Are you kin to someone named Kidd, Gallaher, Griffin, Broome or Cavett? How about Lonas (spelled Lones, back in the day), Roberts, Parham, Keith, Vanosdale, Wittenbarger, Covington or Walker? And even if you’re not, if you’re interested in our history, you need to know about the work that has commenced to preserve the Mars Hill Cemetery.
There are only about 50 old headstones in the cemetery off Broome Road in West Knoxville, but ground-penetrating radar has identified around 500 graves. Archeologists call them “anomalies,” but to many, they are the remains of their ancestors.
Some of the graves have been there for more than 200 years, and the names are among the original settlers of Knox County. The cemetery’s proximity to the site of the 1793 Cavett Station Massacre adds to its significance as a historic site. Time hasn’t been kind to the old graveyard, and there’s been some recent vandalism, although neighbors who live in the adjacent subdivision are contentious about keeping it mowed and presentable.
Friends of Cavett Station is a group of history-minded citizens who have taken up the task of preserving the cemetery. Anyone who wants to help is welcome to email Amy Mays Emert, a professional genealogist and Daughters of the American Revolution member who is working with Cindy Johnson, Carol Zimmerman and Legacy Parks Foundation to move the project along. Emert, who has been combing through old obituaries and documents, says the last known burial in Mars Hill was James Alfred Roberts in 1931.
“We know there must be people who know things, but we don’t really have a way to get the word out,” Emert said. “We need family stories.”
About 18 of the burials are of children between the ages of one day old to 18, Emert said. They didn’t leave descendants, so she’s not listing those names.
Here is the list of known burials in Mars Hill Cemetery that Emert has compiled, and here are some examples of the kinds of personal stories she’d like for people to share. If you have additional personal stories and/or photographs, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Moses Cavett (1742-1802) and Agnes Meetch Cavett (1745-1820) – Moses was a captain in the Revolutionary War at the Battle of King’s Mountain. When his brother Alexander was killed in the Cavett Station massacre, Moses gained possession of his 640 acres of land around the Cavett Station site. The Sons of the American Revolution dedicated a marker at the cemetery on September 25, 1921, in memory of Alexander Cavett and those killed in the massacre. The Cavett Station DAR placed a marker honoring Moses Cavett as a Revolutionary War Patriot in November 2019.
Joseph Lones (1797-1872) and Nancy Cavett Lones (1807-1884) – Nancy Cavett was the granddaughter of Moses and Agnes Cavett. She and Joseph Lones had 5 children, three of whom, along with their spouses, were buried in the cemetery.
Their sons that were buried in Mars Hill were George Henry Lones (1825-1899) and his wife Nancy Eveline Bell (1832-1911), and Samuel Richard Lones (1834-1901) and his wife Gemima Jane Griffith (1839-1912). Their daughter Mary Ann Lones (1827-1907) married Maccager Kidd (1821-1893), and two of their children and four of their grandchildren were buried in Mars Hill. Their son was Joseph A. Kidd (1845-1900). Their daughter Clarinda “Clara” Jane Kidd (1851-1907) and her husband James Alfred Roberts (1844-1931) were buried in Mars Hill, along with James’s parents, Joshua Roberts (1815-1890) and Sarah “Sallie” Bennett (1813-1892).
Isaac H. “Ike” Wittenbarger (1856-1912) and Mary E. Parsons Wittenbarger (1856-1930) – Isaac’s obituary states that he was buried in “the family cemetery,” alluding to Mars Hill being the burial location of not only several of his small children, but possibly also his first wife, his mother, and his wife’s parents since their burial locations are unknown.
Thomas W. Parham (1831-1872) and Melvina M. Geaslin Parham (1834-1878). Their daughter, Amanda Parham (~1860-?) was married to David C. Vanosdal. Her headstone has no dates, only “MOTHER AND CHILDREN” written on it.
Archibald Lafayette Walker (1836-1912) and Susan Elizabeth Keith Walker (1841-1882), and Archibald’s brother Elijah J. Walker (1831-1864).
John Covington (1791-1873) and Catherine Stickley Covington (1792-1886)
James M. Balou (1810-1866) – This last name could also be spelled Balew or Ballew.
Editor’s Note: Betty Bean has written previously about the Massacre at Cavett Station here.
Betty Bean writes a Thursday opinion column for KnoxTNToday.com.