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City Cemetery. A Pre Civil War Cemetery in South Pittsburgh, Tennessee

City Cemetery, South Pittsburgh Tennessee South Pittsburg City Cemetery

The City Cemetery in South Pittsburg, Tennessee is one of the community's oldest graveyards and is the final resting place for many of the area's early settlers in addition to many of the city's founding fathers. The cemetery, which dates back to at least 1840, is located below Whiteacre Point on the south side of South Pittsburg Mountain. The old McReynold's High School gymnasium is located directly in front of the old cemetery.

The cemetery has a unique history when compared to most of the South's older cemeteries. With the interment of numerous African-Americans, these burial grounds were not subdivided to distinguish between the races. Nor was it separated to distinguish between the rich and poor nor between those of differing religious beliefs or nationalities. The cemetery also contains the graves of some veterans from both the Union and Confederate armies, which had taken up arms against each other during the American Civil War.

As with all cemeteries not under perpetual care the passage of time and neglect by the living gives Mother Nature the opportunity to reclaim the hallowed ground and the City Cemetery has not been immune from such encroachment. With its somewhat isolated location, the cemetery, which has an estimated 1600 burials, has been overtaken on many occasions by trees, overgrowth, weeds and numerous briars, which form for a nearly impenetrable fortress against those wishing to visit the cemetery. On numerous occasions throughout the history of the cemetery, citizens have organized and mounted valiant efforts to reclaim the cemetery so that the families of those buried there may visit the graves of their loved-ones without having to carve a trail through a jungle and the risk of being snake bitten.

All these efforts were successful in their own way, but the failure to continue the maintenance each year allowed Mother Nature to once again reclaim the land. This has been the case in every attempt to date including the 1999 cleanup, which was funded by the City of South Pittsburg after it acquired ownership of the 20 plus acres of property that same year.

This cemetery restoration effort was headed by Ray Evans, who was contracted to do this work by the city. A lot of expense and effort was put into this cleanup including the mapping of most of the cemetery and its burials. However, no additional work was done on the cemetery afterwards with the exception of regular maintenance of some family plots by relatives, which was made more difficult to those doing this work once the remainder of the cemetery was again allowed to become overgrown with weeds, bushes and briars.

With the last known burial in the cemetery being in 1975, even these few efforts by relatives of some of the deceased are beginning to dwindle as relatives of those who make up part the more recent burials are reaching ages where this work is becoming harder and harder with each passing year. As more and more time elapses age will eventually render these individuals unable to do this maintenance.

In 2004, the South Pittsburg Historic Preservation Society, Inc. took up the challenge of reclaiming the old cemetery after fellow member, Susan Mack, urged the Society to take on the project. She was named administrator of the project by the Society and she promptly began to formulate a plan to cleanup the cemetery. Since that time volunteers have cleared about one-third of the cemetery of its fallen trees and overgrowth with planned dates for continuing the work until all of the cemetery has been cleared.

In late summer 2005, the Society separated from the project and allowed the City of South Pittsburg, who owns the cemetery grounds, to take charge. An independent board of volunteers now works with the city and under the leadership Mrs. Mack towards achieving the goal of reclaiming the cemetery.

Many families with relatives buried in the cemetery have made contributions of cash and materials for this work along with some local retail establishments and groups having also contributed. In addition, fund raisers are also planned in an effort to raise additional funds for this continued work, which includes resetting many large tombstones that have been unseated from their bases by sinking graves and fallen trees. This is not to mention the several sections of vintage wrought-iron fences that have become warped and twisted after fallen trees landed across them.


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