Old Gray Cemetery is a 13.47 acre site bounded by Broadway, Tyson and Cooper streets, with Broadway it’s primary access. The Knoxville National Cemetery is adjacent to Old Gray Cemetery on its northern boundary. Gray Cemetery (as it was known before New Gray Cemetery was established in 1892) was incorporated by the Tennessee Legislature on February 9, 1850. The cemetery is named in honor of Thomas Gray (1716-1771), the English poet who wrote “Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard”. After considering a great number of names ending in “vale”, “dale” or “wood” or commencing with “mount”, the name Gray was suggested by Mrs. Henrietta Brown Reese, wife of Judge William B. Reese, the first president of the cemetery board of trustees.
Old Gray Cemetery now supports a wide variety of trees and natural vegetation. Although originally sparsely populated with trees, the cemetery now contains many stately oaks, dogwoods, and maples. This has changed the cemetery landscape from an open pasture to a wooded garden over the years. The design of the cemetery follows the natural topography of the landscape and the roads leading through the cemetery follow the natural slopes and rises of the terrain. An avenue runs from the entrance on Broadway (originally Broad Street) to the fence running along Cooper Street (originally Jacksboro Road). Connected to this avenue are smaller curved roads. The cemetery roads were first laid out so that each grave site was located on a carriage path or walkway; the cemetery board eventually elected to remove many of the carriage paths and walkways in order to provide additional plots for the cemetery. Cemetery roads are now surfaced.
The “Receiving Vault” was built in 1885 and the same year water from the city water works was brought to the cemetery. In 1889 it was decided that the Circle in the cemetery be laid off into lots reserving, however, a small plot of the center of the Circle. In 1890 A. J. Albers had a large bronzed iron fountain twenty feet high and weighing four tons erected in the center of the Circle in memory of his wife. It was called the “Ella Albers Memorial Fountain”. This early focal point in the cemetery has since been removed due to rust and maintenance repairs.
Two significant monuments are the Horne and Shepard monuments. The Horne monument (Lot 902) with its almost life-sized sculpture of a Confederate soldier marks the graves of two Confederate veterans, William Asbury Horne (1845-1891), an assistant quartermaster with the 42nd Georgia Infantry, and John Fletcher Horne (1843-1906), who was a sergeant with the Kain’s Battery Tennessee Light Artillery. The Shepard monument (Lot 255) is the only white bronze monument in Old Gray. It marks the graves of Lazarus C. Shepard (1816-1902) and his wife Emily T. Shepard (1814-1882). L. C. Shepard was Knoxville’s first embalmer and many local residents report that this hollow monument served as a drop-off point for bootleg liquor.
In 1897 the “Porter’s Lodge“, a modern marble lodge of most attractive appearance, was built from plans obtained from an architect of this city. It is constructed of Tennessee marble and is a one story building, rectangular in plan. The roof is a bell cast hip roof covered with slate shingles of blue and green.
The entrance posts, constructed in 1902 following plans and specifications of Producers Marble Company of Knoxville for $650, are square and made of smooth faced marble in a dressed faced ashlar design. The main gate is made of wrought iron and has a diagonal bracing for support.
The current fencing protecting the eastern part of the cemetery from traffic on Broadway is constructed of iron. The north and south walls are made of stone. The west wall of five foot high concrete was built in 1907. The oldest fence in the cemetery is on the east side along Tyson Street (originally Holston street). It was built in April 1890 by F. M Arthur and Co. for 94 cents per foot.
The monuments in Old Gray Cemetery reflect the Victorian era during which they were installed. Although there are some rectangular stone markers, the first impression of the cemetery is of the elaborately shaped and carved monuments. Burial records indicate that approximately 5,700 burials have been made in Old Gray Cemetery since it was founded.
Photo Gallery Link: Old Gray Cemetery