by Martha Rose Woodward
In a poignant reminder of the sacrifices of our veterans, nine thousand flags were placed at Old Gray Cemetery in celebration of Memorial Day. Many of the graves contain veterans and historic, famous citizens, including Charles McClung (1761-1835) and William Brownlow (1805-1877). Boy Scout and Cub Scout Troops and veterans’ groups as well as over 300 volunteers worked long hours to honor the dead. 5,000 flags were placed on the Veterans’ Cemetery in West Knoxville as well.
According to the website, www.oldgraycemetery.org, “Old Gray Cemetery located in downtown Knoxville occupying 13 acres stretching from Broadway to Baxter Avenue. The cemetery was founded in 1850 and dedicated in 1852 when the first 40 lots were sold at public action. Today Old Gray clearly depicts Knoxville’s history and provides an important example of cemetery planning and design during the rural cemetery or garden movement.
You can walk or drive through the winding avenues of Old Gray and see the excellent examples of Victorian art and architecture. The cemetery is a mixture of unmarked graves to massive monuments and mausoleums which honor the lives of those buried there.
The massive oaks and hackberry trees are part of a wide variety of trees and vegetation at Old Gray that are living witnesses to the history of Knoxville since before the Civil War at which time this area was an open pasture. Thanks to the vision of those who lived then we can now enjoy the park setting that these trees have create.”
Old Gray Cemetery is named in honor of Thomas Gray (1716-1771), the English poet who wrote “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”. Old Gray Cemetery is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday observed each year on the last Monday of May. It is a day of remembering and honoring the men and women who died while serving in the US Military. The idea for a Decoration Day originated after the Civil War when Union as well as Confederate ladies decorated the graves of their fallen family members early each summer, usually in late May. By the 20th century Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died in all wars. It soon came to mark the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.