Skip to comments.Forgotten Tennessee cemetery yields N.C. Confederate graves
Posted on 10/11/2004 6:36:53 AM PDT by Constitution Day
Forgotten Tennessee cemetery yields N.C. Confederate graves
By DUNCAN MANSFIELD, Associated Press Writer
October 9, 2004 11:35 am
JACKSBORO, Tenn. -- On a little hill overlooking the Cumberland Mountains, weeds and brush are being cleared from a neglected family cemetery, revealing a tall sentry-like beech tree and a forgotten past.
"Boothill" and 52 slash marks are carved deep in the trunk -- one cut for each of the sunken graves surrounding it. Some are marked by jagged field stones, others not. Who is entombed here?
"I was afraid that during my lifetime I would never know," said 88-year-old Alice Coker, a retired public health worker who has been tracking the mystery for half a century.
Descendants have recently provided the answer. These were Civil War soldiers, members of the 58th Confederate Regiment of North Carolina from just over the Great Smoky Mountains in Wautauga and surrounding counties.
Most were farmers, ages 19 to 44. They died months after enlisting not from combat but from "brain fever," measles and other diseases while encamped here during the harsh winter of 1862-63.
In the 1940s, Bob Delap, a member of the family who owned the small Delap Cemetery next to these neglected graves, told Coker that he was told as a boy they were Civil War soldiers. But Delap, who maintained the cemetery and the story, died in 1953.
With him, the story was lost and the cemetery fell into neglect, despite the burial of two Vietnam veterans there as late as 1988.
"I am not (a Civil War buff), but I am a curious person," Coker said. "But I couldn't find any local people who knew anything about it. It bothered me all these years."
That changed in late 2002 when Leta Cornett and her husband, Blaine, from Vilas, N.C., walked into the Campbell County Historical Society.
Cornett had been searching for the final resting place for her great-great-grandfather, Pvt. Dudley Glenn, for 15 years. All available records pointed to LaFollette, which was Big Creek Gap in 1862, and nearby Jacksboro.
She told the woman staffing the society office she was looking for Confederate kin in a Civil War cemetery. Maybe it was because this was pro-Union territory during the war or simply so long ago, but the woman told Leta she was wrong.
"She just didn't much like the idea that I insisted. To be quite honest, she was a little rude," Cornett said, laughing. Then the woman remembered Coker.
"So she called her and I heard her go, 'Uh-huhhh, uh-huhhh.' And I looked at my husband and said, 'She found it!'" Cornett said.
The Blaines drove immediately to Coker's house. Coker threw open the door in welcome and then they went to the cemetery.
"It was grown up. It was hard to get through the briars," Cornett recalled. But she was happy. "Ecstatic. I just can't hardly comprehend it," she said.
Since then, Glennis Monday, the environmental officer for the Campbell County sheriff's office, has been regularly leading teams of prisoners up the hill to clean up the cemetery.
They've hauled away 80 truckloads of brush and burned probably 80 more from an area just under an acre. "When I first came up here, I couldn't find it," Monday said. "You wouldn't have been able to turn in any direction without hitting a tree."
It's a far cry from manicured yet, but the cemetery's past is now coming into view. The beech tree strikingly stands guard over the sunken plots.
The society hopes in the next several months to create a nonprofit foundation to hold title to the property and raise money for a fenced and gated enclosure, its own entrance road and maintenance.
As many as 57 soldiers were buried here, according to Cornett's records. And the society intends to install a grave marker for each one.
"I think these men should be recognized," Coker said. "They were soldiers and died during the war. I think they deserve at least to be recognized and have it known where they are buried." URL for this article: http://www.heraldsun.com/state/6-531105.html
Probably it's a middle age thing, but I've been getting into reading old tombstones to see what I can discern about the person's life from them.
Came across a poignant one in Boston from the 1700s -- a ship's captain had a stone made for his chinese bo'sun's mate.
As someone who has tramped through woods and fields looking for lost ancestors, I think this is cool.
Boston has some amazing old cemeteries.
I got interested in cemeteries when I was about 10.
After my grandfather survived throat cancer, he decided to retire from farming.
When a few years had passed, he got bored and took a part-time digging graves for the local funeral home.
I'd always tag along with him in the summer and go look at the tombstones while he was operating the backhoe.
I think my parents found it to be a morbid pastime.
Thanx. As a history buff, I love reading of these findings that tie us to our past.
Thanks for the ping Samwise.
Thumbs up for history and honoring America's military dead.
I know what you mean, I've done the same.
One Confederate ancestor I've never found was in the 56th NC.
I think he might be in our family cemetery under one of the many field stones, but I'll never know which one.
Sorry, but I laughed. < |:)~
I hear ya.
I was a "grandpap's boy," too. < |:)~
Another confessed gravestone reader here.
I find it most interesting to read the tombstones in cemeteries. So much of local history is found or can be surmised by reading the stones.
Just Friday I stopped at an old cemetery in my travels. Since I like the Civil War, it was a real find to discover graves of many Civil War veterans from NJ, some who, through their regimental descriptions, were present at Gettysburg.
But the stone most poignant was a more modern one, from 1945. It was placed by the family of a sailor that perished in the sinking of the USS Drexler.It simply said--"lost at sea".
When I got home, I googled up "USS Drexler" and found that this was a destroyer that was sunk by Japanese kamikaze
planes in 1945. Another reminder of the tremendous cost of freedom.
Speaking as someone who has done genealogy for many years, this is a wonderful find. I have spent many an hour tromping through over growth looking for old family graves.
We visited a couple of cemetaries in PA - an old Church near our home had graves from the 1700's......it was eerie but I liked knowing that here we were, 200-300 years later thinking about that person........
Nobody's moving in and that's a fact.
How true!! LOL!!
Where I grew up in western Massachusetts had some very old cemeteries. Is school, we did the crayon rubbings and all.
The thing I remember most though of the old town cemetery was seeing the new kid who worked for a friends landscaping company running like Forest Gump down Main Street.
Apparently while weedwacking around a tombstone in the old part, the ground gave way and he sunk in up to his waist. They told me he jumped clean out and just started running.
The kid never came back, not even to get his lunch or later to get his paycheck.
Yeah, it's the same in my old hometown, too.
(who'll bury the last one left?)
There was a small, landlocked cemetery near the south end of Prior Lake, MN that I have walked through several times. I recall seeing the grave of a young Minnesota man who fell in the first world war when he was just 18 or 19 years old.
No wonder Gore lost Tn! Should have found these voters.
I visited the old city cemetery in Lexington, KY a while back, mostly to see the beautiful landscape gardening. They had a brochure telling the story of its founding.
Apparently, there was smallpox epidemic that swept the settlement in the late 1700s. The townsfolk were overwhelmed with the large number of deaths, so they created a municipal cemetery to speedily inter the victims. An interesting vignette of the tragedy was that the local town drunk and ne'er-do-well, who had been shunned and ridiculed for years, was the only person willing to take the responsibility of personally burying all of the deceased. The townspeople were so grateful that he became a local hero, such that, after he died years later, they created a very pretty special plot and headstone in his honor.
The brochure also stated that municipal cemeteries became popular due to the fact that, as private land changed hands more often, the practice of having family cemeteries became impractical, what with the need for allocating land for this purpose and the need to attend to the graves regularly.
Its amazing what you learn on idle afternoons spent in visiting innocuous places during a vacation.
There is a old church cemetery in Hillsborough, NC where my (6x?) great-grandmother is buried.
She died during the Revolution and has the oldest tombstone in the cemetery. I've been there a couple of times and it's an amazing experience.
You may still be able to access your family tree online.
Ancestry.com (pay site) mirrors uploaded family tree information for free on http://www.rootsweb.com.
Just go to rootsweb and search on one of your ancestor's names.
My mothers family has an old cemetary in the mountains of W.VA. it is so much fun to look at mostly relatives headstones from before the civil war. You can almost follow the history of the family by where the head stones are.
A lot of paths lead to old cemetaries, lots of questions to be answered there as well. I have found a wealth of information that way.
I'll give it a try.
I've been working on my family genealogy for many years and find it quite enjoyable. It's a lot like detective work and cemeteries are a usual source of information. Unfortunately, a tombstone makes a poor statement of a persons lifetime and it pains me to think that all the thoughts and experiences of my ancestors are all but forgotten. The journal that I started a few years ago will hopefully solve that for my descendents.
Old cemetaries are the mile posts to the past..
Does that mean I only owe half if we have to pay reparations?
I do that, too. I "did" a cemetery at a local Methodist church just a couple of weeks ago, while I was waiting for an appointment with the pastor.
At another Methodist cemetery I visited last summer, there was a monument to a former pastor who had "Prayed for an earthquake during revival on (date) ... and it was answered!"
"(who'll bury the last one left?)"
Better get on with it, then; it won't do to be the last survivor.
You'd just have to lie there and rot, I suppose.
But then; who'd notice?
my favorite is in the Greenhill, Tx cemetery:
"Mama loved Pa. Pa loved the women. Mama caught him with two in a-swimming. Here lies Pa."
We don't get many CVA graves in northwestern Illinois but there are certainly a good number of GAR graves marked by a GAR metal plate on a metal stick.
In the town graveyard in our miniscule rural town of 300 living folks, we have about eight to ten GAR graves, mostly without much further detail but one is of a 21-year-old whose gravestone indicates that he fell at Shiloh. There is also a monument in the center of the adjacent metropolis of a thousand living folks which carries the names of either those who served or those who served and were killed in the Civil War. There are dozens of names. Most local roads are named after the family names of those soldiers.
I have seen the graveyard at the North Church in Boston where, Jonathan Davenport's gravestone is prominent. He was pastor there late in his life. Earlier, he was the founder of New Haven in the vicinity of which I spent most of my life.
I am more emotionally engaged by any grave of anyone, however personally unknown to us today, who fell in either nation's military in the War Between the States than I would be by the many well-known non-Civil War worthies buried in the Northeast or elsewhere.
One exception: George Armstrong Custer. Though a distinguished cavalry officer of the Union, his fate at Little Big Horn was a sort of Lifetime Achievement Award and well-deserved.
There were commemorative postage stamps for each group issued in the mid-1950s on the occasion of the last national "encampment" or meeting of each. The Confederates held their last one year after the last GAR encampment.
Also, I remember reading in Time Magazine in the early 1960s of the deaths of the last two veterans, one from each side. The last Union soldier to die was a retired coal miner from what had come to be known as West Virginia. The last soldier to die was a Texas rancher, a former Confederate drummer boy, who died one year after the coal miner. IIRC, the Texas rancher fell off his horse while riding the perimeter of his ranch at the age of 110 in 1961.
There is a stone in Mystic, Iowa's Highland Cemetery that gives name, birth and death as well as the phrase: Been here and gone. Had a good time."
That's a great story! Interesting read, and it shows what can happen when you don't give up. Persistence pays off every time.
I live in Harvard, MA, and we have the grave of a British soldier who died in the 1700's of smallpox. They went as far west as they could into the boondocks to bury him, which is what Harvard was at that time. Nowheresville. The grave is on Poor Farm Road, neatly kept up by the local historical society. We're also the site of an early Shaker settlement and so have a very old Shaker cemetery. I was walking one of my dogs in there one afternoon, and he suddenly took off, over the stone wall, leaped into the car through the open window, dragging me with him. He was terrified. I've always thought one of the elder ghosts told him to get out! I've taken him back from time to time, but he's never comfortable there. Other cemeteries, he seems okay.
I just hate seeing family cemeteries here in NC that are untended & forgotten.
Not too long ago, a relative called me about a cemetery that was "discovered" by a Girl Scout troop camping near a local lake.
Some of my ancestors are buried there and none of us knew where the cemetery was.
The Girl Scouts have decided to clean it up as a community service project.
A few of my relatives & I are planning to donate $ to their troop when they get working on it.
That was really nice of them.
Several of my ancestors are under the tarmac at Dobbins AFB in Marietta, Ga. They tried to locate as many as possible, but my grandma told me there were several they didn't find.
Oh well, at least they're not alone, there's many Union and Confederate soldiers buried under the tarmac with them.
There's all kinds of older cemeteries around here. One located in Villa Rica, about 35 miles west of Atlanta, has toombs from the late 1780's, the earliest found this far up in "Injun country".
he had been a private in the 9th TX Cavalry, from 1862 to the BITTER END.
i also know of one in McKinney, TX which reads:
I AM WHAT YOU WILL BE.
i assume DEAD is what was meant.
also, i have stood at the grave site of John Emerson Longly, late of 2d TX Infantry,CSA, at a private burial spot in TX. he is buried INSIDE a LIVING (hollow) TREE, standing up and facing SOUTH!