If you live in West Knoxville and like shortcuts, you’ve driven past it hundreds of time–this old, old graveyard not quite at the corner of Westland and Ebenezer, sitting right in front of the driveway to the Maple Grove Inn. Nameless, signless, churchless, this cemetery has been a final resting place for Knoxvillians for about 200 years, and is still being used today.
It has a name, actually, although I had to look elsewhere to find it–two names, really, depending on your source. KGIS calls it Ebenezer Cemetery; Find-a-Grave calls it Cedar Springs. KGIS lists the cemetery itself as the owner; other sources indicate that it is owned by Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church, which locals will recognize as a prominent congregation with a large complex of buildings a mile or so north of the cemetery.
If Cedar Springs owns it, you wouldn’t know it from their website. I was disappointed by the absence of any reference to the history of the cemetery or even to the history of the church–which surely must be a rich one after 200 years. As you can see above, whoever owns it no longer maintains the sign that once indicated (I presume) grave locations.
Maple Grove Inn (where I have attended a wedding or two in the past) is no better. Their website says nothing about the history of the home and the people who once lived there, let alone anything about the cemetery, despite the fact that at least some of its people are buried here:
This isn’t going to be one of those posts where I complain about the condition of the cemetery. At least someone is mowing this one regularly. Sure, there are a few broken stones, and some of the plots could use some hand weeding, but relative to some of the places I’ve visited, it’s in decent shape. There are broken and unreadable stones, and a lot of bent wrought iron, but I suppose that’s to be expected in a place of this age.
The many wrought iron encircled plots are a highlight of the cemetery. Just take a look:
I didn’t find as many graves of babies and little children as usual, but probably that’s because so many of the old stones are illegible.
A precious one from us is gone
The voice we loved is still
A place is vacant in our home
Which never can be filled.
Now her little voice is silent
And her dear head lying low
How I miss my precious darling
God in Heaven can only know.
How often does our thoughts on this silent tomb rove.
And when I say illegible, don’t think I am exaggerating:
Check out (if you can decipher it) the inscription below–laid to rest in Knoxville, this person started out life in Iceland. I would love to know what prompted a move to Tennessee.
I love the hand-lettered stones. Just imagine someone in the throes of grief making this stone to ensure the protection of the memory of a loved one.
Here’s another one that looks like there might be an interesting story behind it.
I’ve shared some poetic epitaphs above, but even the shorter ones will touch your heart.
An honest woman here lies at rest
As e’er God with his image blest
If there’s another world, she lives in bliss
If there is none she made the best of this.
Friendly graveyard tip: If you want to make sure your stone remains above ground and readable, don’t get one of these. Just don’t. You may think that you’ve picked a well-maintained cemetery and don’t have to worry about this kind of thing, but you never know.
This is one of the earliest graves here. Since the church was established in the late 1700s, I don’t know where they were burying people before that, but the earliest burial here was 1821. The most recent was 2015.
I’m sharing this because so far I’ve never seen another stone like it!
That’s one of the fun things about cemeteries this old: the variety of stones you encounter. I thought this one was especially pretty.
Many of the bigger cemeteries in Knoxville–Woodlawn, for example–have a special section for the original part of the cemetery where the older graves are. What’s nifty about this one is that it’s all mixed up, resulting in juxtapositions like these, which I also love for the diversity of the folks who have come to lie here in more recent years:
Here’s a name I recognize, and you will too, since Peters Road is just a few blocks away. I am sure this cemetery is brimming over with people important to the history of the area–it would have to be, with its age and size–and it was frustrating not to be able to read so many of the stones.
Presumably this is a member of the Baker family whose house is thankfully preserved as a restaurant at the corner of Peters Road and Kingston Pike.
Here’s another name I’ve seen around the area, and someone is still leaving flowers on this 114-year-old grave.
Here are some cool memorials to long-ago veterans:
As I’ve said, many stones are unreadable in this graveyard, but luckily for us there is Find-a-Grave. So I can tell you that some of the more frequently occurring names here include Beal, Bean, Bond, Brown, Coker, Medlin, McClellan, Nelson, Peters, Stone, Swan, Tillery, and Walker, some of which should sound familiar to anyone local.
Victory Chapel Baptist Church (formerly Ebenezer Methodist Church, the successor of which–I’m assuming–is just on the other side of Ebenezer Road) stands right across the driveway from the cemetery, and it, too, has a graveyard–small, flat, immaculately kept. You’ll see many of the same names here, and in fact it looks to me as if a few people were relocated here at some point. I was very surprised when I was doing my bit of research on Find-a-Grave that I have a friend buried here. Also, Conrad Cook, a noted gospel singer and songwriter, rests in this cemetery.
So, in sum, this is a lovely historic cemetery and I enjoyed my visit there. But my time there was tinged with sadness too because this is a place that could be–and should be–so much more. See, whoever this cemetery belongs to, as old as it is it really belongs to all of us with ties to this area, because it’s our history too. And when we can’t read the stones, that history gets lost. The PEOPLE get lost. That’s a tragedy and it doesn’t have to be that way.
Obviously there used to be a sign here with at least some information. How much would it cost–both in money and time–to put up a sign with a name of the cemetery, maybe a plaque with a little of its history, and a list of who is buried there and where their graves lie? What can those with the responsibility for taking care of graveyards do to ensure that when we inscribe the words “Gone but not forgotten” on a stone, we are telling the truth?
If you enjoyed this and want to read more of my cemetery stories, you can find them HERE.