The Bledsoe Cemetery

 

Located practically right in the middle of Livingston is a cemetery well over 100 years old that I was not aware of until recently. This came as quite a surprise to me due to the fact that Iíve grown up here, and thought I was pretty familiar with the town. This cemetery is a rather unique one. It is completely surrounded by a concrete wall, and has no way in or no way out other than to climb over the wall. The existence of this cemetery was brought to my attention by Ronald Dishman who provided some historical background information that I will include with this entry of my journal.

This cemetery is known as the Bledsoe Cemetery. It is located on Hood Street, and just in case there are others like myself who might not be familiar with that street, here are directions. If you are traveling West on Broad Street, turn right onto Celina Street. Hood Street is the very next street on the left. The cemetery is right behind the former residence of the late Mr. and Mrs. Monroe Gore.

 

 

In order to try and find out how this cemetery started, we must travel back in time to the year 1863. Census records tell us this about the person who is believed to have donated the land on which the cemetery sits. His name was Dr. David Graham who came to the United States from Ireland. He was married to Margerie Hemphill of Pennsylvania. The Grahams were the parents of seven children, the first four of which were born while they lived in Carroll County Ohio. Their childrenís names were Susan (and/or Sallie); Richard; Margery; Mary; Harriett; William; and James. The three younger children were all born in Tennessee. The census records for 1860 indicate the Grahams had a 26 year old house servant living with them whose name was June Amos. In 1870, the census records list a music teacher, Mollie Smith, age 22, as well as an artist, A.J. Marshall, age 29, living with the Grahams. Their daughter, Susan (and/or Sallie) went on to become a music teacher. During 1863, one-eighth of an acre of land was donated by Dr. Graham to establish what was first known as the Frisbie/Bledsoe cemetery. Originally, there were 15 graves there. There is a distinct possibility that not all graves are inside the walls of the cemetery.

Additional information about Dr. Graham was recorded in the writings of Mary Catherine Sproul, a Union sympathizer, who once taught school in Overton County. Mary Catherine received a college education at The Female Institute of Maryville, and taught school in Overton County until the outbreak of the War Between the States. After the war, Miss Sproul married Bailey Owen Bowden who was County Court Clerk of Fentress County. Bailey Owen Bowden served in the Union Army, even though his six brothers had enlisted in the Confederate Army. The daughter of the Bowdens, Nora Deane, married Albert Houston Roberts who later became governor of Tennessee in 1919.

In the writings of Mary Catherine, she tells how a proclamation was made after news reached Livingston about the fall of Fort Sumpter. The proclamation called for the entire Town of Livingston to be illuminated, and that every house should be lighted, or it would be known that its occupants were "Lincolnites", and those houses would be burned. Her description reads as follows: "When the dusky twilight began to appear, every window, door and steeple was in a blaze, even the shrubbery in the yards shown forth a vivid brilliancy like so many mammoth glowworms. Every house shown forth its gilded radiance in town except two, Dr. David Graham and Dr. J.W. McManus. These two homes were shrouded in darkness." She goes on to tell that Dr. Graham was away visiting a brother in Kansas. During his absence, one of the young Graham sons wanted his mother, Margerie Graham, to do as they had been told about illuminating their home, but she refused. When Mrs. Graham told her children why their house would not be lit as they had been instructed, she took them out on to what was called the "front portico" of their home to explain. "Let them burn our house if they choose, I would rather see it in ashes than to exhibit signs of rejoicing on this occasion," she said. From the portico of the Graham home, they had an excellent view of the other homes all around them all aglow with lights while theirs remained in total darkness.

Upon Dr. Grahamís return from Kansas, he had scarcely alighted from his horse when rebels gathered around him and began to interrogate him. Mary Catherine described the scene like this: "These remorseless wretches abused this poor old man most shamefully. They made him holler "Hurrah for Jeff Davis", and threatened to kill him. Through pleadings of his family, they managed to get the old doctor away, but they still abused him. Many who Dr. Graham had doubtless saved from an untimely grave by his good skill and unwearied attention would not even let him have pork, wheat or corn for sustenance of his family. If they let him have anything, it was by paying them an exorbitant price in good money even when they owed him large sums for medical attention years before the war."

Mary Catherineís writings indicate that Dr. Graham began to make preparations to leave the country, but was told he should not go. A rebel neighbor made the statement that Dr. Graham would not be allowed to leave, that he was a Union man and because of that he would not be paid his dues, and if he was, it was be confiscated for the benefit of the Southern Confederacy. I did not find any further reference to Dr. Graham in this article. We are left to only wonder if the Graham family escaped from this area, or whether they remained here. There are other things I wonder about concerning this family such as where their home might have been. From the description, it must have been a rather large home. The words "front portico" used by Mary Catherine would indicate that it probably was. Having a music teacher as well as an artist, which I would assume were living in the Graham home for the purpose of teaching the Graham children music and art, would indicate that Dr. Graham was a man of means. But that may have all changed when it became known that he did not favor the Confederacy. Again, we can only wonder.

The concrete wall around the Bledsoe cemetery measures 41 feet by 41 feet and is 8-1/4 inches wide. The oldest grave there is one of William R. Hutcherson, born December 25, 1825, died May 30, 1863. His gravestone is in one corner of the cemetery and stands well over 6 feet tall. Information is also engraved on that same stone about his wife, Susan R. Bledsoe who was born May 10, 1840, and died June 20, 1891. William B. Bledsoe and wife Mrs. Belle B. Bledsoe are also among those buried there. An obituary for William B. Bledsoe included information we donít see in those we read today. An example reads as follows: "Cancer from which he had suffered for three years was the cause of his death, but he had been confined to his room for only six weeks. He was born and reared in Livingston and spent his entire life in the same vicinity." Those who survived him are listed, and another description of Mr. Bledsoe is given saying that "he was a farmer and a good neighbor." The best I can determine, Mrs. Belle Bledsoe was the last person buried there, and that was June 10, 1962.

This tiny plot of ground is not only the final resting place of members of the Bledsoe family, but is a place rich in history, and is very deserving and needful of being preserved. Someone driving by to look at the wall or inspect the monuments there would never guess that the property was once owned by a doctor in Livingston who long ago was considered a traitor to his country because he supported the Union. Perhaps one of the civic clubs here in Livingston might adopt this cemetery and give it some needed attention that is long overdue. It very much deserves a place of honor, and should be included as one of the historical places located in the Town of Livingston.

 

back