Recovery and Clean-up of Richmond Hill Cemeteries Unveiled

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
[email protected]
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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Recovery and Clean-up of Richmond Hill Cemeteries Unveiled

Posted: 11/02/2012
Cleanup of cemeteriesOn Friday afternoon, Mayor Madeline Rogero, Mayor Tim Burchett, Councilwoman Brenda Palmer and the West View Historical Cemetery District unveiled the clean-up and recovery of the cemeteries on Richmond Hill and the creation of a Historical Cemetery District to include six cemeteries.

The East Tennessee Design Center, Sheriff's Inmate Industries, and the City's Public Service Department, Knoxville Police Department, Office of Neighborhoods and Parks and Recreation as well as the West View community have been a part of this cleanup project which is in its second year.

Cleanup of cemeteriesThe West View Historical Cemetery District includes six cemeteries, one of which is registered.

The Cemeteries are:

Lonas Family Cemetery - Established in 1813, 180 burials. Cemetery is closed.
New Jewish Cemetery - Established in 1893, 767 burials. Cemetery is open.
Crestview Cemetery - Established in 1920s, estimated 894 burials at 1997 survey, now closed except for outstanding deeds for lots.
Longview Cemetery - Established in 1920s, 1,265 burials identified to date, 20,000 burials reported possible, now closed except for outstanding deeds for lots. Hundreds of graves are unmarked either through loss of temporary markers or simply no identification provided to start with. To their credit, funeral homes accommodated families with limited incomes for burial in Longview. Placement of gravesites has been haphazard and in some cases conflict with road access regulations.
Cleanup of cemeteriesSouthern Chain Cemetery - Established in 1920s, estimated 230 burials, closed cemetery. This cemetery was sold by Oddfellows to Longview owner when Oddfellows relocated its cemetery to South Knoxville several decades ago.
Middlebrook Cemetery - Established in 1878, 224 burials, closed cemetery. Its history is speculative at times with limited written records available prior to 1920. There are a substantial proportion of young people buried here; some Internet records indicate this site was used by a home where orphans and unwanted children lived in the early years of Knoxville. The home reportedly eventually led to the John Tarleton Home for Children.

Veterans buried in these six cemeteries represent military conflicts from the War of 1812 through Vietnam. An inventory of the veteran burials is in progress.

The number of burials individually in Crestview, Longview, and Southern Chain is unknown in part due to a misinterpretation of research terminology. Internet sources vary in the number of burials with the lack or loss of names, deterioration and vandalism of markers, and limited provenance for these cemeteries.

Knoxville was established in 1791, West View was established in 1793. West View's history coincides with the Knoxville of the 1700s when it was a brawling river town on the frontier. West View was a part of North Carolina and became a Tennessee community when Tennessee and North Carolina borders were redefined and Tennessee became the 16th state in 1796.

Cleanup of cemeteriesThere is an oral history locating a slave cemetery within the West View neighborhood; the area will be explored.

Future Plans for the Area

The West View Historical Cemetery District and the hoped for greenway extension through West View can provide Knoxville with a walking tour that will include these historical cemeteries.

The greenway extension will parallel a portion of the 1 1/2 mile horseshoe loop that encompasses these six cemeteries. The greenway system will provide a network connection to Dow Chemical.

The city has indicated a strong interest in developing a biking trail in Buck Toms Park, a 5-acre property directly across the road from the Longview Cemetery.

Both the city and the county have assisted with reclamation of the larger cemeteries and have indicated intentions to continue to do so. The terrain will lend itself to biking and walking trails with some hilly challenge. The characteristics of the cemeteries vary from both small and large traditional cemeteries, a serene, forested cemetery, and a quilt patterned cemetery.

The combination of the cemetery reclamation, a greenway, and restoration of Buck Toms Park added to existing improvements of the Middlebrook Pike median, West View Park, and greenway development bordering West View make this neighborhood better able counter crime and neglect.

A West View Historical Cemetery District foundation board is being organized to oversee the management of a fund to provide perpetual care for the cemeteries with no perpetual care funds in order to protect this rich historical area.

Without the manpower and equipment provided by the city and county, the reclamation of Crestview, Longview, and Southern Chain would have been extremely difficult. Their continued interest will be important in maintaining the West View Historical Cemetery District. Ownership of most of these cemeteries is unclear and these political entities will be looked to for assistance in preventing these properties from becoming neglected, blighted, and crime ridden areas again.