Monday Marginalia – A Walk In Mimosa Cemetery


I love history and Mike enjoys it.  One of the ways we’ve come to know an area we visit or live is by getting to know the local history.  A way to do this is by cemetery walks with good history guides.  We’ve enjoyed them in Kenosha, Burlington, Savannah, Charleston, and now here in Lawrenceburg.  On October 22nd,  after clipping an article from the local (twice weekly) paper, we attended on here sponsered by the library.  It was excellent right there with the best.  We met 10 former citizens of Lawrenceburg some great, some notable, some infamous.

Mimosa is a civic cemetery.  If you want a plot there you purchase it at the courthouse in Lawrenceburg.  Which is unusual as most cemeteries around here are at least affliated with a church or family.  It was founded because the old cemetery in town was a mess.  Records weren’t kept and no one knew where it was safe to be buried.  There were many unmarked graves and digging to bury a recent death might uncover an older one.  The town decided they needed to found a cemetery and keep proper records and markings.  This led to what is now Mimosa Cemetery in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee.


Mayor Vaughan

The first grave on the tour was Mayor James D. Vaughan (1864-1941) known as the singing mayor.  He was the founder of Southern Gospel Music.  He owned his own record label and yes was mayor of Lawrenceburg.  He was born with a talent for music and a gift for singing with some training he quickly excelled past his music teachers. His stone has musical notes to remember his talents.

Next was Annie Green Kirk (1832-1910).  She was the Outlaw’s Widow.  Her husband was in jail for murder when the Civil War broke out.  He convinced the governor of Tennessee who was staunchly for succeeding that if he was released he’d fight for the Confederacy as a raider and enlistor.   He did just that.  He impressed men into the Confederate army.  My family has tales of men like him with Franklin Cummings and Fredrick Asbury Denton.  Actually Asbury met up with Kirk Raider and hanged until he passed out several times over the were abouts of a pig.   Any way back to Annie and her Outlaw husband, the war ended and they tried to establish life as normal in Lawrenceburg but the Union was out to find him as a war criminal (for things like they did to Asbury).  One day Union soldiers came upon him on the city square and took him into custody.  What happened next is a battle between official reports and local rumor in both Kirk wound up in an unmarked grave beside the road between Lawrenceburg and Pulaski.  The troops said he attacked them trying to escape and they shot him, then in the summer heat buried him right there.  Locals say he was a prisoner and once the troops out him out of town they killed him and buried him without benefit of a trial.  Either way Annie lies alone in the cemetery with a marker commemorating her husband beside her.  As for her we know little other than she was a quiet woman who stayed home while he was out doing what made him infamous.

Senator Fred Thompson (1942-2015) was the most recent grave we visited.  It is currently unmarked. The gave has to settled for a year or so before the marker is put in.  One is ready and will be installed when the ground is ready. He grew up in Lawrenceburg and went on to become a Senator and actor. He has written several books with Teaching a Pig To Dance being the one recounting his youth in Lawrenceberg.  I remember him for his role in The Hunt For The Red October but most remember him for his role in the tv show Law and Order. I didn’t watch that, so I harken to his movie roles.

20161022_163820Nettie Stewart (1874-1922) she is in an unmarked grave.  However I took this photo of a lovely marker near hers.  Nettie died without living family.  She was living alone in a hotel in Nashville when she died.  No one there knew much about her so the police had to go through her things trying to determine who to notify.  While doing so they found journals of dreams.  It appears Nettie had written down her dreams for years.  This became a press sensation at the time and the journals were published in the local paper. Excerpts of them were picked up by other newspapers nationwide and for a week or two after her death Nettie was know as The Dream Woman.  It was found that her family was from Lawrenceburg and her body was returned here to be buried next to her mother and father.


Capt Gilbreth


Capt. William J. Gilbreth (1864-1934) was an unique thing here – an Atheist.  He had to go fight in the Spanish American War.  When he left his beloved wife was expecting.  He was then a religious man and promised to pray for her and the baby every day.  Sadly, while he was away in war she miscarried. This was when he turned from religion.  He couldn’t see how God would have him at war and take his child’s life while threatening the life of his beloved wife.  Capt. Gilbreth felt so strongly about it he made a statement about his atheism on his tombstone and had it erected before his death. He was a very successful man and was one the moving forces in establishing the Mimosa Cemetery but he did not attend church in an area known for being part of the Bible Belt.

Mayor James W. Garrett (1859-1929) was one who always appreciated the value of a single vote.  He ran for mayor in a hotly contested election.  His rival is buried only a few rows down from him.  When the election day came it was terrible weather and turnout was very low.  When the votes were counted and recounted Garrett won by 2.  Yes he won office by two votes.  You never know when your vote with turn the tables.  I do wonder if his opponent was made at any friends or relatives that didn’t brave the storm to vote.


Pvt. Crews

Private Elliott Crews (1894-1918)  Private Elliott Crews was an only child that went to WWI and died in service to his country.  He has a tombstone from Woodsmen of America.  He was included in the tour to remember him and his service as he has no direct living relatives to do so.  Thank you Elliott you are not forgotten.

John B. Kennedy (1841-1913) another infamous man in my book.  He is among the original founders of what became the Ku Klux Klan.  Supposedly he is the one who thought adding clan on there spelt with a K was cool.  I knew that the KKK was founded in Pulaski Tennessee a neighboring community here.  I will say the local tendency is to minimize it and claim it wasn’t intended to be was it became.  Either way it did become a racial terrorist organization and committed horrible acts.


Mr. Kennedy

Kennedy was a staunch Confederate who when his unit surrendered was proud of the fact he hid his unit’s flag on his body and brought it home never surrendering it to the Union.  Once home in Pulaski he and his friends supposedly founded the Nightriders to get girls.  Whatever reason the watchman they posted outside the house when they did initiation rituals wore a white robe and when they rode on their first ride to scare a newly freed slave house into being more quiet at night this is what they wore.  Eventually Nathan Bedford Forrest supposedly disbanded the Klan but as we know parts of it still plague us today.  As for Kennedy he moved to Lawrenceburg and held office as the comptroller becoming an outspoken member of society.  It is worth noting his and his son’s markers are the largest in the cemetery.

Finally the last grave was of a giving man James H. Stribling (1863-1951).  He lost a beloved daughter when she was only 4 years old.  Her grave is next to his and marked with a beautiful angel statue.  Unlike Capt. Gilbreth  who turned from religion Mr. Stribling found comfort in religion after his loss.  He took all children of the community under his wing.  He donated land and even built the local high school out of his own pocket.  He paid teachers from his own pocket.  The only thing he required for the gift was that there as to be a Bible class offered and he was to chose and pay the teacher.  This went on for years.  Eventually the city bought the high school from him and dropped the class.  Still Mr. Stribling  did much to help his community and educate the next generation.

I found this walk every interesting and look forward to the next library sponsored history walk.  Trust me when I do go on another you will be seeing a post about it.

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