History of Myers Cemetery and Tuckaleechee Cove
Historic Burial Ground for Early Settlements Tuckaleechee Cove
Myers Cemetery, circa 1795, is located adjacent to the Townsend Visitors Center on East Lamar Alexander Parkway in Townsend, Tennessee. As one walks among the gravestones in Myers Cemetery we are reminded once again of the courage, faith and strength of the early settlers who came into Tuckaleechee Cove in the late 1790’s.The earliest identified cemetery burial is for an individual known only as T.H. (possibly Hughes); the year 1797 is scratched on the slate marker. The next oldest marker dated 1807 is for John Brickey. There are unmarked graves and many stones with illegible dates. A large area in the center of the cemetery has few grave markers which leads us to believe there are many unmarked graves. Census research taken by Hyldred Stinnett (WPA project-1937) and Edith Burns Little (1980). provide a comprehensive inventory of approximately 300 burials. We owe them a debt of gratitude for their painstaking work. Alix Dempster Curator of Old Gray Cemetery in Knoxville, historian and researcher, is completing an extensive research of historic cemeteries in East Tennessee including Myers Cemetery (2011). Even though some of the documented grave sites may have been ‘lost’ since the first two inventories were taken Mr. McGinnis has used family histories, church records, wills and early tax lists to identify much of the missing information and lost markers. His painstaking work has indeed preserved the history of our ancestors living in Tuckaleechee Cove. Several of the later burials were for family members who lived in Townsend during the Little River Railroad Company time period from 1900-1938. The last burial was in the late 1950’s. A death occurring in Tuckaleechee Cove during the early settlement years impacted everyone living in the Cove since the deceased individual was either blood kin or a neighbor. Within a few minutes of hearing of a death, a relative or church member would go to the church and toll the bell—after a few initial rings the bell would begin tolling for the number of years the deceased person lived. On hearing the tolling bell, men would leave their farm work and go to Myers Cemetery to open the grave. There were usually several coffin makers that were called on to make a suitable casket. In most cases the casket-maker kept a supply of cut walnut boards on hand; walnut was known for its beautiful grain and aroma. Early coffins were made narrow at both ends and wider in the center. Partially cutting each side of the casket frame and applying hot steam permitted the bending needed to form a custom casket. Close friends or family members prepared the body for burial; they would pass on specific dimensions of the deceased person to the casket maker. The deceased male was clothed in his Sunday suit or his best suit of clothes while the female was clothed in a black burial shroud or Sunday dress. If time allowed a new garment was made for a young child or infant. Ladies in the community would pad and line the coffin with the best satin on hand or purchase material from the local store. After placing the body in the coffin it was moved to the front room of the home. ‘Sitting up with the dead’ was a solemn occasion with neighbors coming by to watch over the deceased and assist the family. Friends brought food for family meals and helped with the farm work. The women either made artificial flowers or gathered freshly cut bouquets for the gravesite. A wagon was used to haul the casket to the church or gravesite where the funeral service was being held. The service consisted of singing of favorite hymns and a sermon; friends and family would file by the casket for a final viewing. ‘Precious Memories’, ‘When the Roll is Called Up Yonder’ and the ‘Unclouded Day’ were common hymns sung by the congregation or quartet. Wood screws were used to fasten the lid before the coffin was lowered by ropes into the grave. The family purchased a marker from a local stone carver or selected a piece of slate or field stone from the fields or mountains. In the early settlements days, multiple deaths kept neighbors busy digging graves and making the coffins. There were no charges for services rendered.
Mailing address: Myers Cemetery Preservation Association.
Glenn D. Myers 8161 Cedar Creek Road Townsend, Tennessee 37882
President of Myers Cemetery Association (MCPA)