Kirklin Family Honored in Memorial Ceremony

On Saturday April 11, 2015 The Sons 0f Union Veterans of the Civil War Missionary Ridge 63 camp and the National Society Daughters of the Union Andrew Jackson Penny Chapter held a memorial at Kirklin Cemetery in Chattanooga to honor three Kirklin Family members who fought for the Union. Kirklin Cemetery had long been forgotten until recently when William Cotton began a cleanup campaign. The cemetery is located in the Oak Hills community of Alton Park.  Both the SUVCW Missionary Ridge 63 Camp and the NSDU Andrew Jackson Penny Chapter were well represented. The photo from l-r are Harvey Scarborough, Taylor Watson ( Lookout Mtn. City Council), Elliott Worland (SCV), Mark Miller, Jeff Webb (Camp Commander), William Cotton (former Chattanooga Commissioner), Mark Kemp (Past Camp Commander), Chip Brown, Joanne Favors (Chattanooga City Council), Patricia Rhodes, Tim Hill,  Alma Webb (Regent), Wm. Cotton's grandchild. 

Hamilton County Tennessee Genealogy Society's co-founder, Alma Webb, presented William Cotton with an achievement award for his work in helping preserve the history of Alton Park.




The Hamilton County Tennessee Genealogy Society( donated and installed upgraded sound equipment in the Downtown Library Auditorium. The system now features wireless microphones and other enhancements.

Pictured Left to right: Library Director Corinne Hill, Society President Dennis Wilson, and Assistant Director Nate Hill enjoy the new sound.
Chattanooga Local History and Genealogy


Saga of ‘Old A.P.’

Confederate general memorialized outside County Courthouse
By Ansley Haman Staff Writer


Staff Photo by Dan Henry
A Statue of Confederate General Alexander P. Stewart, "Old A. P.," stands on the lawn of the Hamilton County Courthouse.


Two bronze eyes of a statue tarnished green over almost a century gaze over Georgia Avenue beneath the broad trees of the Hamilton County Courthouse.

The plaque beneath the memorialized bronze bust reads “A.P. Stewart, Lt. General, C.S.A., 1861-1865.”

A lesser-known figure of the Civil War, Alexander P. Stewart cemented his ties to Chattanooga about this time of year in 1863. He led a Confederate division against the Union offensive at Chickamauga on Sept. 19-20. He later returned to Chattanooga to help establish and lead the nation’s first military park.

“He was an important figure, but in many ways a secondary figure,” said one of Stewart’s biographers, local attorney Sam Davis Elliott.

Much of the general’s story has been publicly forgotten even though his monument still stands in front of the courthouse’s main stairs. Stewart has faded to a curiosity — a wedding photo backdrop and the subject of a former county leader’s song. But some key local figures still know the story of his entanglement with Chattanooga’s past and present.

A.P. stands on the courthouse lawn, and every now and then when everybody’s gone, I walk out and chat awhile with him ... Former County Executive Dalton Roberts wrote these lyrics in 1980. He first noticed Stewart during walks around the courthouse.

“Sometimes I’d just get a little upset or get a little tense and go out there and walk around on the lawn,” he said. “I looked at him and asked, ‘What is he doing here?’”

So Roberts, a musician, wrote and recorded a song, “Old A.P. and Me.”

A local Daughters of the Confederacy chapter named after Stewart unveiled the statue in 1919, seven years after local leaders laid the courthouse cornerstone.

The Daughters provided Roberts with a brief history about “Old A.P.” after he began his song.

Back then, that brief account was the most comprehensive work about Stewart, Elliott said.

Like Roberts, Elliott began to wonder who Stewart was and why he was memorialized in 1995 while walking to and from the courthouse for work. Elliott began to dig into Stewart’s past and wrote a biography of the general, which the Louisiana State University press published in 1999.

“It was one morning — I had not really thought much about writing or anything like that,” Elliott said. “It just struck me that I kind of needed a diversion at that point anyway.”

Stewart was born in Rogersville, Tenn., in 1821. He spent his early years near Winchester, Tenn., Elliott said.

Stewart received an appointment to West Point, where he graduated 12th in the class of 1842, Elliott gleaned from the general’s academic records.

Elliott found a collection of Stewart’s papers at Duke University and made the trek there, only to find a handful of pages. He contacted the Library of Congress and attempted to find Stewart’s descendants.

One of his greatest finds was the long-lost reports from the Battle of Missionary Ridge, which Elliott said he located in Savannah, Ga., at a historical society with the help of Jim Ogden, historian for the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.


Old A.P. and me, we’ve

got a whole lot of things in

common, like getting into

wars that we can’t win ...


Staff Photo by Dan Henry


Stewart surrendered in North Carolina, then applied for and received a pardon, Elliott said.

He served as a mathematics professor at Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tenn., before heading to St. Louis to work for an insurance company.

In 1874, he became chancellor at the University of Mississippi, where he worked for 12 years. A building there still bears his name.

Stewart moved to Chattanooga after Congress passed legislation creating a national military park at Chickamauga. He lived here from 1890 to 1905.

“There were monuments at Gettysburg, but it wasn’t a national military park,” Elliott said. “The legislation that created [the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park] required a serving Army officer, a Union veteran and a Confederate veteran.”

Stewart had friends in Congress and became the Confederate veteran representative who “supervised in a lot of ways the startup of the battlefield,” Elliott said.

He later died in Biloxi, Miss., at 87 years old in 1908. He and another lieutenant general were the highest ranking Confederate survivors at the time of his death, news accounts from the time reported.

After his death, the county planned to make him the focal point of the courthouse rotunda. County commissioners passed a resolution to that effect when the Daughters of the Confederacy began the project, news archives show.

But Belle Kinney, a Nashville sculptor, designed the statue to be placed on a marble base.

Once the bronze was cast at Tiffany in New York City, county employees learned from an architectural report that the rotunda floor would have to be reinforced to support its estimated 14,000 pounds.

They opted instead to place him between the sidewalks to the main entrance.

One of the political wars Roberts said he lost in his time as county executive was an effort to keep open the courthouse entrance behind Stewart.

“All that security is foolishness. I spoke against that very strongly at the commission when they added that,” Roberts said. “Anybody that thinks an intelligent criminal couldn’t get in there and hurt somebody is a damn fool. That’s one of the wars I didn’t win.”

Now the courthouse’s front doors are locked, monitored with cameras by guards who man metal detectors at the street entrances to the building.

As a result, few people walk along the twin sidewalks past the bronze Confederate general mounted on a marble pedestal beneath a towering osage orange tree.

Stewart stands solemn, shown from the waist up, gripping the handle of a sword. Two rows of buttons secure his jacket, which he wears beneath a cape.

He’s still Old Straight

today like he was back then...

When Roberts wrote his song, he didn’t know much about Stewart’s past, or that the general’s nickname was “Old Straight.”

“I didn’t know that when I wrote that verse, and I said ‘he’s still as straight’ as he was back then,” Roberts said.

He changed the verse once he read about the nickname.

Elliott said the moniker was probably sparked by either Stewart’s role as a math professor or his “moral uprightness.”

Stewart spent most of his life as a Presbyterian. Elliott said he could never verify what prompted the general to convert from a Presbyterian to a Jehovah’s Witness.

Roberts said that Stewart joined the Jehovah’s Witnesses late in life because he didn’t believe in hell.

Stewart’s politics were conservative, but he didn’t believe in owning slaves, Elliott said.

“At the time the Civil War came, he opposed Tennessee leaving the union,” Elliott said. “When it did leave, he went into the Tennessee Army.”

Elliott’s research didn’t yield much criticism of the memorial.

“I haven’t heard that, maybe a murmur here or there,” Elliott said. “It’s not as flagrant as the Confederate flag flying or anything like that.”

In fact, most people don’t even notice him, said County Trustee Bill Hullander, who has a view from his office window of Stewart’s back.

Hullander said Old A.P. is sometimes in the background of wedding pictures taken by couples married near him on the courthouse lawn.

Just ride your horse and shoot your gun

And when your final race is run

Come stand and look out on the town with me.


Originally appeared in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Sunday, September 18, 2011

Contact staff writer Ansley Haman at ahaman@   or 423-757-6481.




Man on a mission

‘Forsaken baby’ abandoned at City Hall in 1948
looks for clues to his biological parents

By Clint Cooper

Staff Writer


Elevator operator Ruth Thomas found him. The baby, covered by a pink blanket, was left on a chair in the women’s restroom at Chattanooga City Hall, according to an article in the Sept. 29, 1948, Chattanooga Times.

  Whose baby was it?

  That was the question then, and it’s still the question today for 62-year-old James Alfred “Al” Graham.

  “I am that baby,” the Norman, Okla., equipment salesman said when he called the Times Free Press recently.

Graham, who said he grew up under the care of loving adoptive parents, has lived a good life and has raised a family of his own. He just wants to find out more about his biological family.

  “I don’t want anything out of anybody,” he said. “This is something for my kids.”

  Graham said his adoptive parents, Jess and Cile Graham, never hid from him the fact he was adopted. They adopted him from the Tennessee Children’s Home Society of Memphis, which employed a friend of his grandparents who alerted them to his availability.      He’s not sure if his parents even knew he was a Chattanooga City Hall foundling.

  “I was legally adopted, as far as I know,” Graham said.

  That’s not the case for all children who were adopted from the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. A 1950 state investigation revealed that operator Georgia Tann had arranged for thousands of adoptions under questionable means and that the Society was a front for a black-market adoption ring.

  “Was [the quick placement] a set-up or legitimate?” Graham said, “I don’t know.”

  Thomas, who was married at the time and listed as Ruth Prothro in the newspaper accounts, said when she found the bundle inside the restroom she pulled open the blanket and the baby began to cry.

  “I went immediately and got some help,” she said.

  Thomas, 86, who worked at City Hall from 1943 to 1987, said the city health department was then located on the building’s third floor, and that’s where she sought help.

  “A nurse came down,” she said.

  In the Times story following the baby’s location, it was reported he would be taken to Children’s Hospital and would become the responsibility of the Hamilton County Juvenile Court. If the parents weren’t found, the report said, arrangements would be made for adoption.

  The afternoon Chattanooga News-Free Press of Sept. 29, 1948, reported that “countless persons called requesting possession of the child on an adoption basis” but that all requests were forward to the Tennessee Children’s Home Society.

  It also mentioned that ads to locate the parents would be placed in local papers before the child — whose birth certificate reads Sept. 23, 1948 — became the responsibility of the Society.

  Eventually, by Hamilton County Juvenile Court order number 2673, Graham said, he was made a ward of the state.

  He is not sure when his adoptive parents, who lived in Memphis at the time, took possession of him because his adoption papers mention both Oct. 7, 1948, and Nov. 19, 1948. His parents also were apparently designated foster parents first before they were allowed to adopt him, he said.

  Graham, who did not grow up with any siblings, was not officially adopted until 1953, he said. He and his parents moved to Oklahoma in 1962 when his father was transferred there. In 1970, after Graham was married, his parents moved to Chattanooga, where an aunt and a cousin live today.

  His mother died in 2005, he said, and two years later his father asked him if he wanted to see his adoption papers. They added little to what he already knew — he did learn his adoption fee was $19. It made him want to find out more, he said.

  “It made me start looking,” Graham said. “I didn’t want to get too deep into this until [his father, who died in 2010] was gone. They were the only parents I knew.”

  He learned of his abandonment at City Hall in a packet he received in 2005 through the Tennesseeans Right To Know Act. The few other clues he has, including DNA testing that can identify possible branches of a family tree, link him to both the family name Lambert and the family name Slack.

  Some of Graham’s papers from the Tennessee Children’s Home Society refer to him as Unnamed Baby Lambert, but he doesn’t know why. He said a 12-marker DNA test matched him with the Lambert name, but that name disappeared in testing with more DNA markers.

  In a 67-marker test, he was from one to four markers off the name Slack on his paternal side, indicating he is “tightly related,” according to information on www.

  Graham has since had a 111-marker test but does not have the results back.

  Thomas said after the baby was placed in the care of the state, she never heard what happened to it.

  “Nobody saw anybody come in with it,” she said. “I guess [whoever left it] was just hoping someone would find it.”

  Present City Hall personnel aren’t familiar with the incident, said Richard J. Beeland, media relations director for Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield.

  Graham, meanwhile, said not knowing his family has never held him back. He graduated from Central State College (now the University of Central Oklahoma) and has held a variety of sales jobs.

  The Oklahoma resident has been married for 41 years, has three children and five grandchildren. They have lived in Alabama and Kansas but returned to live in Oklahoma about 20 years ago.

  “I’ve had a wonderful life,” he said.

  Yet, Graham said, he still wants to know more about the baby who was the subject of the headlines “Newborn Baby Is Left in City Hall Basement” and “Forsaken 2-Day-Old Baby Wails as Authorities Look for Parents.”


Photo from Al Graham
Al Graham with his adoptive mother, Cile Graham, on his second birthday.

Chattanooga Times Free Press
Sunday July 17, 2011



Alabama man a ‘real son’ of Confederate veteran

By Greg Garrison
The Birmingham News

     TARRANT, Ala. — Tyus K. Denney, 90, doesn’t know a lot about the Civil War, except that his father fought in it as a Confederate soldier 149 years ago.

   “My daddy was 80 when I come in this world,” said Denney at his home in the Birmingham suburb of Tarrant, where he keeps 10 beehives in the backyard to harvest honey. “I was 13 years old when he died. He never did talk about the Civil War. He never said nothing about it.”

   But his father, Thomas Jefferson Denney, is heavily documented as having fought in the Civil War, as part of Company H in the 31st Alabama Infantry regiment. He was captured by Union forces on June 15, 1864, near Marietta, Ga., and held prisoner at Rock Island Barracks, Ill., where he signed an oath of allegiance to the United States upon his release on June 18, 1865.

   That makes Tyus Denney one of the last living “real sons” of Confederate veterans, according to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, an organization made up mostly of descendants several generations further removed from their Confederate ancestors. Denney’s sister, Vivian Smith, 88, of Cullman, is one of the last living “real daughters” of Confederate veterans.

   The Sons of Confederate Veterans keeps track of the number of “real sons,” and “real daughters,” believed to be eight or fewer in Alabama, said Jim Shackelford, adjutant for the Forrest Camp No. 1435 branch of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

   People today marvel and wonder why women of childbearing age were marrying elderly men in the Depression era, Shackelford said.

   “It was hard times,” he said. “A lot of these women   needed support, and these Confederate veterans got a pension, maybe $13 to $20 a month. That was a lot of money in the Depression.”

   Alabama and other former Confederate states paid out Confederate pensions as late as the 1950s, Shackelford said. Tom Strain, of Athens, attending a state meeting of Sons of Confederate Veterans on May 21 in Birmingham, said a national database kept by the group lists 48 men who are “real sons” of Confederate veterans. Ten years ago, there were more than 500, he said.

   Thomas Jefferson Denney was born in 1844, according to the 1900 U.S. census, so he was about 18 when he enlisted with the Confederate Army in 1862. He was in his 80s when he married his last wife, Dora, a widow. “She was in her forties when I was born,” Denney said. Thomas and Dora had three children together before the Civil War veteran died at age 91 in 1934.  

   Tyus Denney was born May 8, 1921. He pointed out a picture of himself, around age 10, and his sister, about 8, with his parents. His father wore dark-rimmed glasses, a dark suit jacket and had a bushy white mustache and long wispy beard. Tyus now resembles him with a bushy white mustache, but he shaves his beard.

   Denney has three daughters, including Rolline Sisson, 67, of Tarrant. She never thought it was odd that her grandfather fought in the Civil War.

   “I’ve just lived with it all my life and didn’t think that much of it,” Sisson said. “A lot of people are amazed. It is amazing.”

   In 1986, the Sons of Confederate Veterans made Denney a lifetime member, not required to pay dues. He sometimes goes to Civil War re-enactments.

   “I just watch,” he said. “I don’t know nothing about the war.”  

Tyus Denney, 90, holds a photo of himself at about age 10 in Tarrant, Ala. The photo shows him with his father, Thomas Jefferson Denney; his mother, Dora Denney; and his sister.
The Chattanooga Times - Freepress; Monday, May 30, 2011    


Soul superstar has Scenic City roots
By Carey O’Neil , Staff Writer


LaFrederick Thirkill

  Lionel Richie

One resident of Chattanooga’s Pleasant Garden Cemetery may have a bit more soul than his neighbors.

That’s what music legend Lionel Richie learned when he came to the Scenic City for an episode of NBC’s “Who Do You Think You Are,” a program that helps celebrities find out more about their family history.

Richie’s great-grandfather Lewis Brown is buried at Pleasant Garden near U.S. Highway 64 and, with the help of Chattanooga’s   LaFrederick Thirkill, who has been working to restore the cemetery for more than a decade, Richie got to visit the grave.

Thirkill said he sat down to talk about Brown with     Richie, father of TV personality Nicole Richie, when the show was filmed in mid-December.

Richie, famous for such songs as “Hello,” “All Night Long” and “Truly,” was excited about his journey, Thirkill said, and happy to learn everything he could about Brown. The pharmacy worker and cemetery caretaker died in 1931.

“When you look over his [Brown’s] life you see that he was a caretaker, period, by nature, with his work in the pharmacy,” Thirkill said. He said he had seen a photo of Brown, and that Richie and his great-grandfather look quite a bit alike.

Thirkill, assistant principal of Apison Elementary School and a local musician, said meeting Richie was a thrill.

“He is the most amazing person. I just found him to be unbelievably down to earth,” Thirkill said. “I was just amazed that he was so approachable and so nice. I’m most definitely a big fan. I sang lots of his songs at weddings.”  

Thirkill said he felt connected to Richie, and not just because both are musicians.

“We are both on a quest to continue to find our relatives,” he said.

 Both have been successful. Thirkill also found a greatgrandfather in the cemetery.

 “He was a giver. He was a blacksmith and he gave of himself endlessly in his community. He even made [leg] braces for children who were suffering from polio and gave them to them for free,” he said. “It’s just been a wonderful   journey finding out information about him.”

Show spokesman Akiva Griffith said Thirkill’s experience is similar to those of Richie and other featured celebrities.

“For most of them, they’re kind of driven by a certain fact they know about their family,” he said.

For example, Griffith said, musician and actress Vanessa Williams started her search after her father died, and musician Tim McGraw started his when he got to know his estranged father, the late baseball great Tug McGraw.

 The show, now entering its second season, airs Fridays at 8 p.m. The episode featuring Chattanooga and Richie is scheduled to air March 4.

Contact Carey O’Neil at   or 423-757-6525.  

Watch this episode on




Birchwood church seeks to move seven graves

  By Jeremy Belk Staff Writer


Staff Photo by Jeremy Belk

As Birchwood Baptist Church has expanded over the years, some graves now are very close to the building.


     If you don’t watch your step walking out of the fellowship hall at Birchwood Baptist Church, you could stumble over one of the many gravestones encircling the church.


   With some graves as close as 10 feet to the building, church elders are looking at moving seven graves they feel are too close.


   Pastor David Delmotte said 120 to 160 people attend services each week. With so many coming and going from the small church, it’s commonplace to see people inadvertently walk over and between headstones, he said.


   “I can’t stand seeing people   walk over the graves,” Delmotte said last week as he looked out a window at three graves just outside the fellowship hall.


   In November, Birchwood Baptist elders filed a petition in Hamilton County Chancery Court to move seven   graves away from the walls but still in the cemetery. A legal ad published Dec. 24 in the Chattanooga Times Free Press gave relatives of the deceased 30 days’ notice of the proposed move.


   According to the document, the seven people — Fred G. Samples, James W. Allison, Nannie S. Allison, Margret E. Conner, M.C. Conner, John C. Selvidge and an unmarked grave — were buried between 1917 and 1946.


   “As the parish has grown and expanded, the area surrounding the subject graves has been increasingly subject to foot traffic and general disturbance due to its proximity to the parish house, such that it has become impossible to maintain the site of the subject graves in a manner consistent with due and proper reverence to be accorded the graves,” the court papers state.


   And Delmotte said the   gravesites make it impossible for the church building to expand any more. The church doesn’t have any immediate plans to enlarge but might want to later, he said.


   Delmotte said no immediate relatives of the deceased are members of Birchwood Baptist, but he has spoken with some distant relatives who are church members. They don’t have an issue with moving the graves, he said.


   Church attorney Benjamin McGowan said the petition is part of the statutory process Birchwood must follow to   move the graves.


   Kenneth Turner, associate professor of Bible at Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn., said the Bible doesn’t address moving bodies that have been buried.


   But some Christians believe the body is necessary for resurrection, he said.


   “From a theological perspective, there is nothing wrong with it,” Turner said. “You just have to protect the issues and feelings of the families.”


   Contact Jeremy Belk at   or 423-757-6345.  

Chattanooga Times Free Press, January 12, 2011




Descendants of Andrew Jackson Penny lay a wreath in his honor at Penny Cemetery in Soddy-Daisy.
L-R: Ellen Svenson, Laura Bales, Jo Hill, Linda Mines, Alma Webb, Jeff Webb, Cody Hill, Anthony Bills, Eric Svenson, Josh Bills.



Philanthropist Jack Lupton Dies At 83
Inheritor Of Coca-Cola Bottling Fortune Left Large Chattanooga Legacy
Philanthropist John Thomas "Jack" Lupton died Sunday at the age of 83.

Mr. Lupton, who inherited a Coca-Cola bottling fortune, left a large legacy in Chattanooga, including helping to found the Tennessee Aquarium and building the Honors Golf Course in Ooltewah.
He has been in ill health for a number of years after suffering a debilitating stroke.
Mr. Lupton lived on Lookout Mountain.
Senator Bob Corker said, “Jack Lupton was a giant of a man. When most had given up on Chattanooga, he saw the great potential that existed in the community he loved and rallied us around his dream for the city we enjoy today. Not only was he enormously generous, he was willing to risk his reputation on civic endeavors like the Aquarium and was an inspiration to us all. He was both a mentor and a friend to me and I will miss him greatly.”
Senator Lamar Alexander said, “Jack Lupton had big ideas for Chattanooga and for Tennessee and his remarkable generosity helped make those dreams come true.”
The family's Lyndhurst Foundation continues to invest millions of dollars in Chattanooga projects, including the Tennessee Riverwalk.
His grandfather, John Thomas Lupton, was an attorney who came to Chattanooga from Winchester, Va. He married Elizabeth Patten, daughter of Chattanooga Medicine Company founder Z.C. Patten.
J.T. Lupton was one of three Chattanoogans with the foresight to obtain a contract to bottle Coca-Cola from its founder in Atlanta. This was to bring great riches to the Lupton family, who built the Lyndhurst mansion in Riverview.
Cartter Lupton, only child of J.T. Lupton, was the father of Jack Lupton.
He took over management of the bottling empire after his father died of a ruptured appendix in 1933. Cartter Lupton married Margaret Rawlings.
Their son, Jack Lupton, was born in 1927.
At Baylor School, he was captain of the swimming team as well as a letterman in varsity football, basketball and baseball.
After he graduated in 1944, he joined the Navy and was assigned to PT boats. He spent a year in the South Pacific before the war ended. He then enrolled at the University of North Carolina, where he majored in business administration.
He later went to Macon, Ga., and began at the lower rung of the bottling business as a bottle washer. Later, he returned to Chattanooga and became interested in the textile business. He was active with Dixie Yarns, but he returned to Coca-Cola bottling when his father became ill in 1954.
He had married Alice Probasco on March 20, 1948.
Jack Lupton succeeded his father as the owner of the world's largest Coca-Cola bottling company when Cartter Lupton died in 1977. The JTL bottling empire was sold to the Coca-Cola Company in 1986 for $1.2 billion.
Mr. Lupton also founded the Miller-Reid Advertising Agency.
Jack Lupton in December of 1985 made a rare public appearance, telling government leaders he would make a gift of $20 million toward development of the riverfront at Chattanooga. That was the impetus for the establishment of the Tennessee Aquarium and all the other remarkable developments along the riverfront. He agreed to serve on a board for carrying out the development.
Mr. Lupton also continued to serve as chairman of the board of the family's Lyndhurst Foundation.
In 2001, he donated $25 million to UTC to help transform the campus.
Children of Jack and Alice Lupton include a son, Thomas Cartter Lupton, who lives in South Carolina; Alice, who is married to attorney Alfred Smith and lives on Lookout Mountain, and Katherine, who marred Lucien Burns Crosland, a Dallas developer. Margaret married Charles Cole Gerber.
A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Lookout Mountain, with Rev. Robert Childers officiating assisted by Rev. John Talbird and Rev. King Oehmig.

In lieu of flowers memorial contributions can be made to Hospice of Chattanooga, Baylor School, the Tennessee Aquarium, or a favorite charity. posted May 16, 2010

Steamship tragedy

Dayton resident last child of survivor
of 1865 sinking that killed 1,800

Staff photo by Matt Fields-Johnson/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Glenna Green of Dayton, Tenn., is the last remaining child of a Civil War survivor of the explosion of the S.S. Sultana, a steamship that blew up just north of Memphis in 1865. She is sitting with her three children, from left, Judy Vaughan, Maxie Green and Carolyn Stracner.

Chattanooga Times Free Press
Sunday, April 25, 2010
By: Clint Cooper (Contact)

Samuel Washington Jenkins survived the worst maritime disaster in United States history in 1865, and now his Dayton, Tenn., daughter is the last remaining child of a survivor able to pass along the story.

The tightly packed SS Sultana, a steamer carrying about 2,100 Union soldiers -- mostly former prisoners of war -- up the Mississippi River after end of the Civil War, exploded several miles north of Memphis on April 27, 1865, killing about 1,800 people.

"He heard a loud noise," Glenna Green, 90, said, relating the story her father used to tell. "He saw people falling. (Soon) he was out in the water, thrashing around, holding his head up."

Mrs. Green, who lived most of her life in the Bakewell area, is the 18th of Mr. Jenkins' 20 children and the only one still living. Her father was 71 when she was born.

She and her three children attended the annual meeting of the Association of Sultana Descendants and Friends on Friday and Saturday in Chattanooga.

Norman Shaw, the Knoxville founder of the organization, is not a descendant of a survivor of the Sultana but "stumbled across" information on it while researching material for the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable in 1987.

The steamship disaster is "kind of forgotten," he said. "It's not even well known among Civil War folks. That's why we made the commitment to keep the story alive until the last (child of a survivor) died."

The explosion, Mr. Shaw said, came close on the heels of the surrender of the Army of the Tennessee by Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston and the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth.

Dr. S. Kittrell Rushing, interim department head and Frank McDonald professor of history at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, said "there was so much going on" in the same period in history that the Sultana disaster "got lost in the shuffle."

"It was overshadowed," he said.


Mr. Jenkins, according to family stories, fell from the upper deck of the Sultana to the lower deck during the explosion, then climbed aboard a paddlewheel housing and floated down the Mississippi.

Eventually, he was picked up and taken to a Memphis hospital, according to grandson Maxie Green, of Soddy-Daisy. A day or so later, he was put on another steamship that dropped him in Nashville to be mustered out of the Army.

From Nashville, Mr. Green said, his grandfather walked back to Bryson City, N.C., where he had lived when he entered the Army.

Several years later, Mr. Jenkins and his first wife, with whom he had seven children, moved to Soddy, where he worked in mines, according to Mr. Green.

In the mid-1890s, he attended Chattanooga Medical College and became a doctor. For many years, Mr. Green said, his grandfather served as a doctor for Southern Railway and for the people of what is now Soddy-Daisy, delivering more than 2,000 babies.

Mrs. Green is a child of Mr. Jenkins' second marriage, which produced 13 children. He died when she was 12.

"He was kind and loving," she said, "and also a disciplinarian. He could really lay the switch on."

Her father loved to tell stories about the Civil War and of the suffering he saw, Mrs. Green said.

"His experiences helped him be what he was when he was older," she said.


Although Mr. Jenkins' five older brothers had entered the war on the Confederate side, he was judged too young when he volunteered at 16 in 1864, Mr. Green said.

Because he wanted to fight, he went across the mountains to Maryville, Tenn., and joined the Union Army -- and the Third Tennessee Cavalry -- by lying about his age.

"He was a typical teenager," Mr. Green said. "He wanted to get in the fight."

Initially quartered around Nashville and Murfreesboro, Mr. Jenkins eventually was sent toward Florence, Ala., his grandson said. He was captured by Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest's troops during the battle of Sulphur Trestle in September 1864 and transferred to Cahaba Prison near Selma, Ala. He was there when the war ended, then was sent to Vicksburg, Miss., for transportation north.

In Vicksburg, the government had contracted with several private steamship owners to ferry the freed Union soldiers. At $5 a head for enlisted men and $10 a head for officers, "it was a nice little bonanza for any of these steamships' owners to get these men on board," Mr. Shaw said.

An estimated 1,800 passengers of the 2,300 aboard the SS Sultana perished during an explosion just north of Memphis on the Mississippi River on April 27, 1865. By comparison, 1,523 people went down with the passenger liner Titanic when it collided with an iceberg and sank on April 14, 1912.

The first two ships left with passenger loads of 600 and 1,300, he said, but the Sultana was overloaded by hundreds of men in spite of a quick repair on a leaky boiler while the ship was at Vicksburg.

"They crammed on as many as they could," Dr. Rushing said.

The ship, according to the book "Cahaba Prison and the Sultana Disaster," was rated for 376 passengers and crew. On the voyage during which it exploded, it was carrying about 2,300 people.



Chattanooga: Historians are ensuring nearly forgotten cemeteries are preserved

Sunday, August 3, 2008 Chattanooga Times Freepress

By: Pam Sohn


Jim Holcomb is a man on a mission. He and members of two local Ruritan Clubs want to clean up and catalog five nearly forgotten cemeteries on the Enterprise South industrial park property — lest they completely disappear.

“There are about five cemeteries, according to maps, in the entire Enterprise South property,” Mr. Holcomb said. None are on the newly announced Volkswagen plant site, he said.


But he thinks it is fitting that the new plant will be nearby since at least one of the cemeteries holds families of German immigrants from the region’s early settlement.

“Isn’t it appropriate that the deTaverniers are German?” said Mr. Holcomb, chairman of the cemeteries committee of the Hamilton County Tennessee Genealogical Society.

The largest marker at one of the smallest cemeteries bears the etching: “Sue E. deTavernier, born Jan. 7 1834, died Jan. 6 1910.”


Already Mr. Holcomb has learned from old census records and other historical documents that Sue E. deTavernier was Susan E. Carey deTavernier.

“Her husband was Col. Frederick deTavernier, a soldier of fortune, born in Prussia. Prussia was a state of Germany,” Mr. Holcomb said. “I suppose this is where I have heard of a German cemetery in the Enterprise South property. Old Frederick fought for the Union during the Civil War.”


Rolling chalk across the tombstones to highlight the etchings, Mr. Holcomb, 59, recorded the engravings he found at Enterprise South on Friday. Later he will take the names and dates and put them into a list to be posted on the Internet for family researchers worldwide. Mr. Holcomb acknowledges he is consumed by his hobby of genealogy and cemetery hunting. “A cemetery is a museum,” he said. “And I want to know who all these people are. And what the connections are. It’s like a crossword puzzle.”


County assurances

Mr. Holcomb and Paul Parker, Hamilton County’s real property manager, are working to ensure the future of the cemeteries and any others found on the industrial park in the future. “He (Mr. Parker) told me they already have a plan. Because as this thing develops, as we hope it does from an economic standpoint, what do you do about these things (the cemeteries)? How do you preserve them?” Mr. Holcomb said.


Mr. Parker said Saturday the cemeteries already have been reserved in deeds, so when prospective industries look to locate in the park in the future they must look to land around them. “Our full intention is to preserve those cemeteries wherever we find them,” he said. “The developments will need to work around the cemeteries for anything in the future.” Mr. Parker said no other cemeteries have been found on the 6,000-acre former Voluntary Army Ammunition Plant property, which was operated by the Army from 1942 to 1977 to make TNT. Before the Army’s ownership, the property was farmland in the Tyner and Silverdale communities. The county began acquiring the property in pieces in 2000, he said.


“Fortunately when the Army came in and acquired the property, the cemeteries were more easily identified, and they set those out to preserve them,” noting that it was the Army that strung barbed wire fence around the cemeteries and posted “Do not molest” signs on them. The downside of the Army’s ownership was that secrecy and security there kept families from remembering the grave sites.

“In the years since we have owned the property, we haven’t had any inquiries,” Mr. Parker said. “I hope everyone will rest assured that the development is not affecting the graves there, and we’re very sensitive to them.”


After the announcement of the VW plant, Mr. Holcomb, owner of J&J 4-Wheel Drive in Harrison, cross-referenced the property on two maps local genealogists use as Bibles for cemetery searches: Works Progress Administration lists from the 1930s and Tennessee Valley Authority charts. The TVA map showed three of the cemeteries, but workers for the WPA had found all five. Three cemeteries have markers, but two contain only unmarked graves.


The East Hamilton County Ruritan Club and the Harrison Club will spend a Saturday later this month to clean up the cemeteries. The clubs are taking on the chore as a project to help the community. “The county will clean them up,” Mr. Holcomb said, “but we’re looking for projects, and it will save the (county) taxpayers money.”


As for the information gathered? The cemetery cataloging soon will be found on the Hamilton County Tennessee Genealogical Society Web site at








Submerged, but not forgotten
TVA asked to relocate grave sites

By Dick Cook, Staff Writer



Driftwood rather than flowers decorates the graves of three members of the Long family, who were buried on the banks of the Tennessee River more than a century ago.

Dennis Lambert, an amateur historian living in Bridgeport, Ala., believes he may be related to the people in the partially submerged cemetery in Mullins Cove, and he wants the Tennessee Valley Authority to relocate the graves. "There are tombstones sticking up out of the lake," Mr. Lambert said. "I think it’s a disgrace. Those graves were supposed to have been moved."

However, TVA officials said the gravesite was under water long before the federal utility built Nickajack Dam in the late 1960s. They said Long Cemetery No. 2, as it is denoted by Marion County historians, was flooded by the construction of Hales Bar Dam in 1913. "It predates TVA," said Gil Francis, a spokesman for the agency. "Having said that, TVA does have grave removal policies."

Graves may be relocated if they will be affected by the construction of a reservoir, officials said. It’s up to descendants to decide whether the graves are moved or flooded. TVA relocated 555 cemeteries while building the reservoir system, Mr. Francis said.

The three tombstones rise from two feet of lake water on a mounded area of submerged river rock about 70 yards from the bank where Dry Creek empties into the lake. They mark the graves of Henry, Moses and Sarah Long. Henry Long died in 1875 and Sarah in 1860. Moses’ birth is noted as Nov. 25, 1880, but the date of death is illegible.

Mr. Lambert said a branch of his family tree is the Longs from Middle Tennessee who moved into Marion County in the 1800s.

Archaeologist Lawrence Alexander of Alexander Archaeological Consultants Inc. said that in such situations "where you’ve got two or three stones, there are probably three or four times as many graves there, as a rule of thumb."

Nick Fielder, the state’s archaeologist, said Long Cemetery No. 2 would be of "archaeological interest."

"I’ve never seen (a graveyard) with tombstones that ended up above the water," Mr. Fielder said. "I will raise the subject with the TVA archaeology group."

Amateur historians in the area said they are aware of the graveyard but know little about the Longs buried there.

Euline Harris, 72, wrote a book listing all the cemeteries in Marion County. Her interest was sparked when she began researching her husband’s family’s genealogy with a group of friends in the 1980s, she said.

"One of the girls in the group contacted TVA some years ago, and they had a list of the graves overrun when Hales Bar was built," Mrs. Harris said. "We were told TVA tried to contact families when they built Nickajack Dam. If they did not reply, there was nothing they could do."

Ida Smith took photos of dozens of cemeteries in Marion County, including the submerged Long Cemetery, which she posted on a genealogy Web site.

Mrs. Smith said she used a boat to get to the three tombstones rising above the waters of Mullins Cove. "When I found it, I didn’t know if it had been recorded," she said. "I thought it was very interesting in the real shallow water there."

TVA officials said utility personnel "probably" knew about the existence of underwater Long Cemetery No. 2 when Nickajack Dam was built.

"It is my understanding that in 1999, because the headstones were tilted down, TVA reset the headstones," Mr. Francis said.

Mr. Lambert wants TVA to do more than straighten the tombstones. If the utility won’t relocate the graves, it should build the area up above the water line, he said.

"When these folks died and were buried, they never thought they would be buried at sea," Mr. Lambert said. "It’s not right."

The Chattanooga Times-Free Press, Wednesday, April 12, 2006



Historic Will Cummings Home Sells For $360,000
Posted July 23, 2005

The historic Will Cummings home in Lookout Valley sold for $360,000 at an absolute auction on Saturday afternoon.

Two men who met for the first time at the auction - Greg Vital and Ken Ficken - teamed up to buy it.

Mr. Vital said plans are to preserve and restore the home, where President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt once visited.

He said the remainder of the property would be developed, but he said no plan is in place.

The house was sold along with 5.14 acres.

A tract of 2.51 acres next to it was put up for auction, but was withdrawn when it only brought $60,000.

Members of the Cagle family also opted to keep another tract on the other side of the old home. The Cagles, who are from Jackson County, Ala., bought the property from the Will Cummings estate in 1990.

Judge Cummings was Chattanooga's first city court judge, and he later was a powerful county judge who was well acquainted with FDR. He was county judge from 1912 to 1918 and again from 1926 to 1942. His family once owned much of Lookout Valley, settling there long before the Civil War.

The house dates to the early 1900s and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It sits on a knoll across the the Cummings Cove development that is on another portion of Cummings land. Developer Jimmy Chapin leased the Cummings home for a couple of years as a sales office for Cummings Cove.

Bidding on the house started at $200,000 and slowly edged up until it finally got to $300,000. Until then, auctioneer Pete Horton was saying somebody was about to get a big bargain.

It finally got down to the Vital-Ficken team against a couple who moved to Chattanooga from Chicago about a year ago. Victoria Berghel is an attorney, and her husband, Rob, is a commercial realtor.

"The house has a lot of nice features," said Mr. Berghel, pointing to some of the leaded glass at the front of the spacious living room.

The Berghels said they may be interested in buying the house when it is restored.

The auction was held on the broad front porch of the house. It goes the length of the front and partially around two sides.

Greg Vital has been involved in the restoration of several historic buildings, including the Dome Building in downtown Chattanooga. Mr. Ficken is in the foreclosure business.

The purchasers also had to pay a 5 percent buyer's premium.



Workshop on Saturday 
On Growing a Family Tree

By Jan Galletta Staff Writer


Staff Photo by David Banks Jim Holcomb, a genealogist for the Hamilton County Genealogy Society, catalogs new headstones in Harrison Cemetery. Holcomb has helped survey and create genealogies for more than 100 cemeteries in Hamilton County.

    Jim Holcomb just dabbled in genealogy until the death of an aunt 11 years ago led him to buy a computer program to help with mapping out his family tree.
When he learned Abraham Lincoln’s brother-in-law had died at a Holcomb ancestor’s home place, he was hooked on the roots-researching hobby, he said.     Since then, the Harrison man has charted every grave in more than 200 cemeteries, many in Chattanooga, and has posted their burial rosters on the Hamilton County Genealogy Society’s Web site. He’s also compiled data on roughly 85,000 relatives, connected in some way to his own clan.
    "The more you dig, the more you learn," said Holcomb, 55. "It fascinates me, filling in family names like missing pieces in a crossword puzzle."
    Saturday, he’ll share tips on building a family history at the society’s annual Genealogy Workshop, set for 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 615 Derby Street. Admission is $10 in advance and $15 at the door, with $5 deli-style lunches available by reservation.
    Featuring speakers, vendors and exhibitors from across the tri-state region, the event "offers just about anything a genealogist, from the novice to the expert, needs to further his or her research," said Dennis Wilson, 50, society president. "It promises to be our best workshop ever."
    Wilson said the seminar’s highlights include two presentations on exploring one’s Cherokee ancestry by Lorna Morton Hibbs, former official genealogist of the Cherokee Tribe of Northeast Alabama.
    Other lecturers and topics include Paul K. Graham on land-lottery research, Mary Helms on Internet genealogy, Tracy Knauss on graphics’ role in genealogy and Mary Crawford Tinkler on organizing wall charts.     Terry Silar will speak on the Sons of Confederate Ve terans organization and Rufus Williamson will discuss Scots-Irish ancestry. Rounding out the program are videos on cemetery research by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack and Internet genealogy publishing by Terry McBroom.
    Several history-oriented groups will have displays and various vendors of genealogical wares will be on hand as well. Door prizes will be presented.
    E-mail Jan Galletta at jgalletta@timesfreepress .com


    What: Hamilton County Genealogical Society’s Genealogy Workshop.
    When: 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday.
    Where: 615 Derby St.
    Admission: $10 in advance, $15 at the door; $5 lunch, by reservation.
    Phone: 877-8564.
    Web site:

The Chattanooga Times Free-Press, Friday, May 13, 2005.


Cuts threaten library resources
Officials appeal to public for help with funding

By Susan Pierce Staff Writer

Budget cuts will force the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library to drop magazine subscriptions, reference sources and a popular Web-based genealogy resource, the director said Wednesday.
   "All of our subscriptions to databases, reference books and magazines will be drastically cut back in the next few months without help," said David Clapp, library executive director. Heritage Quest, a Web-based genealogy resource that costs $5,390 a year, is among the databases that would be discontinued, he said.
   "It has federal census records online for the public to access from home," Mr. Clapp said. "We get about a million hits on the library’s Web site each month, and Heritage Quest is by far the most popular link."
   He and other library officials are asking the public for contributions to continue providing the research and reference materials.
   "If every individual who uses Heritage Quest contributed a dollar, we could pay for it and add other databases and materials, as well," Mr. Clapp said. Hamilton County commissioners in June approved a budget that included reductions to the library’s budget request. Commissioners made cuts to many requests from agencies jointly funded with the city.
   Mr. Clapp said about $200,000 is needed to continue the resource materials when current subscriptions expire.
   Library visitors may see the result of these budget cuts as soon as January, he said.
   "Periodical subscriptions expire in December," he said. "So in January as much as half of our shelves will be empty of new editions of periodicals. We’ve already closed 30 percent of our subscriptions to reference editions."
   Database subscriptions are on a July to June timetable. Mr. Clapp said he wants to make the public aware now that these services will not be accessible this summer without financial assistance.
   Marian Riggar and her mother, Mrs. J. Inman Kidd, made a $1,000 donation for the purchase of new children’s books in honor of the grandchildren of the late Mr. Kidd.
   " Reading and using the public library has been very important to the Kidd family," Mrs. Riggar said.
   Mr. Clapp said children’s books and school support materials are a critical need for the library.
   Jeff Atherton, vice president of the Chattanooga Southeast Tennessee Home Education Association, said homeschoolers are heavy users of the library.
   "I had not heard that they were looking at such a significant shortfall," he said. "Our homeschool board will be meeting in the next week, and I’m sure this is one of the topics we will be discussing."
  TOP LIBRARY NEEDS Heritage Quest genealogy database, $5,390 American Business Disk, $5,000 Replacing missing Spanish cassettes, $500 "Encyclopedia of Medical Organizations and Agencies," $360 "Acronyms, Initialism & Abbreviations," $895 Value Line Investment Survey, $798 A complete list of library requests can be found on the Internet at: Source: Chattanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library

This story was published Thursday, December 09, 2004


Charges dismissed in cemetery case.

Hamilton County General Sessions Court Judge Mike Carter dismissed charges Monday against two men each facing 54 counts of destruction to cemetery monuments.

The judge said both Miles C. Koger, 72, of Lookout Valley, and John D. Jackson, 58, of St. Elmo, were not at fault in damage at the Parker Cemetery when bulldozers damaged several headstones.

According to court records, Chattanooga police responded after receiving a call that someone was using a bulldozer to destroy a cemetery in Lookout Valley. Officers stated they arrived to find Mr. Jackson operating a bulldozer in Parker Cemetery in the 100 block of Drew Road.

Mr. Jackson told police that Mr. Koger, the property owner, had hired him to clear the land.

Police reported finding a large pile of dirt with monuments that had been pushed by the bulldozer and ruts the machine had caused over several gravesites.

Judge Carter said he would go to the cemetery today at 4 p.m. in an attempt to work out a solution to provide permanent upkeep.

Chattanooga Times-Free Press, November 17, 2004

Small grave site disturbed
Owner says tried to improve 1.4-acre
Lookout Valley cemetery
By Duane W. Gang Staff Writer

As a child, Nina Gossett Baughn remembers attending funerals at Parker Cemetery in Lookout Valley .
   So the 77-year-old Chattanoogan was angry and dismayed this week when she learned a backhoe cleared the site and that headstones there have been destroyed and damaged.
   Her great-grandparents and a great uncle are buried in the 1.4-acre cemetery, which dates back more than 100 years. It contains the graves of Revolutionary War soldiers, relatives of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.,R - Tenn RTenn., and former slaves.
   "We are very upset about it," said Mrs. Baughn, who said she saw only one headstone standing when she visited the site this week. "(The property owner) has desecrated graves we will never locate. He has ruined it. I do hope that we can push and make him do something about it."
   But owner Miles Koger said he set out from the beginning to improve the cemetery and make it something relatives could be proud to visit.
   "We didn’t knock down any headstones," Mr. Koger said. "This year I decided to clear it, seed and fix it so a riding lawnmower could keep it trimmed."
   Mr. Koger, 72, and John Jackson, 58, the backhoe operator, each have been charged with one count of destruction of cemetery property, a felony. The two are due in court June 3. The cemetery has been neglected for years and an association charged with keeping it maintained has done nothing, Mr. Koger said. He said he bought the land, adjacent to his property at 113 Drew Road , in 1984 for $500. A tornado heavily damaged the cemetery in 1998, he said.
   Mr. Koger said he hired Mr. Jackson to remove logs and debris. Mr. Jackson, who owns Jackson Backhoe, digs graves and does cemetery maintenance.
   "I know John Jackson is aware of cemeteries," Mr. Koger said. "That’s what he does."
   Mr. Jackson could not be reached for comment.
   At the very least, Mr. Koger should put a memorial at the site, said Mrs. Baughn, who was born and raised in Lookout Valley . Her great-grandfather, Richard Gossett, died in 1892. Her great-grandmother,  Hannah Gossett, died 23 years later. Mrs. Baughn said she is not sure when her great uncle, Faith Gossett, was buried at the cemetery.
   Mrs. Baughn said she and other relatives believe the last person buried in the cemetery was Pearl Sharp, who died at age 40 in 1936. Mrs. Baughn said she remembers her.
   City Councilman John Lively said he has relatives buried in the cemetery. He said he contacted Mike Compton, the mayor’s chief of staff, as soon as he heard about work at the cemetery. Mr. Compton then contacted city inspectors who issued a stop-work order to the property owner, officials said. Mr. Lively said he doesn’t like what was done.
   "I just can’t believe a person would have the gall to go in there and doze up a cemetery," he said.
   Sen. Frist’s great uncle, James B. Frist and his wife are buried there. Spokesman Nick Smith said the senator is aware of the situation but could not comment.
   Alex McKeel, 28, who researched the cemetery for the Lookout Valley Neighborhood Association, said he has confirmed that Revolutionary War soldiers and former slaves are buried there.
   "There could be 10, 20 or 50," he said. "Former slaves, unfortunately, people didn’t care about."
   Mr. McKeel said most of the graves in the cemetery are unmarked. "A few more now, unfortunately," he said.
   The Native American Reserve Force of the Hamilton County Sheriff ’s Department also is investigating to see whether any American Indians are buried in the cemetery, authorities said.
   Raymond Evans, who consults for the Chattanooga African-American Museum , said what has happened at the Parker Cemetery is all too common.
   "It is an example of an unfortunate situation throughout the Chattanooga area," he said. "There are dozens of small private cemeteries around that are like that, that have no maintenance. Some you can drive by the road and not know they are there."
   Mr. Evans said Tennessee law prohibits someone from disturbing a grave. But the state has no legislation protecting cemeteries in terms of upkeep, he said. In Georgia , each county is responsible, he said.
   "That is something Tennessee would do well to emulate," Mr. Evans said. "There should be some systematic way of recording these cemeteries and providing some kind of upkeep."
   Staff writers Mike O’Neal and Andy Sher contributed to this story.
   E-mail Duane W. Gang at Fast facts Parker Cemetery , on Drew Road in Lookout Valley , covers 1.4 acres and dates back more than 100 years. Revolutionary War soldiers, relatives of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist,, R-Tenn.,R - Tenn RTenn., and former slaves are among those buried there. 
This story was published Saturday, May 15, 2004

New charges filed in cemetery destruction case
By Mike O’Neal Staff Writer


More charges were filed Monday against two men arrested last week in connection with reported damage at a Lookout Valley cemetery.
   Both Miles C. Koger, 72, of Lookout Valley, and John D. Jackson, 58, of St. Elmo, were charged Wednesday with a single count of destruction of cemetery monuments. On Monday, each was charged with an additional 53 counts of destruction, Chattanooga Police Department spokesman Sgt. Tom Layne said.
   Sgt. Layne said the officers who made the arrests found that 54 monuments either were damaged or destroyed.
   Each count is a felony under state law, officials said. Mr. Jackson and Mr. Koger could not be reached for comment Monday.
   According to the original affidavit of complaint, Chattanooga police responded to the 100 block of Drew Road after receiving a call that someone was using a bulldozer to destroy a cemetery.
   Officers stated they arrived to find Mr. Jackson operating a bulldozer in what is known as Parker Cemetery . Mr. Jackson told police that Mr. Koger, the property owner, had hired him to clear the land.
   Police reported finding a large pile of dirt with monuments that had been pushed by the bulldozer and ruts that the machine had caused over several gravesites.
   In his complaint, Officer Joe Kearns stated he asked if Mr. Koger "had obtained permits for the demolition of the cemetery," and Mr. Koger said "no."
   Both Mr. Koger and Mr. Jackson were arrested, charged and released on $10,000 bond. They are scheduled to appear June 3 in Hamilton County General Sessions Court .
   Court records show the head of the Parker Cemetery Association, Steve Daughtry, of Hixson, has been subpoenaed in the case.
   Mr. Daughtry could not be reached for comment.
   To m Bodkin of the Hamilton County medical examiner’s officer said he visited the scene to represent the interests of his office, which involved the possibility of disturbed graves or exposed human remains.
   He said he did not find any disturbed graves or exposed remains.
   Mr. Bodkin said that, after noting a debris pile containing gravestones and depressions that indicated graves, he called state archaeologist Nick Fielder.
   "Locating the graves is not a problem," Mr. Fielder said. "Restoring the proper tombstone to the right grave is the problem."
   The 1.4-acre cemetery dates back more than 100 years. It contains the graves of Revolutionary War soldiers, relatives of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, RTenn., and former slaves.
   E-mail Mike O’Neal at 
May 18, 2004


Buried veterans records on Web
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Sally Naporlee turned to the Department of Veterans Affairs to find out more about her grandfather, who served during World War I.
   After a few weeks wait for a response, Naporlee learned from the VA that Carmelo Castorina is buried at Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, N.Y. Unexpectedly, she also learned from VA that her grandmother is buried with him, a privilege extended to veterans’ spouses.
   VA has made it easier and faster for the public to get answers about family history, old war buddies or famous war heroes. The agency put on the Web 3.2 million records for veterans buried at 120 national cemeteries since the Civil War.
   The VA’s Nationwide Gravesite Locator, at, also has records for some state veterans cemeteries and burials in Arlington National Cemetery since 1999. Joe Nosari, VA’s deputy chief information officer for Memorial Affairs, said the records used to be on paper and microfilm. Private companies have put some of the information online and charged for it, but the VA information is free, he said.
   Naporlee, of Spokane , Wash. , also learned her grandfather served with the Army’s 161 DB unit, enlisting June 24, 1918 . He was honorably discharged December 17, 1918 . The VA’s gravesite navigator includes names, dates of birth and death, military service dates, service branch and rank if known, cemetery information and grave location in the cemetery. The VA will withhold some information, such as next of kin, for privacy purposes.
   The site will be updated daily. Annually, about 80,000 veterans are buried at national cemeteries.
   The VA also hopes to add records for veterans whose families requested grave markers from the VA. Those markers may go to private cemeteries. 

The Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tuesday, April 13, 2004.



Residents struggle to save historic Johnson Cemetery


By Kimberly Starkes – Times Staff Writer


            Hidden behind high briar patches and large trees on Old Champion Road is a cemetery dating to the 19th century. The tombstones, tilted by trees and covered with moss, tell a story known only to a few Washington Hills residents whose ancestors reside there.

            “This cemetery sort of fell into my hands,” said owner Charles McKenzie, 67, a direct descendant of Willis Johnson, the first owner of the community cemetery started just before slavery ended in 1865. Known as Johnson Cemetery , it is where newly freed slaves were buried. It later became a resting place of other residents of the community, and the last burial there occurred in the early 1990s.

            The cemetery is the neighborhood’s secret gem, but it is unkempt, Mr. McKenzie said.

            “I can’t answer what happens way down the road, but it is a historical place,” he said.

            Serving the area once known as Magsby’s Pond and Turkey Foot, Mr. Johnson’s vision was to establish a church and a school in the area along with the cemetery, Mr. McKenzie said.

            People who lived in the area were buried free of charge, and members of Mount Calvary Baptist Church would donate money to keep the cemetery clean. As older residents began dying, Mr. McKenzie charged $100 for each burial, which he said some simply refused to pay. Anyone living in the community was eligible to be buried at the cemetery, but no long-term arrangements were made, he said.

            “At other cemeteries it costs between $600 and $2, 000,” Mr. McKenzie said. “We’ve depleted our funds, and we don’t have any money to clean parts of the cemetery on top of the hill.

            “People coming along now don’t know anything about these folks, so they don’t take an interest,” he said.

            Russell Gilbert, a Washington Hills resident whose great-great-grandfather Samuel Shepherd is buried on the property, said he wants to preserve the graveyard and make it a historic site to honor his ancestors and educate his children.

            “If he came from slavery until now, I believe that any goals can be achievable, and the goal set now is to preserve that,” Mr. Gilbert said.

            Mr. Shepherd was given the property upon which his descendants now live in Washington Hills.

            “This cemetery should be a historical site through things he did in his life, coming out of slavery to become an herb doctor and minister to serve different people in Washington Hills community and surrounding areas,” Mr. Gilbert said.

            Along with tombstones, there are unmarked, sunken graves adorned only with rocks.

Russell Gilbert looks at a tilted headstone dating to the late 1800s in Johnson Cemetery on Old Champion Road.


            Lawrence Reger, president of Washington D. C.-based Heritage Preservation, said spring would be a good time to clean up the cemetery.

            “Sometimes a youth group or a church will adopt a cemetery and make it into their project,” Mr. Reger said. “They can start by doing some research and find out what their cemetery meant and still means, then they’ll be more likely to take responsibility for it.”

            Washington Hills resident Frances Wilkins-Hudson, 87, said Johnson Cemetery is where some of her family members were put to rest.

            “Now, when I pass, I doubt there are any relatives in the area left to look after those graves,” Mrs. Hudson said. “For the last two years I have had a gentleman clean the Wilkins’ plot off. Any burying place is important, and as long as I live, it will be cleaned off.”

            Lacking funds to clean the cemetery and uncertain about the graveyard’s future, Mr. McKenzie said he’s made arrangements to be buried somewhere else.

            “I’ll be at Hamilton Memorial Gardens , because I know they’ll keep it up,” he said. “But hopefully we’ll get the entire cemetery cleaned up and have the funds to keep it clean.”

            Mr. Gilbert said he will find youths and other people interested in preserving the cemetery.

            “We’ve preserved the Booker T. Washington football field; now we’re looking towards the cemetery,” he said. “From my great-great grandfather’s legacy we’ve had professors teaching at Tuskegee , Yale and Emory, ambassadors and authors. Samuel Shepherd is one of many that has accomplished things in this Hamilton County area.”

Staff Graphic by Beck Towery


The Chattanooga Times Free Press, Monday, March 8, 2004



First Presbyterian Church of Soddy-Daisy to Celebrate 175th Anniversary

By Clint Cooper, Chattanooga Times Free Press Staff Writer

Two miles east of the town of Soddy and under the branches of a spreading oak tree, First Presbyterian Church of Soddy-Daisy was established in 1828, according to a church history.
   It was 10 years before the first church in Chattanooga was organized.
   "It’s the oldest existing organized church of any denomination in Hamilton County , and we still think it’s special," said Dorothy Dean Shelton, whose family roots go back to one of the men who gave land for the start of the congregation.
   First Presbyterian will celebrate its 175th anniversary on Sept. 7. Activities include a fellowship hour at 9:30 a.m., an expanded worship service at 10:30 a.m., lunch served by the Presbyterian Women’s Association around noon and a praise service at 2 p.m.
   The Rev. Jim Hayes, the church’s pastor, said he applied to become pastor of the congregation less than two years ago, in part because of the church’s reputation for evangelism and outreach.
   "It’s tremendous for a small church," he said.
   First named Mount Bethel Presbyterian, the church began on property donated by Col. William Clift and Robert McRee on a knoll overlooking Soddy Lake , Miss Shelton said. The church cemetery adjoining the property still exists but is now run by a cemetery association, she said.
   A delegation of elders from the church helped start Chattanooga ’s First Presbyterian in 1838, according to church history.
   First Presbyterian of Soddy-Daisy moved to a wooden structure in the town of Soddy in 1892. "It was a typical country church," said Miss Shelton, a descendant of Col. Clift. "My grandmother used to play the organ. It was the old, pump kind. My grandfather was an elder, and my mother sang in the choir. We were involved from the word ‘go.’" In 1966, First Presbyterian relocated to its current Highway 27 site, midway between the then-separate towns of Soddy and Daisy, where it first built only a fellowship hall.
   "For years, a door on one end of the hall had a sign over it that said ‘sanctuary,’" Miss Shelton said, "but there was nothing there."
   A manse was completed in 1968 and a sanctuary and additional classrooms finished in 1975. Dr. James L. Fowle, the longtime pastor at Chattanooga ’s First Presbyterian Church, spoke at the opening of the sanctuary.
   "It did not have pews yet," Miss Shelton said. "He said he was glad the pews didn’t get there because next week a lot of people would come see the pews."
   A relic spanning almost its entire history remains at First Presbyterian, members said. A bell from the Blackhawk, a steamship owned by Col. Clift and Mr. McRee and once used to transport American Indians on an early leg of the Trail of Tears, was given to the church and today hangs in the bell tower. Recently repaired, it was rung last Sunday for the first time in a long time.
   "The clapper got old and tired and fell off," said Miss Shelton. Nancy Curvin, a member for 30 years, said she appreciates the way First Presbyterian has reached out to her and to others. Her fellow members were there for her, she said, both when her husband died and when her son, Danny, broke his neck.
   "I could not have made it without my church fellowship and Christian friends," she said. "A l o t of them have meant a lot of things to me."
   First Presbyterian also has reached out within the broader church community. It has shared space with newly established Holy Spirit Catholic Church for the last four years. The Catholic parish is expected to complete its first building sometime next summer, but the cooperation in the meantime has been unprecedented, Mr. Hayes said.
   "It’s highly unusual for a church to share space with another congregation," he said. "It’s a tremendous ecumenical outreach for both sides. It’s showed me a tremendous amount of openness."
   "We’ve thoroughly enjoyed it," said Mrs. Curvin. "We’ve made good friends and been a witness to the community in what we’ve done. It’s a blessing to reach out to other people."
   First Presbyterian, Mr. Hayes said, has remained relatively constant in membership over the years.
   "I don’t think it ever had over 125 or 130 members," he said. "Now we have a little less than 100."
   Through its history, Mr. Hayes said, the church has had 24 people enter the ministry.
   "That’s outstanding — highly unusual for a small church," he said.
   Among those is Dr. Chris Curvin, Mrs. Curvin’s son and a Presbyterian USA minister in Florida .
   "There are a lot of faithful people here, a faithful group that works hard," said Miss Shelton. "I hope it will continue for many more years to come."
 The Chattanooga Times Free Press, Saturday, August 30, 2003 .