Monday, July 24, 2017

A Sunday Stroll Through Knoxville's Cemeteries (Free!)

A Sunday Stroll Through Knoxville's Cemeteries  

After a week of knocking some small projects off our list, we packed a picnic and headed to see Knoxville's cemeteries. Probably a strange sort of outing to some, but cemeteries tend to be quiet, shady retreats from the summer heat. 
(double click to enlarge any of the photos)
We ended up seeing five cemeteries, and skipping one more that was closed on Sunday. We could have certainly see a lot more cemeteries though!
Our first stop was Old Gray Cemetery

 Old Gray was established in 1850, and is a wonderful Victorian garden cemetery.  There was a bit of crisis when it came to burying people in the nineteenth century. Traditionally, most people had been buried in the family plot, or in the their local churchyard. The Industrial Revolution changed all that. Suddenly, everyone wanted to move to the nearest city and existing urban churchyards just didn't have space to accommodate the increased need for burials. 

In Europe, they solved this problem by creating garden cemeteries. Old Grey was one of the earliest garden cemeteries to be established on our side of the pond. The cemetery is 13 acres, with several roads winding through beautiful trees and gentle hills. 

You can also see the obsession the Victorians had with obelisks. (In Victorian funeral language, obelisks were a symbol for everlasting life - but that may have just  been an excuse for one last indulgence in the current crazy for all things Egyptian) Being a good, old-fashion Victorian cemetery, Old Gray is also reputed to be haunted by a woman dressed in black. 

One other interesting bit of history about Old Gray - the marble monuments in this cemetery aren't really marble! For many years, the state was reknown for its 'Tennessee marble', which is actually a crystalline limestone that looks like marble when it's polished. Tennessee marble was so popular, a great deal of it ended up in Washington DC. 

We'll let the pictures speak for themselves. (If you are curious about the Woodmen 'tree stump' gravestones, you can read the story here)

Next, we visited the Knoxville National Cemetery, which shares a fence with Old Gray Cemetery.
This cemetery was established in 1863, after the Union seized Knoxville during the Civil War. Burnside created the cemetery so Union soldiers could be buried (or re-interred) here. At the end of the Civil War, there were 3153 burials, but only 2078 of the dead were identified. 
It is also the site of the Union Soldier's monument, which was erected in 1906. 
The cemetery became a national cemetery in the 60s, closed in the 90s, and is a stark reminder of the cost of war. There are 9,000 soldiers and their wives interred in this cemetery, and another 5,700 military veterans buried next door in Old Gray.

Our stroll through Knoxville's past continues tomorrow - in Part II.


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