Off the Beaten Path in Marion County, TN
“To remain ignorant of things that happened before you were born is to remain a child” ~ Cicero ~
History has always fascinated me and I am always on the lookout for places of interest in TAG that have a lot of it. There is something special to me about visiting a place that dates back hundreds of years. I love to feel the energy and imagining the way life used to be, much simpler times. This article features one of the oldest cemeteries in Marion County, which is located in Sweeden’s Cove. If you’ve been caving in Marion County, you probably have heard of caves such as Raulston’s Pit and Ellis Pit. These caves, along with others in the county, are named after early settlers in the area. Marion County was established in 1817 from land acquired from the Cherokee Indians and was named after General Francis Marion, a Revolutionary War leader in South Carolina. The county seat is in Jasper, which is where I call home. Not long after the county was established, in 1838 the Cherokees were forced from the TAG region via the Trail of Tears. During the Civil War, the presence of the railroad and the major turnpikes made it a place that Confederate and Federal armies passed through. The county has been notable for its coal and iron industries and is still home to the Lodge Cast Iron manufacturing company in South Pittsburg. Marion County also has seven Century Farms and the oldest is the Georgia Hoge Farm that dates back to 1808. A Century Farm is a farm that has been recognized as being continuously owned by a single family for 100 years or more!
Sweeten’s Cove, also known as Sweeden’s Cove on nineteenth century maps and documents, is an area of early settlement in the lower Sequatchie Valley. It was settled primarily by the Beene and Raulston families. Nathaniel Edgar Ellis purchased 231 acres in Sweeten’s Cove in December 1912, which is adjacent to the historic Beene-Raulston Cemetery. He and his wife Mary Etta Ellis were forced to relocate from Ellisville, near Mullins Cove, after the Chattanooga and Tennessee River Electric Power Company constructed the Hales Bar Dam. The dam was one of the nation’s first major dams to be constructed across a navigable channel and it flooded all the farmland in the area that Nathaniel’s family had called home since 1828. After living in Sweeten’s Cove and being early members of the Primitive Baptist Church, Nathaniel began to miss his old home along the Tennessee River. The house had not been flooded like the farmland so he sold the Sweeten’s Cove Farm to one of his five sons, Oscar Nathaniel Ellis in 1914. Eventually Nathaniel returned and purchased another farm adjacent to his former property. Nathaniel and his wife Mary Etta are both buried in the Bean Roulston Graveyard.
The Bean Roulston Graveyard is located seven miles back into Sweeten’s Cove. Not only is it the resting place of many early settlers of Marion County such as the Ellis’s, but it is also the resting place of 20 unknown Confederate Soldiers. A small Civil War battle, the first in the Sequatchie Valley, took place in the cove on June 4, 1862 between the troops of Union General James Negley and the calvary of Col. John Adams. Another Civil War era landmark in the cove is the Primitive Baptist Church, which was built in 1850 and it is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Also buried in the Bean Roulston Graveyard is Captain Robert Bean who was a Captain in the Indian Wars. It is said he was also a companion to Daniel Boone, a Tennessee Volunteer, a Hero of King’s Mountain, and an Intrepid Pioneer Patriot. Note the rather large piece of limestone that is the headstone for his burial site!
Directions: From Hwy 72, head west onto Sweetens Cove Road. After seven miles, turn right onto Bean Roulston Road. Go one fifth of a mile and you will see the cemetery on the left. The Cemetery is surrounded by an old rock wall and it is one of the oldest cemeteries in Marion County.