Memphis at Rest Since 1852...

Elmwood Cemetery (1852) was established as part of the Rural Cemetery Movement which swept the nation in the early to mid 1800s. It is a classic example of a garden cemetery with its park-like setting, sweeping vistas, shady knolls, large stands of ancient trees, and magnificent monuments. It was where we began our day.

We walked in the company of the town's most honored and revered. Most famous and infamous. Most loved and feared. Among the veterans of every American war, even the Revolutionary War. Side-by-side with generals, senators, governors, mayors, madams, blues singers, suffragists, martyrs, civil rights leaders, holy men and women, outlaws and millionaires. How totally cool!
This was the oldest of the gravestones that we could find. Notice that the date of death for Susan Mosby (1844) precedes the opening of Elmwood Cemetery by eight years. With the advent of city expansion encroaching onto outlying lands, she was disinterred from the old Morris Cemetery (which is now the current site of the Downtown train station) and brought to Elmwood around 1865.
I have always said a town's history is in its cemetery. We had a great lesson here. Over 1,000 Confederate soldiers and veterans are buried in the Confederate Soldiers Rest section with many other Confederates buried elsewhere. The first burial was in 1861.  Union soldiers were also buried here in the 1860s but almost all were removed in 1868 and re-interred in Memphis National Cemetery. Two Union generals remain with twenty Confederate generals buried here, as well.
The history tells about the several outbreaks of Yellow Fever during the 1870s which practically wiped out the population of Memphis.  There were over 5,000 fatalities in the city.  Some 2,500 of the Memphis victims are buried in four public lots here; among them are doctors, ministers, nuns, and even prostitutes who died tending to the sick.  The four mass burial areas are referred to as "No Man's Land".
Martha Stephenson was one of those who came to help during the Fever. She came to Memphis from Illinois during the epidemic of 1873. Having been left at the altar by a false fiance, she decided to come to serve in the Yellow Fever epidemic of that year. She died of the fever and grateful Memphians erected this memorial after the epidemic had subsided. She was only 18.
During the Victorian Era, the popular view of death became romanticized; death was now represented by symbols including angels, flowers, and plants. These ideas are reflected in the many magnificent monuments, mausoleums and life-sized figures.
This was one of the more interesting looking gravestones. W.S. Bowers was stabbed and killed near his home in Memphis by his cousin. The men had quarreled over a debt which W.S. Bowers claimed his cousin owed him.
This was the first time we had ever seen marble planters adorning the graves. There were numerous ones here.
There were diverse and interesting varieties of grave markers. I found Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Laukhuff 's to be rather intriguing. I wish I had taken a better photo. Their images are in the stained glass window of the 'church'. Their company got its start in the 1950s, making it the oldest stained-glass studio in the Mid- South. This was an interesting way to being our day!


“I have always enjoyed cemeteries.
Altars for the living as well as resting places for the dead,
they are entryways, I think, to any town or city,
the best places to become acquainted with the tastes of the inhabitants,
both present and gone.” 
― Edwidge Danticat 

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2 comments:

Nick and Deb's Excellent Adventure said...

Super cool, I love Elvis kiss! The cemetery pictures are amazing! Love the old cemeteries of the south. Travel safe to Nashville!

Cyndy Brown said...

I too, love these places! Have been to Bonaventure in Savannah but not here in Memphis...will have to go. Love the planters on the graves!

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