Tennessee Traveler: History of First Presbyterian Cemetery

Knoxville, Tennessee Just a few feet from Knoxville's oldest church—First Presbyterian—and across the street from the original site of James White's fort are names synonymous with Knoxville as an early frontier town.

Jack Neely, noted author, columnist and historian has studied the graveyard extensively.

"When they tried to transcribe all the headstones, many aren't legible anymore, you can barely make out the word 'Knoxville' anymore," said Neely.

Each marker in the graveyard has a number. First Presbyterian has printable maps with the layout of all the numbers to help visitors find what they are looking for.

One of the most prominent markers in the graveyard is that of Abner Baker, of the Baker-Peters House in West Knoxville, which was named after his family. Abner returned from the Civil War and found his father, murdered by Union troops. He was later lynched after an argument, and his ghost has been claimed to now roam the halls of the home.

Hugh Lawson White, son of James White, was also buried in the cemetery. He was a U.S. Senator who also ran for president.

"He was the most powerful senator in the Senate in 1833," said Neely. "He was elected by a committee that included Davey Crockett, who was also an opponent of Jackson himself."

White got the endorsement of Abraham Lincoln, but William Henry Harrison eventually won the election.

Along with the Whites are the Blounts, McClungs, Armstrongs and the grave site of first UT President Samuel Carrick.

"There's a mystery about this grave because it says 'Samuel CZR Carrick,' and no one knows what 'CZR' means," said Neely.

The cemetery is indeed a place full of history, intrigue and mystery. Each grave site tells a story of how East Tennessee grew into what it is today.