Cemetery Hill- A Walk Through Haunted History
Super Spooky Grave Site Hidden 2 Blocks From Historic Jonesborough Main Street
My work as a playwright takes me all over the country. As I do my research in different communities, one of the first places I like to visit is the local cemeteries, and the oldest cemeteries in town. There is so much written on these stones that the oral histories may have forgotten, but live on in the dates and years on the grave markers. In Northwest Colorado, I remember visiting this frontier town's old cemetery dating back to the days of homesteading and pioneers, and how strange and sad I felt looking at the dozens of tiny gravemarkers for babies who were born and died during the months of November, December, January, and February. While this information wasn't written in any of the town's history books, one of the hardest things about living in that community during those years was facing the difficult cold winters in shelters that were not warm enough. I imagined mothers praying for June babies, so the newborns could stand a chance in this rugged country.
In the east, I would take note of dates and years, and if a number of people died in a certain time frame. Certainly, I have found more than one clue to the influenza epidemic of 1918 in these cemeteries.
The war years speak their own stories, with the markers of 18,19, and 20 year olds, whose lives were cut short serving their country.
Jonesborough's old cemetery, found up on Cemetery Hill, a narrow road without room for two cars to pass at once, tells a very unique story, too. Simple stones to elaborate ones, stones depicting a religious affiliation, others a military distinction, and all of them descibing to me a community of diversity, even among the dead.
In these quiet moments at the cemetery, I realize that the lost are still among us, they still speak to us across time, if we are willing to open up and listen to what they have to say, even if it is in the form of a name and a date on a stone. In this lens, I'd like to share with you some of the beautiful, thought provoking and moving sites I visited in HIstoric Jonesborough. It is walking distance from downtown, and just up the hill from the pancake house. If you are ever in town, I highly suggest a visit.
An Amazing Period In Time To Live Through
When I come across markers with dates like this, I marvel. Not just that she lived for about a hundred years, but I think about what she saw- the changes she witnessed. In no other time in history did so much of the world change than in the one hundred years between the 19th and 20th century. Imagine...she went from horse and buggy to watching man land on the moon and then build a space station. She went from ink wells and quills to computers. Not to mention outhouses to indoor plumbing. Not being the camping type myself, I think I would have to counst that as one of the greatest accomplishments for humanity! In Carrie's lifetime, she witnessed it all. What stories she must have had. Are there family members still in town, who might remember the stories she passed down? It would be a great place to look for gathering my next story.
Cemetery Art - A Statement of a Life
Some of the grave markers in this cemetery are really LIFE markers. One hundred years later and more, we will all conitinue know that beauty and art played a significant role in the life of this person, as shown on the intircate detailed carvings on this stone marker. I was intrigued by the carved Ivy, and was struck, that of all the kinds of plants to have grown up next to this marker, it was ivy that chose to mingle with it. This was not planted here. It is eerie how the natural ivy almost found itself, forced itself, to comingle with the carved ivy on the stone, as if they belong together. It makes me wonder...do you think the owner would be pleased? Is there a secret gratification in knowing that the wish to have Ivy as an everlasting statement about herself actually drew this ivy to her?
Stories of Service
The marker tells of military service, but the dates tell a bigger picture. For those of you who know your history, it doesn't take much to deduce that this soldier fought in the Spanish American War. Further, this regiment fought with Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders at the Battle of San Juan Hill in 1898, precisely within the years of active service of this soldier. The simple marker in this quiet Jonesborough cemetery speaks volumes from the pages of history. The stories this man must have told. Are there descendants of his, still in the region, who remember the tales told of their great grandfather, or great-uncle, of his time riding with Roosevelt and the Rough Riders? And did he happen to know another local man, Alfred Martin Rhea, buried in an African American cemetery, who not only fought at the Battle of San Juan Hill, but that former slave turned U.S. Cavalry man planted the U.S. flag on San Juan Hill. Both of these men, playing a major part in our country's history, buried right in Jonesborough.
The Gate Is Open, But...
Whether it is the overgrowth, the rust on the fence, the time of the evening, or any combination, the open gate does not present itself as much of an invitation to enter.
Many family plots in this cemetery are fenced in, keeping the family together. And in some instances, keeping the less brave strangers out.
Jonesborough, Tennessee's oldest town, is also one of the most reportedly Haunted Towns in the United States. HAUNTED JONESBOROUGH captures many tales of this historic place.
Grave Marker Speaks of Religious Ties
The title of Brother and Sister speaks to an almost certain conclusion that he was a prominent persona, most likely minister of the church, and she his partner in service.
Are You The Scooby-Doo Type?
Does romping through the grounds of an old cemetery at night, or spending the weekend in a reportedly haunted house sound like a fabulous time? Would you cut it with the Mystery Inc. Team of Velma, Daphne, Fred, and Shaggy?
For A Fun Time Would You Rather
Rebecca Stands Alone
I stood in front of this marker for a long time. She has no nearby neighbors, and no markers near her share her name. I hope she was not as alone in life as she seems to be in death. If you happen to visit this cemetery, please do me a favor and say "Hello" to Rebecca for me. You can tell her I sent you.
One of the older gravestones, this one dates to 1839. I reflect on all of the changes this person must have lived through, as well. Industrialization, the Civil War, the invention of electricity. What a life to have lived. What Wonders to have witnessed.
I worked and lived in Rio de Janeiro a couple of years ago. I lived at the foot of the city's oldest favella. The Drug Cartel and the federalies were at constant war. And by war, I mean war- machine guns and grenades were a daily occurrence. The Old English Cemetery (Cemetery Inglais) was next to the 100 year old Mission Building I stayed in. (No, i was not doing Missionary Work while there, but they housed me.) In the country that speaks Portuguese, I found the English Cemetery a somewhat comfortable place- it was quieter, and I could make out the stone. I went there a lot, and especially after a child up the hill was killed because of this drug war. I wrote this piece, which ended up in the play I was commissioned to write there, "Um Caminho Sobre O Muro" (A Way Through The Wall). This is how my mind sometimes works while walking through these old cemeteries.
I come here to read the epitaphs. I read them for those who have died, so close to here, and have no epitaph. It is the most painful thing I know, to be lost to the world, and unknown, not a word spoken about their death, or what might have been possible. Every life has value. Every life is a story, full of great sorrow, great joy, some boring days, and other days filled with so much excitement you wish you were two people to live them.
Lives so full of possibility, not the possibility of greatness in the way of politics, but greatness of heart. The possibility to perform acts of great kindness and small gestures, a smile, a laugh, a touch, which seem to mean nothing, but like the flap of a butterfly’s wing, is capable of creating great change to sweep across the world.
I come here to remember the little butterflies, who never had a chance to flap their wings. You will not find them here. Their voices do not speak to us across time like our Angle of Lazarus. I cannot speak for them, but I can remember them
Do you find walking through graveyards and reading the names and dates interesting, or just plain creepy?