boys

Then there are these two graves for the children of alderman/postmaster Eugene L. Brown and his wife, Mary Serena Hoole Brown. Mary was actually the brother of James Lingard Hoole, whom I featured in last week’s blog post. The couple had married in Eufaula in 1871. J. Lingard Brown was born on July 4, 1873 and died on Oct. 24, 1873. His brother, Eugene, was born on June 25, 1880 and died at the age of three on March 20, 1883. His death was reported in the local newspaper.

Newspaper article from the March 22, 1883 edition of the Eufaula Daily Times.
The graves of brothers J. Lingard Brown and Eugene L. Brown are made of bricks.

Eugene and Serena Brown did have several children who lived to adulthood. Eugene died in 1908 at age 62 and Serena died in 1915 at age 70. They are both buried at Fairview but unlike their children, the couple’s graves are not marked.

“He Bears Our Best-Loved Things Away”

I think the two saddest brick graves that I found while wandering through Fairview were for brothers Levi and Alonzo Thweatt. They were the sons of John and Elizabeth Sharp Thweatt. Alonzo was born in 1845 and Levi in 1846. Both brothers fought together for the Confederacy in the Civil War as part of Georgia’s Columbus Light Artillery.

The brothers survived the war and returned home. They worked in a grocery store. But Levi’s health was devastated by tuberculosis and he died on May 14, 1870. His marker on top the brick foundation is broken but the pieces are together.

Levi Thweatt’s brief epitaph reads, “Not lost but gone before.”
Levi Thweatt died 10 years before his brother Alonzo.

Alonzo never married, living with his mother, Elizabeth, his brother, John, and his family. He died on June 15, 1880 at the age of 35. His grave marker has been broken into pieces and scattered across the brick foundation. Among the pieces are large seashells, not unusual on a Southern grave.

It pains me to see this young man’s grave shattered into pieces.
Alonzo Thweatt fought alongside his brother, Levi, during the Civil War.
Alonzo Thweatt was only 25 when he died in 1880.

One of the pieces of Alonzo’s marker includes an inscription of part of a poem written by John Luckey McCreery called “There is No Death”

There is no death! An angel form
Walks o’er the earth with silent tread;
He bears our best-loved things away,
And then we call them “dead.”

Hopefully, Alonzo’s grave marker will be repaired or replaced with a new one some day.

There are more stories still to share from Fairview Cemetery. Part III is coming soon.

Sophia Link, wife of carpenter/upholsterer William Link, died at age 50 in 1872.

Sweet Home Alabama: Weighing Anchor at Eufaula’s Fairview Cemetery, Part I

Last time, I told you I’d be starting to dig into my cemetery hopping adventures from 2019 in Alabama and Florida. But sometimes things don’t work out the way I planned.

Fairview Cemetery in April 2017.

In going through my photos, I realized there was an Alabama cemetery I’d stopped to visit back in April 2017 that I hadn’t written about yet. Sometimes I make random cemetery stops that end up in my photo archive that I forget about. I was returning from a wonderful spring break week in Florida with my best friend, Christi when we stopped by Fairview Cemetery. It was a glorious early spring day and a great opportunity to stretch out legs.

According to its historical sign, Fairview Cemetery was established in the 1830s and has about 1,300 recorded burials. However, Find a Grave notes something more like 4,500 burials. So perhaps the sign is referring the oldest part of the cemetery. I also learned that Fairview Cemetery didn’t get its current name until the 1890s.

Fairview Cemetery’s sign gives some helpful information.

Because I hadn’t done any preparation, I didn’t know where to look for the more famous burials at Fairview. Apparently, there’s a governor and other important officials. The most “important” burial in terms of prestige that I photographed was a Confederate colonel and we’ll get to him eventually.

Fairview gradually added land over the years and different sections were established. The “Old Negro Cemetery” contains the graves for blacks buried there until 1870 when that practice moved to Pine Grove Cemetery. There’s a sign for a Jewish section along with areas for Odd Fellows and Masonic burials, although the latter two don’t have signs.

Fairview’s Jewish section has a sign that says burials took place between 1845 and 1987. You can see the Walter F. George Reservoir (and border with Georgia) in the background.

One of the largest plots belongs to the Tansey family. James Tansey owned a small store along with an active marble business in Eufaula. That may explain the grandeur of his own family’s plot. The date on the border of it is 1897, the year James Tansey died.

James and Margaret Tansey had no children but they are only two of the 10 graves in the plot.

An Englishman (or Irishman) in Alabama

Born in 1828, James Tansey came to America sometime in the 1850s. I’ve found records that list his birthplace as either England or Ireland. I believe he spent some time in Philadelphia. In 1857, he married Margaret A. Michael of Davidson County, N.C. The couple had moved to Eufaula by 1859. I say that because I found an ad from the July 12, 1859 Spirit of the South newspaper extolling his skills as a stone carver.

James Tansey set out to become a successful marble cutter and monument dealer in Eufaula, Ala. By all accounts, he found success.

James and Margaret had no children. But James’ business did well as he supplied customers locally and across the South with grave stones and monuments. He is frequently mentioned in the Eufaula newspapers.

Margaret died after a short illness on July 22, 1895 at age 65. It was only two years later in November 1897 that James passed away. His obituary goes into detail about his life and works. What I found most interesting were the specific preparations Tansey made before he died. I’m not entirely sure if he actually did request that his body be wrapped in a winding linen sheet or if that was a rumor someone reported. The newspaper later reported Mr. Keller was not the executer of Tansey’s will after all. That task was given to two of his nieces, whom I will talk about shortly.

From the Times and News (Eufaula, Ala.), Dec. 9, 1897.

The Tansey plot contains 10 graves. Two are for James and Margaret, which I photographed.

James and Margaret Tansey died about two years apart.

Two other markers in the plot are for James’ sister, Mariah Grisman, and her husband, James Grisman. Like Tansey, Grisman had crossed the Atlantic but he had settled in Canada. When Mariah died in 1895, Grisman had her remains sent to Eufaula for burial in Fairview Cemetery. He spent his last few years in Eufaula with his brother-in-law and died in 1899 at age 75.

Mariah Tansey Grisman was the sister of James Tansey. She died in Canada in 1895 and her body was sent to Eufaula for burial in Fairview Cemetery.

The monument that dominates the plot has some lovely details to it. Here’s the front. You can see she is clasping a chain.

Notice the chain the woman is holding.

Then you get a glimpse of the back and you can see the chain is attached to an anchor.

A large anchor is leaning against the back of the statue. Why?

So why an anchor? This is a symbol you can observe frequently in cemeteries but it doesn’t always mean the deceased was a sailor or served in the Navy. That’s a common error people make. The anchor is thought to have been a key Christian symbol during the period of Roman persecution. Early Christians lived in fear of being arrested and possibly executed for their faith. Many were. Christian use of the anchor is also echoed in Hebrews 6:19: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”

Where did the Silver Service Go?

James Tansey named two of his nieces, Elizabeth Egan Tully and Sarah Egan, the executrices of his will. His sister in Ireland and the two nieces received most of his estate. It’s believed that his wife, Margaret, left her own property/possessions to her family. But newspapers reported a dispute between the heirs about a valuable silver service that landed them all in court. This article leave the impression that Margaret’s family ended up with it.

This article from the Eufaula newspaper indicates the silver service ended up with an heir of Margaret Tansey. But that may not have been the case.

After her husband Daniel died in 1908, Lizzie Tully operated a grocery store. U.S. Census records indicate her sons followed in James Tansey’s footsteps and worked in the marble industry. When daughter Marie married Dr. John Jones, the entire family moved to Savannah, Ga.

But the saga of the silver service was not yet over. According to the article below from the Nov. 5, 1924 Montgomery Advertiser, Tallahassee, Fla. officials went looking for this very silver service for a centennial celebration it was having. The story explains that Lizzie Tully took the silver service with her to Savannah when the family moved before 1920. Apparently the silver service had once belonged to Napoleon’s nephew, Prince Achille Murat who lived in Tallahassee in his later years until he died in 1847.

According to the article below, the silver service was given to James Tansey in payment for a cemetery monument he provided to the Murats. My guess is that it was for Charlotte Murat, who died in 1867. She was the great-grand niece of George Washington. From what I understand, Charlotte was living in difficult financial circumstances following the Civil War.

What became of the wandering silver service? I wish I knew. But I do know that Lizzie Tully, died that same year (1924) and is buried with her husband, Daniel, in the Tansey plot at Fairview Cemetery.

From the Nov. 5, 1924 Montgomery Advertiser. Where did the silver service end up?

A Doctor with Masonic Ties

I caught sight of another marker at Fairview with an anchor on it. This time it was for a beloved town physician, Dr. William Horatio Thornton. A Georgia native born in 1816, William studied medicine at University of Pennsylvania before moving to Eufaula. According to his obituary, William was one of 12 children and five of them became doctors.

He married Mary B. Shorter in 1845, the sister of Gov. John Gill Shorter, and the daughter of General Reuben Shorter. He was also Eufaula’s mayor in 1857 and president of the board of trustees for the local Union Female College. William and Mary had eight children together. He died at age 64 on Jan. 27, 1881.

Now let’s take a look at William’s impressive marker. It’s possible James Tansey’s marble works carved it. The detail of the anchor, which includes even some fraying at the end of the rope that wraps around it, it incredible.

Dr. Thornton was regarded with much affection by his patients but he was also an active member of the Masons, which the anchor confirms.

Earlier, I mentioned the fact that the anchor has strong ties with Christianity as a symbol of hope. It also has a similar meaning in the Masonic fraternal order as a symbol of hope, and Dr. Thornton was an active member of his local lodge. That the anchor was meant to signify his Masonic ties is confirmed in a biography written about him that stated:

“He was a chapter Mason, an emblem of that organization surmounting the beautiful and costly monument erected to his memory in the Masonic cemetery by his devoted widow, whose loving care keeps beautiful this hallowed spot.”

When an Anchor Signifies a Naval Career

Then there are those graves that have an anchor that actually signifies that the deceased was a sailor or perhaps in the Navy. Fairview has its own example in the grave marker of Lieutenant James Lingard Hoole. Born in Barbour County, Ala. in 1840 to Bertram and Violetta Wyatt Hoole, James entered the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. at age 14 from 1854 to 1858. His marker says he graduated in 1860 but that could be wrong.

Alabama native Lieutenant James Lingard Hoole studied at the U.S. Naval Academy from 1854-1858.

William served as a midshipman in the U.S. Navy until enlisting in the Confederate Navy on June 22, 1861, when he took the rank of master. He served on the Confederate ships CSS Forrest, Georgia (pictured below), and Florida. He was wounded in the Battle of Roanoake Island in February 1862 but recovered to return to duty. His final rank advance came in January 1864 when he was made a lieutenant.

Sketch of the CSS Georgia ironclad. The Ladies’ Gunboat Association raised $115,000 for her construction to defend the port city of Savannah.

“After life’s fitful fever, he sleeps well…”

William survived the war but his health did not rebound. He died on Aug. 12, 1866 at the home of Confederate Gen. H.D. Clayton, who was served in the Alabama House of Representatives before the Civil War. General Clayton is also buried at Fairview but I did not photograph his grave.

Lieutenant James L. Hoole served in the Confederate Navy
during the Civil War.

Notice the small anchor at the top right of his marker.

Sometimes an anchor does signify a nautical life.

There’s plenty more to share from Fairview Cemetery, I’ll have more in Part II.

Volunteer State Hopping: Uncovering History at Tennessee’s Concord Masonic Cemetery, Part II

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.

Magnolia trees like this one are beautiful to look at but the huge piles of leave they deposit can be a pain to dispose of over time.

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.

Samuel and Catherine Lonas Gilson share a marker. I did not get a photograph of the back which has her inscription on it.

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 lived a little over a year before her death in September 1889. (Photo source: Chattanooga Daily Times)

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.

John “Johnnie” Burges was only three when he died. This article from the Knoxville Semi-Weekly Knoxville Sentinel (July 19, 1893) was slightly damaged.

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.

Lester Boyd Burgess was the third child of S.C. and Minnie Burgess to die in childhood.

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.

Mary Lester, age 3, died of brain fever on April 30, 1898. (Photo source: The Knoxville Sentinel, May 4, 1898.)

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.

Minnie’s death at age 31 was greatly mourned in the Concord community.
Four of Minnie Boyd Burgess’ children were already buried in the Concord Masonic Cemetery when she died in July 1889.

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.

Minnie Louise Burgess lived the longest of S.C. and Minnie Boyd’s six children, dying at age five. (Photo source: Knoxville Sentinel, Aug. 16, 1898)

Death was not quite finished with the Burgess family. The last child, Anna, died at the age of four months on Oct. 17, 1898

Anna, the last child born to S.C. and Minnie Boyd Burgess, was the last to die 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.

Schwartz Christian “S.C.” Burgess died at age 76 in 1934. He is buried with his third wife, Lorna, at Berry Highland Memorial Cemetery. (Photo source: Michael McNeal, Find a Grave)

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.

Volunteer State Hopping: Uncovering History at Tennessee’s Concord Masonic Cemetery, Part I

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.

Concord Masonic Cemetery is located in a community that was once a booming part of the Tennessee Marble trade. You can see Fort Loudon Lake in the background.

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.

Was the current Chota Lodge #253 building built in 1870?

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.

Members of the Chota Masonic Lodge #253 meet at this historic building in the cemetery.

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.

Undated photo of James Monroe Smith and Cynthia Elvira Gambill Smith with sons William Swan, Marcus “Mark” Lafayette and Francis “Frank” Marion. (Photo source: Mona B. Smith)

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.

Portrait of the Rev. William Swan Smith (1847-1907) in his Masonic garb. (Photo source: Find a Grave.com, Jayne Sharp)

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 Smith’s death was viewed by some as revenge for his treatment of Union men and their families. (Source: Article from July 30, 1865 Knoxville Whig)

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.

James Smith’s return was not welcomed by some of his neighbors. He was murdered in July 1865.

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.

The Rev. William Smith died in 1907 at the age of 59. His brother, Mark, died in 1916 at the age of 76. Frank died at age 76 in 1921. Mark’s grave is directly behind William’s monument and has a Confederate cross by the left corner.

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.

John “Breck” Clifton Breckenridge Smith, a Roane County constable, was murdered in 1891 at age 34. (Photo source: Ancestry.com)

There are more stories yet to come from Concord Masonic Cemetery.

Volunteer State Hopping: Taking the Last Lap at Knoxville, Tenn.’s Asbury Cemetery, Part II

In my last post, I introduced you to Knoxville’s Asbury Cemetery. My focus was on the Kreis family, including the death of racecar driver A.J. “Pete” Kreis. But now I want to return to the Pickles. Or Pickels. Take your pick. Different people chose different spellings of it over the years. So you might see it both ways, even within the same family. As I mentioned before, Asbury Cemetery used to be called Pickle/Pickel Cemetery. Again, spellings varied.

The Icy Arms of Death

It’s not that common for a person’s cause of death to appear on their marker. But in the case of mother and daughter Sally and Eveline Pickle, both of their monuments share some details about how they died.

Born in 1807, Samuel Pickel was a native Tennessean. A farmer, he married Sarah “Sally” Dowell on Feb. 14, 1828. They had a daughter, Eveline, in 1832. She would be their only child. Eveline died on Oct. 21, 1852. After reading the inscription on her monument, it’s my guess that she died from tuberculosis or possibly pneumonia.

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Mother Sally Pickle and daughter Eveline Pickel (spelled differently on the markers) are buried beside each other.

Eveline’s inscription reads:

She was a kind and affectionate daughter, kind to the afflicted, zealous in the pursuit of knowledge, loved and esteemed by all who knew her. She loved the Lord Jesus Christ and through faith in Him was enabled to cry victory even in the icy arms of death. Her parents therefore do not sorrow as those who have no hope. Though they have been bereaved of an only child they bow in submission, knowing well that she is is in a happier time than this. The desease(sic) which terminated her earthly career was the hemorrage of the lungs. She was confined to her room for five weeks during which time she suffered intense pain which she bore with Christian patience and resignation.

At the top of her monument are two doves with the words “Only One & Dearly Beloved”.

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“Only One & Dearly Beloved”: Eveline Pickel was only 20 when she died after a five-week illness.

Eveline’s mother, Sally, would die only four years later on Sept. 28, 1856 at the age of 49. If you read her briefer inscription, you might wonder if part of what led to her death was grief for her beloved daughter.

She honored her Christian profession by her general walk,but especially also by the patience she manifested in enduring the most painful sufferings during the last 4 years of her life.

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Did grief for her daughter play a role in Sally’s death? Notice that her husband’s last name is spelled Pickle here but Pickel on his own marker.

I do find it interesting that Sally’s monument has a lamb on top of it. I would have thought the younger Eveline’s monument would have been more appropriate for that symbol, not the two doves.

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Samuel Pickel’s last name is spelled differently on his marker than that of his wife.

Samuel Pickel remarried on Aug. 2, 1857 to Cornelia Armstrong, who was 30 years his junior. Together, they had six children. At least three lived well into adulthood. Samuel died in 1883 at the age of 76. He is buried not far from his first wife and child. Cornelia remarried to Samuel Giffin in 1884 and died in 1887 at age 42. She is buried beside Samuel.

Samuel’s epitaph reads:

Amiable and beloved husband, farewell. Thy years were few but thy virtues were many. They are not recorded on this perishing stone but on the book of life and in the hearts of thy afflicted friends.

Mother and Child

I photographed the grave of one of Samuel’s grandchildren, Alva Mae Pickel. Born on Dec. 28, 1895, Alva was the daughter of Charles and Minnie Pickel. At age 23, she married farmer Ben Neubert in April 1919.

One March 6, 1920, Alva gave birth to a stillborn daughter that she and Ben named Gladys Elaine. The death date on her marker is damaged but I was able to find it on her records.

Gladys Elaine Neubert was stillborn. Her mother would die a few days later.

Alva died only three days later on March 9. According to her death certificate, the cause of death was “acute myocarditis.” She may have been suffering from peripartum cardiomyopathy, a rare type of heart failure. It occurs during pregnancy or not long after delivery. She was only 24.

Alva Mae Pickel Neubert was only 24 when she died.

Ben remarried to Leona Williams. They would have five children together. Ben died in 1972 and is buried with Leona in Roseberry Cemetery in nearby Mascot, Tenn.

Tragedy on the Tracks

There are 12 Huskissons buried at Asbury Cemetery. Two of their markers stood out to me. The first belongs to George Washington Huskisson, born on April 19, 1874 to John Wiley Huskisson and Mary Armstrong Huskisson. John would die at the age of 43 in 1890.

George married Eliza Huffaker in July 1893. They had two children, John and Miles. George found work with the railroad. That profession would eventually cost him his life.

I found this photo of George W. Huskisson and his wife, Eliza, and their son (most likely John Carl Huskisson). The person who posted it noted that she believed the two women standing behind them were two of Eliza’s sisters. Photo taken around 1895. (Photo source: Ancestry.com)

George was working as a fireman on the Knoxville & Ohio (K & O) Railroad on Jan. 8, 1899 near Elk Valley when a freight train had a head end collision with a mixed local passenger train at 11:30 a.m. The collision was blamed on the freight train not “side tracking” for the oncoming passenger train as a result of engineers misreading their time cards. Regardless, five men died that day. George was pulled alive from the wreckage and taken to the hospital. But he died the next day from the serious burns he received in the crash.

George Huskisson was severely burned in the horrific train wreck on Jan. 8, 1899 and died the next day.

George’s monument includes a locomotive engine with the number 157 on it. Perhaps this was an engine George had ridden and worked on during his life. One article I read noted that George was a member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, who assisted his wife, Eliza, after his death.

George’s monument features a locomotive engine.

Eliza remarried to Samuel Felts in 1902. She died in 1956 at the age of 81 and is buried in Asbury Cemetery with Samuel, who died in 1955. Eliza and George’s two sons, lived well into adulthood and are buried in other states.

Tools of His Trade

George’s uncle, Alfred Patrick Huskisson, also has an eye-catching monument as Asbury Cemetery. He was in the monument trade for much of his life, which is reflected in his own marker.

Born on Aug. 1, 1854, A.P. Huskisson married Lucinda “Lucy” Barlow around 1880. They had one daughter, Cora, born in 1886. A.P. was employed as a stone cutter for none other than G.W. Callahan & Bro. for some years. I wrote about George Callahan recently in my post about Calvary Cemetery.

Sometime around 1901, A.P. entered into a partnership with W.F. Berne in Augusta, Ga. to become cement sidewalk contractors. The next year, Cora and Lucy joined him in Augusta. He died on Oct. 25, 1905 at the age of 51.

The different tools at the base of A.P. Huskisson’s monument make it clear what his profession was.

A.P.’s body was returned by train to Knoxville and he was buried at Asbury Cemetery. His monument is in the shape of a tree, a very popular trend at the time. But I don’t think I’ve seen on that ever had stone mason’s tools at the base as this one does. It is a testament to his profession and his craftsmanship.

Lucy did not remarry and died in 1946. She is buried in Knoxville’s Lynnhurst Cemetery. Cora married Charles Mauk in 1907 and died in 1978. I was unable to find out where she is buried.

As I left, this sign did make me curious. In the Victorian era, cemeteries were known destinations for picknickers who would visit their loved ones before tucking into some lunch nearby on a blanket. I occasionally buzz through a drive-thru for a snack to eat at a cemetery. But I usually eat it in my car before walking around. Not on the grass.

Then again, maybe the sign is aimed more at folks loitering with less than honorable intentions. It’s possible they’ve had issues with vandalism or leaving trash. It’s a sadly common cemetery problem.

Don’t linger too long.

Next time, I’ll be stopping by Concord Masonic Cemetery.

Volunteer State Hopping: Taking the Last Lap at Knoxville, Tenn.’s Asbury Cemetery, Part I

Just down the road from Knoxville’s Lebanon in the Fork Cemetery is another gem worth visiting. Although its tucked away among a mix of warehouses and industrial parks, Asbury Cemetery has a lot to offer.

The history of Asbury Cemetery is hard to find but I cobbled together a few facts. Up until the 1920s, Asbury Cemetery was more often called Pickle’s Cemetery or the Pickle Burying Ground. You can find it in the obituaries in the local newspapers written as such. That’s probably because many of the first people buried there had the last name of Pickle or Pickel.

The arch at Asbury Cemetery says “91” at the top but burials have been taking place here as early as 1832.

The first burial recorded is for an infant, R.J.L. Wilson, born and died on Aug. 28, 1832. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Wilson, who are not buried there. But the second oldest burial was Jesse Pickle, who died at the age of 28 in 1848. There are a total of 41 Pickles and 42 Pickels buried in the cemetery, which has a total of about 4,200 memorials recorded on Find a Grave. In many cases, Pickle and Pickel were used interchangeably on some markers. For whatever reason, the burial ground began to be called Asbury Cemetery in the 1930s and the sign (and arch) reflect that.

A Knoxville Dynasty

I plan to dive into more stories from the Pickle/Pickel family in Part II. But this week, I’m going to explore the Kreis family. When I arrived at Asbury, one of the first monuments I saw was for race car driver A.J. “Pete” Kreis and it literally blew my socks off. Some of the Kreis markers are impactful because the family had deep roots in the local monument trade.

Born on Jan. 19, 1900, Pete Kreis was the son of John Abby Kreis and Ida Jane Mays Kreis. His Swiss immigrant grandfather, Harmon Kreis, was among the estimated 31,000 Union soldiers that came from East Tennessee. Afterward, Harmon worked at the Knoxville Marble Company before he going into the quarry business for himself.

After developing several quarries, Harmon and a partner established the Appalachian Marble Quarry Company, which floated huge blocks of marble on rafts down the Tennessee River to Knoxville mills, known then as “Marble City.” Harmon would later serve two years as the reformist sheriff of Knox County, dying in 1937 at age 91. On the back of his marker are the words, “Last Survivor of Troop L, 9th Tenn Cavalry, Civil War.

Harmon Kreis’s monument features a “Rock of Ages” motif on the left. Note the hand rising from the waves. He died three years after his grandson, Pete Kreis.

Pete’s father, John A. Kreis, owned one of the area’s largest dairy farms, Riverside Dairy and Hatchery. He also owned a national engineering and contracting company, which specialized in large railroad, levee and bridge jobs. His list of customers included the Southern, L&N and Missouri Pacific railroads. Pete would later work with his father and older brothers in construction when he wasn’t tearing up the racetrack.

Pete Kreis at the wheel of his race car. (Photo source: Los Angeles Times Photographic Collection.)

Having raced since he was 15, Pete was known around Knoxville for his skill behind the wheel and flirting with disaster. On Feb. 22, 1924, Pete had an accident while on a test drive which killed his passenger, 23-year-old car salesman Carroll McCall. The roadster missed a curve and hit a bridge abutment, rolling over and pinning Pete and McCall. The steering wheel had to be removed to free Pete, who went to the hospital with cuts and a shoulder injury.

Pete made his first Indianapolis 500 field in 1925. Driving a Duesenberg, he finished eighth. He didn’t actually complete the race, suffering from exhaustion and being replaced on lap 136. The pace car that year was driven by World War I ace Eddie Rickenbacker (whose grave I visited last week in Columbus, Ohio). At the race’s end, Kreis was congratulated for his prowess by Henry Ford.

The following year, Kreis had to back out of the race due to pneumonia. But he lent his car (a Miller Special) to friend Frank Lockhart, who won the race. Kreis continued racing but the Depression forced him to cut back in the 1930s and help his father in his contracting business. He finished 15th at Indy in 1932.

Pete eluded death yet again in June 1933 when the airplane he was flying in faltered after takeoff and crashed into the Tennessee River. He pulled his friend and fellow passenger Carl “Sonny” Rissing, Jr. from the water. Rissing broke several bones and lost part of a finger.

Pete’s Luck Runs Out

On May 25, 1934, Pete and his mechanic, Robert Hahn, were practicing for the Indianapolis 500. The pair was coming around the turn when in front of them a car went into a broadside skid. Kreis made an abrupt maneuver to avoid the collision, which sent his car up on to the wall and over the top. The “Miller-Hartz 2” fell off the south wall and tumbled down the 16-foot banking, hitting a tree and breaking in half. Pete was killed instantly and Hahn died before the ambulance arrived.

Pete and his mechanic, Robert Hahn, were killed while practicing for the Indy 500 on May 25, 1934. Hahn is buried in an unmarked grave at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, Calif.

Several hundred people attended the funeral at Mann’s Chapel with more than 100 floral offerings that included a 12-foot diameter floral steering wheel. The funeral procession to Asbury Cemetery included more than 100 cars.

An Italian Craftsman

The Kreis family wanted a special monument for Pete that matched the person he was. It took an entire year for them to find the right stone. The block of grey Tennessee marble came from the Kreis family’s Appalachian Marble Quarry Co. When it was completed, the entire monument (including the concrete base) would weigh about nine tons.

The job of carving the monument fell to Italian carver Albert Milani, who came to America at age four to join his father, who was working for the Blue Ridge Marble Company of Georgia. Upon returning to Italy, Milani attended the Art Academy of Carrara, training in design and sculpture from age 9 to 14.

In 1906, he came back to America and traveled the country with his father, conducting on-site sculpturing. Eventually, he settled in Knoxville, where he married Lurley Lee Hickman in 1911 and had four children before her death in 1931. Milani received U.S. citizenship in 1931. He married again in 1934 to Thelma Margaret Hodges and raised two more children.

Italian carver/sculptor Albert Milani with a marble eagle.(Photo source: McClung Historical Collection)

Milani spent the rest of his life working primarily for Craig Day Marble Company and Candoro Marble Company as a foreman. He made numerous decorative statues for buildings across the country, often in a modern Art Deco style. In Knoxville, you can find his work on the Tennessee Supreme Court on Main Street and the 1912 Holston Building, among others.

Pete Kreis worked with his father and brothers, but found his true home behind the wheel of a racecar.

Milani worked non-stop for nine weeks to complete Pete’s monument. One article I found said the figure on the left side strongly resembles AAA steward Eddie Edenburn as he displays the checkered flag.

More Tragedy to Come

Tragedy would continue to haunt the Kreis family over the next several years. Pete’s older brother, John E. Kreis, died in the early hours of Feb. 11 1936 in a car crash that occurred near Knoxville’s Central Street underpass. The driver, his friend Robert Simpson, was jailed on a manslaughter charge but I wasn’t able to find out what happened to him. John, 37, left behind a widow and a young son.

John Kreis would die less than two years after his younger brother Pete, also in a car accident.

Eldest Kreis son Roy Harmon Kreis (I have seen “Ray” used in some instances) would die the following year. His cause of death is spelled out in detail on his marker. While serving in France with the U.S. Army’s 31st Division during World War I, Roy showed strong leadership abilities. But during fighting in October 1918, Roy was severely gassed. After being treated in hospitals in France and England, he returned home for further convalescence in March 1919. He married a woman named Kate and worked with his father as first vice president of J.A. Kreis & Son, Inc. from 1926 to 1931. But he was never the same after the war.

Roy Harmon Kreis served with distinction in World War I but his exposure to gas changed his life forever. He was never the same.

On July 28, 1937, after years of declining health and a heart ailment, Roy died in his sleep. He was buried in the Kreis plot with his brothers Pete and John, and his grandparents.

Roy Kreis came home to America after World War I, married, and worked with his father. But he died in his sleep in 1937 at age 40.

I cannot fathom the agony Ida Jane Kreis endured over the passage of the 1930s. Daughter Edith Kreis Williams was her only surviving child now. Ida’s health was already poor at the time. She died on Feb. 11, 1939 at age 65.

Ida Kreis endured the deaths of three of her four children during the 1930s.

Kreis family head John A. Kreis carried on as best he could after Ida’s death. His farm fell victim to the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Fort Loudoun Dam project. When the dam was built during 1941, it claimed half of a nearby state-owned farm and the Riverside farms fell under imminent domain. Kreis managed to strike a deal with the state. In addition to receiving payment for his farm, he acquired some land off what is now Pellissippi Parkway. He got out of the diary business and started a successful turkey hatchery.

John was also a champion skeet shooter, dominating the Tennessee competition and winning the Kentucky Open title so many times that he was awarded a permanent trophy. He and Pete had often competed together.

John A. Kreis died after falling out of a barn loft in 1945.

John Kreis died in 1945 at age 72. While inspecting the loft of a large turkey barn, he stumbled through an open trap door and fell 10 feet onto a concrete floor. He died from his injuries.

The last Kreis family member, Edith, married Ernest Ralph Williams. They moved to Florida where she died on Jan. 25, 1990 at age 93. She is buried at Woodlawn Park Cemetery South in Miami, Fla.

Next time, I’ll bring more stories from Asbury Cemetery.

Volunteer State Hopping: Going Around the Bend at Knoxville, Tenn.’s Lebanon in the Fork Cemetery, Part I

The next stop on my Knoxville cemetery adventure turned out to be a big step back in time. The truth of it is, I looked on Google maps and noticed it was only six miles from Calvary Catholic Cemetery. It’s located on a tight bend on Asbury Road. If you blink, you’ll miss it.

I didn’t know when I picked out Lebanon in the Fork Cemetery that I would be going to one of Knoxville’s oldest burial grounds. It’s likely the oldest in Knox County. With only 77 recorded memorials on Find a Grave.com, Lebanon in the Fork is not a a very big cemetery. But what it lacks in size it makes up for in historical significance.

Situated on nine acres, Lebanon in the Fork Cemetery is also known as Three Rivers Cemetery.

Lebanon in the Fork Cemetery is also known as Three Rivers Cemetery. That’s because it’s located on land overlooking the confluence of the Holston River with the French Broad River, where the “fork” and beginning of the Tennessee River is formed. The picture I took with my back to the cemetery (below) enables you to catch a glimpse of the water beneath the railroad bridge.

You can glimpse the confluence of the three rivers under the railroad bridge. Lebanon in the Fork Cemetery faces that intersection of waters.

Tennessee Not Yet a State

As the first Presbyterian church in Knox County, Lebanon In The Fork Presbyterian Church was founded around 1791 by the Rev. Samuel Carrick. Tennessee wouldn’t officially become a state for another five years so things were still a bit untamed. William Blount, a Revolutionary War veteran from eastern North Carolina and signer of the U.S. Constitution, was appointed governor of the Southwestern Territory.

As President George Washington’s representative, Blount came to White’s Fort in 1791 to negotiate the Treaty of the Holston with a convention of about 41 Cherokee leaders to determine the future of U.S.-Cherokee relations, at least for the time being. Blount established his permanent capital at White’s Fort. Its location on top of a bluff provided a defensive advantage and kept it safe from flooding. He named it Knoxville, in honor of his immediate superior and a former general in the Revolution, Secretary of War Henry Knox. I visited Knox’ grave in Thomaston, Maine back in 2017.

This stone gives you a little bit of the cemetery’s history, thanks to the Bonny Kate chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Bonny Kate Sevier was the wife of Tennessee’s first governor, John Sevier.

While the Lebanon in the Fork Presbyterian Church was pastored by Rev. Samuel Carrick, he isn’t buried in the cemetery.

From what I’ve read, the land that the cemetery is situated on was already being used for burials before 1791. Not only for people but for hunters burying animals. So I have no doubt there’s far more people (and game) buried here than the 77 memorials on Find a Grave. Tennessee pioneer Francis Alexander Ramsey, father of historian Dr. J. G. M. Ramsey, donated the nine acres of land the church was on (now gone) and where the cemetery remains. I’ll get to those gentlemen in Part II.

The first Lebanon In The Fork Presbyterian Church at this site was constructed near the crest of the hill and made of rough logs. This structure was replaced by a larger building in 1903, which served the church until it burnt down due to a fire in 1981.

The bell and some columns from the 1903 church were recovered and are in the cemetery, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 29, 2010.

The Lebanon in the Fork Presbyterian Church’s 1903 building burned down in 1981 but some columns and the bell were saved.
Original bell from the 1903 Lebanon in the Fork Presbyterian Church.

The Carricks Come to Knoxville

Let me back up and return to Rev. Carrick, who founded the church. He’s not buried in the cemetery but his first wife is. A native of Pennsylvania, Rev. Carrick married Elizabeth Moore in Virginia in 1779. The couple had their first child, Elizabeth, in 1783. They would move to Tennessee in 1791 when he helped establish the church.

Rev. Carrick was also president of Blount College, formed when Carrick opened a seminary in his home for Knoxville students seeking a classical education in 1792. The school would become East Tennessee College and eventually the University of Tennessee. So Rev. Carrick is known as the University’s first president. He would also serve as the first pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Knoxville, located downtown. Rev. Carrick’s congregation included such notables as Knoxville’s founder James White, Tennessee’s founding father John Sevier, and William Blount (whom I mentioned earlier).

Sadly, Elizabeth Carrick did not live to see her children grow up. After suffering poor health for some time, she died on Sept. 24, 1793 at the age of 33. Her death and burial are written about in a book by Dr. J.G.M. Ramsey (I mentioned him earlier), and it reminds us how unsettled Tennessee still was at the time. Rev. Carrick and the men of the community were in the city trying to hold back an Indian attack so he was not with her when she passed away.

A Funeral Amid an Impending Attack

It occurred on the day of the contemplated attack upon the infant Knoxville by the Indians, Sept., 1793.  All the inhabitants who would bear arms had gone to its defense, and relations and remains of Mrs. Carrick were brought down in a canoe, on the Holston River and deposited in the church yard, attended and buried by women only.

Elizabeth Moore Carrick died in 1793 at age 33. Her remains were brought to the cemetery by canoe on the Holston River. The term “consort” meant “wife” and often it was a wife who had preceded her spouse in death.

Rev. Carrick remarried four months later to Annis McClellan, who was 26. They would have several children together. His first daughter, Elizabeth, went on to marry Hugh Lawson White and he became a Tennessee congressman from 1825 to 1840. Rev. Carrick, Elizabeth, and some of his other children are buried at the First Presbyterian Church’s cemetery in downtown Knoxville. If second wife Annis is there, her grave is unmarked.

Who was Jacob Hagar and why is he buried so closely to Elizabeth Carrick?

An interesting side note. There’s a marker right beside the footplate of Elizabeth Carrick’s grave for a man named Jacob Hagar. Little is known about him beyond the fact he lived from about 1800 and died on Aug. 15, 1843. He lived in Knox County in the 1830s and 1840s with his wife, Christina. In his will, he left to her “one cow, one bed, one bedsted (sic), & furniture, one big wheel, and cards, and the cotton on hand & one flax wheel.” He left each of his two sisters $1 each.

Did Rev. Kennedy Pastor the Church?

Two markers for the Rev. John Kennedy and his wife, Mary Smith Kennedy, raised a few questions for me. Born in Ireland in 1768, Rev. Kennedy emigrated to America with his mother and six siblings. His father is thought to have died during the crossing. They settled in Pennsylvania, where Rev. Kennedy married Mary Smith of East Noddingham, Chester County, Penn. They moved to Tennessee and would have 10 children over the course of their marriage.

Was Rev. James Kennedy a pastor of the Lebanon in the Fork Presbyterian Church? It’s possible but not certain.

Their appearance in the cemetery made me think he might have pastored the Lebanon in the Fork Presbyterian Church at one point but I was unable to confirm or discard that idea. The list of pastor for the church does not include his name but research by others indicates a gap in that list between 1813 to 1836. Regardless, the Kennedys amassed property about five miles from the church according to research done by others that I found. In 1819, Rev. Kennedy also bought 80- and 90-acre tracts on Swan Pond Creek, bringing his holdings up to 444 acres.

Rev. Kennedy died on Aug. 30, 1826 at the age of 57. I did find an obituary for him in the Knoxville Enquirer, which does not mention what (if any) churches he pastored.

Rev. Kennedy’s death notice says nothing about what churches he might (or might not) have pastored.

The Widow Files Suit

Some family-written research I found cast some light on some unhappiness that transpired between Mary Kennedy and one of her sons. She filed a suit against third child, Samuel, in 1841. The Rev. Kennedy’s will required James (21 at the time) and Samuel (then 37) to support their mother, Mary. She claimed in the suit: “Now may it please your Honour, the aforesaid Samuel Kennedy has in his possession all the most valuable part of the said Plantation, and has never contributed anything for the support of your oratrix and utterly refuses so to do.”

I’m not sure how Mary’s suit was resolved. She did not remarry and died on Oct. 11, 1853. I think she must have patched up her differences with Samuel because she did include him and her still living children, along with two grandchildren, in the will she wrote not long before her death.

Next time, I’ll have stories about the Ramsey family and the roles they played in shaping Knoxville history.

Footplate for the grave of Francis Alexander Ramsey McNutt (1818-1877).

Volunteer State Hopping: Exploring Knoxville, Tenn.’s Calvary Catholic Cemetery, Part II

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.

The Easter lily has long been associated with Christianity, commonly referred to as “White-Robed Apostles of Christ.” Early Christians believed that lilies sprouted where Jesus Christ’s sweat fell to the ground in the Garden of Gethsemane.

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. 

It’s not surprising that with John Condon’s history as a stone mason that he would have a handsome obelisk to mark his grave.

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.

John Condon shared what he’d learned about railroad construction with eldest son, Michael.

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 Condon’s death was greatly mourned in Knoxville. This poem was written by “a friend” as a tribute to her.

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.

Blanche Condon was attending the Notre Dame convent school in Baltimore, Md. when she died in 1894.

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.

Capt. John “Jonnnie” Condon died at age 31 10 months after serving in the Spanish-American War with the Third U.S. Volunteer Infantry in Cuba.

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.

Mary Mary?

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.

Mary Ann Huhn became Mary Ann Mary when she married German immigrant Frank Mary in 1869.

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.

Daniel Corcoran followed in his father’s footsteps when he joined the fire department at age 20.

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.

Daniel Corcoran was greatly respected by his colleagues in the Knoxville Fire Dept.

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.

Nell lived another 18 years after the death of her son Daniel.

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.

Little Alma Sullivan died from “cerebral effusion” when she was 17 months old on Sept. 18, 1900.