Knoxville: Old Gray Cemetery

Posted by | June 4, 2010

Originally published at Hillbilly Savants by John Kerns

The entrance to Old Gray Cemetery in Knoxville, Tenn. The historical marker reads: “Old Gray Cemetery, incorporated in 1850, is the resting place of William G. Brownlow, Tennessee Governor and U.S. Senator, as well as two other U.S. Senators, eight U.S. Congressmen, 26 mayors of Knoxville, and numerous ambassadors, judges, editors, artists, authors, educators, military leaders, physicians and industrialists.”

Any history buff just has to get a kick out of Knoxville, Tenn. Its past is much like the rest of southern Appalachia: Rich, weird and elusive, which of course makes it all incredibly interesting. Many of the characters that created that history now lie in a hilly, craggy old graveyard that sits just north of downtown called Old Gray Cemetery.

Named after English poet Thomas Gray, who wrote “Elegy in a Church Courtyard,” the gentle slopes of Old Gray lie between what is now an adult bookstore and a cabinet manufacturer. Out of downtown, you take Broadway, a noisy four-lane that guides motorists through the blighted urban holes beneath Interstate 40. Just over a long hill from the highway overpass, the cemetery sits to the left. Pass through the narrow iron and marble gates of Old Gray and the noise and bustle of the city falls away. Old Gray Cemetery is peaceful, beautiful and downright creepy.

Here are a few pictures from today’s excursion up to the cemetery. If you want to see all of them, go here.

The Grave of Evelyn Mabry Hazen. The house where she lived is also an historic site.

The grave of one of the more fascinating characters that lies in Old Gray, William G. Brownlow. A pro-slavery, yet strict Union man, Brownlow was a controversial national figure. His paper, The Knoxville Whig had a huge distribution, due largely to Brownlow’s editorials. After the war, he was elected Tennessee’s first Reconstruction Governor, and then to the U.S. Senate.

The grave of Charles McClung McGhee, railroad tycoon and founder of Knoxville’s Lawson-McGhee library.

Old Gray’s north wall. On the other side is Knoxville National Cemetery.

One of the Victorian ladies that keeps watch over the cemetery.

A Confederate soldier.

Looking northwest.

Two more ladies.

St. James Episcopal Church stands in the background as afternoon shadows fall upon Old Gray.

A broken headstone.

The grave of Charles McGhee Tyson, after whom Knoxville’s airport is named.

Looking south.

Finally, for more information on some of the haints that call Old Gray home, visit here.


2 Responses

  • Susan Bain says:

    The picture identifying St. James Episcopal Church in the background is incorrect. That is not St. James Church. For starters, the architecture is wrong. Then there’s the fact that St. James is almost a mile away; so, assuming there was nothing standing between the cemetary and the church (also wrong as there are at least 2 turns and a hill that would obscure it from view) it still wouldn’t be that close. This is another church.

  • Cyndy Cox says:

    The church in the background is St. Johns Lutheran.

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