200-year-old cemetery uncovered, restored
For decades the 200-year-old Kennedy-Thomison Cemetery lay camouflaged and forgotten beneath brush, vines, trees and trash.
But, after many months of hard work, the cemetery has been cleaned up and is ready for the next stage of the restoration.
Gary Steger, maintenance supervisor of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department, looks at the Thomison monument located inside the Kennedy-Thomison Cemetery.
In 1983, the new owners of the Clarks Mill Lane property discovered the graveyard while bush hogging the pasture. The property now belongs to William Hentz.
This effort was launched when Pat Bivins, a representative of the Historical Society, requested permission from Lincoln County Sheriff Murray Blackwelder to utilize the work crew to clean up the old cemetery. Gary Steger, maintenance supervisor, developed a plan for not only its clean up, but ultimate restoration.
Bivins received written permission to conduct the restoration from Hentz. Then, Steger researched to learn what the state protocol is for restoring a cemetery. Some of the steps included providing a grid map and mapping grave plots so that graves may be easily located, documenting with photos, providing a method of proper cleaning and repairing of markers and other processes.
“The project is about remembering our dead and preserving our history,” said Steger.
Steger and the work crew began the backbreaking work of hacking down brush, cutting down trees and picking up trash, which they finished at the close of October.
“The Lincoln County Garage was very helpful in hauling tree limbs away,” Steger said.
In the process of clearing the lot, an old survey marker, issued out of Chattanooga, was found, though a new survey is being conducted to mark the boundaries.
The cemetery project was in addition to other ongoing improvement projects Steger and the work crew had been actively involved in at the Petersburg Post Office and volunteer fire department.
Surprisingly, 49 graves were found at the cemetery, not just the 40 graves that were documented. The majority of the graves were members of the Kennedy, Thomison, Warden and Anderson families. The Anderson family plots are enclosed with wrought iron fence.
Several graves are enclosed by a perimeter of large hand-hewn stone blocks and at least one grave is located outside the cemetery plot on the other side of a pasture fence. Weather worn and broken headstones mark several of the graves.
Steger also noted that the headstones of two soldiers were in the cemetery, the oldest one dating back to the Revolutionary War.
Buried in a raised plot next to his family members is Capt. Robert Campbell Kennedy. He was a Revolutionary War soldier born on Aug. 25, 1761 and died Feb. 25, 1815. Steger stated that Capt. Kennedy served in the Battle of Kings Mountain.
The grave of Confederate Civil War veteran M. (first name unknown) Sparks is marked by a worn, chipped headstone etched with lettering barely visible. He died in February of 1862.
Now that the cleaning up portion of the cemetery project is complete, Steger says it will be an ongoing effort to clean and repair old headstones and foot stones, straighten up wrought iron fence and probe the ground to see if there may be other unmarked graves.
Plans are to install a new cemetery gate that will face Clarks Mill Road and a fence will be built around the cemetery. Additionally, depressions in the graves need to be filled and the ground seeded with grass. As funding becomes available, these improvements will be made, as well as construction of a gravel road to the cemetery.
Steger encourages the community to make contributions toward the preservation of the historic cemetery. Checks should be mailed to the Lincoln County Archives, 1000 West Washington Street, Fayetteville, TN 37334. They should be made payable to the Lincoln County Archives and earmarked as a donation for the Kennedy-Thomison Cemetery project.
Steger has plans to contact a number of people in this area who have ancestors buried in the cemetery.
“I have located 23 possible families to contact,” said Steger.
So far, the following individuals are known to be buried in the cemetery: Amos Anderson, E.M. Anderson, Jane C. Anderson, Milinda Anderson, William M. Anderson, Martha Jane Thomison Blankenship, Fannie Broadway, Sarah M. Conaway, Infant son Cowan, Martha E. Anderson Gammill, Cora Ann Gray, Blount W. Grigsby, Elizabeth Jean, Mary L.K. Jewell, Samuel Lee Jones, W.H. Jones, Esther Ann Edminston Kennedy, Sallie Buchanan Kennedy, Mary M. Kercheval, Annie Lizzie McKinney, Arih K. McO’Naway, James Z. Motlow, David Newsom, Betty Jenkins Renfro, Elizabeth Thomison, Hugh Thomison Sr., Infant daughter Thomison, Infant son Thomison, Jane C. Thomison, Sarah A. Thomison, Susie Thomison, William Carroll Thomison, Daniel Warden, Mary Little Warden, Robert Warden, Sarah Landess “Sallie” Warden, Travis Alexander “Alex” Warden and Mrs. Ann Woodard.