Charleston Cemetery is located in Tipton County, Tennessee on the relatively quiet highway of 179 on the west side of Charleston United Methodist Church. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in July of 2002. (NRHP No. 02000811)
Charleston is the original cemetery where the founder of the church is buried, as well veterans of the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War I and World War II. The land for the cemetery was donated by Bill and Betty Deverell. 1 The cemetery is roughly rectangular, about 500 feet deep and 250 feet wide. It is bordered on the east side by the church, the west side by a tennis court, the south side by a line of trees and the north side by the highway.
Arrangement of Cemetery
Site contains approximately 600 gravesites, arranged in no definable order with the oldest identified grave marked 1836. The site is still in use and well kept. The monument shapes vary from simple arched headstones and footstones, to elaborate carved stone trees, obelisks, and pedestal-tombs, all with a variety of lettering styles. Similarly, there are relief carvings include a finger pointing heavenward, doves, clasped hands, gates of heaven, scrolls, flowers, decorative designs, Masonic symbols, and the Woodmen of the World emblems and more three-dimensional carvings include urns, trees, and open books or Bibles. Three of the graves have both headstones and ledgers.
Headstones and Footstones
Three lectern-with-book type monuments stand together; however, there are many more scattered throughout the cemetery.
Elvra Inez, who was born July 24, 1895, died October 19, 1914, and daughter of G.A. and L.E. Spivey, has a monument with relief carving of the heavenly gates topped with a crown. The crown sometimes symbolizes the soul’s achievements or Christian righteousness. Inscription reads, “Thy Will Be Done” and the top of the “lectern” has a carved open book, presumably the Bible. The Bible symbolizes resurrection through the scriptures and the clergy.
J E Davis
J.E. Davis, who was born February 19, 1853 and died September 9, 1916, has a simpler lectern-style monument with the carving of three columns in front of a drapery, on the side of the monument. Draperies can symbolize the expression of mourning, since it was common to cover everything in black cloth during the time that the body lay in state in the parlor and on the top is the open book or bible.
Williams Infant Son
The infant son of H.H. and S.M. Williams has an unusual monument in that its stone surround still survives. Many surrounds, such as this one, have been removed or destroyed due to mowing. Much more common, this monument also includes the carving of a crouching lamb on top. The child buried here was one day shy of his first birthday. This lamb is a typical emblem used for the grave of a child and symbolizes innocence or Jesus.
Masonic symbols are common in this cemetery. The grave of T.D. Byars, who was born March 23, 1824 and died July 22, 1900 is a simple arched headstone with a clear image of the Mason’s symbol at the top and Byars’ name below. Simple block letters are surrounded by a sawtooth pattern design. The rest of the lettering is in a script style and appears to be hand carved. This monument is one of two that is signed by the stone carver, “W. B. Bradeberry, Hollysprings, Miss” and inscription on this monument reads, “safely anchored in the harbor of eternal rest.”
Wife of JH McFerrin
The other monument signed by a stone carver is that of the wife of J.H. McFerrin. “J White, Memphis,” signs the ledger monument, which has a combination of script and block lettering and below the lettering is a simple line design with a diamond in the middle and stylized leaves at each end. Mrs. McFerrin was born April 29, 1820 and died July 30, 1841 and there is no other inscription.
Susan E Cranford
A very unusual yet simple monument is that of Susan E. Cranford, born August 14, 1840 and died May 24, 1908. The marker is a stone disc, just a few inches thick and around the outer edge of the disc is a floral vine. Her name and death date form a circle within the vine border.
Woodmen of the World
There are several graves for members of the Woodmen of the World. The monument of P.N. Byars is typical of their markers with a tall vertical tree stump with sawn off branches that rest on two horizontal logs and the Woodmen of the World emblem is at the top. Below that, in block lettering is “Byars” and below the name is an irregular shape, which reads, “P.N. Byars, November 28, 1857, August 29, 1916.” This shape also includes an inscription. At the bottom of the two horizontal logs begins a flower with long vines that reach up to the middle of the vertical stump. The vine could symbolize the embodiment of the deceased or the brevity of earthly existence. Behind Byars monument is a ledger with his name. The cemetery is a contributing site to the nomination.
The monuments in the church cemetery not only represent settlement in the community, but also hold clues to the culture and beliefs of the community, the deceased, and the deceased’s family. Monument shapes vary from simple arched headstones and footstones to elaborate carved stone trees, obelisks, pedestal-tombs, ledgers, and an unusual circular disc, all with a variety of lettering styles. Obelisks and pedestal-tombs are considered the 19th century’s most elite monuments in North Carolina. This is most likely true of Tennessee as well. Some of the stones are signed by the stonecutters, an unusual practice. J. White of Memphis signed a monument with a death date of 1841 and W.B. Bradberry, of Holly Springs, Mississippi, signed two monuments.
Joseph Garland Barcus
Joseph Garland Barcus, a grandson of James B. McFerrin, arranged for a U.S. Government marker for McFerrin’s grave to be added in 1958 or 1959. The marker, which commemorates McFerrin’s service in the War of 1812 is placed at the foot of his grave. McFerrin’s original monument reads, “Rev. James McFerrin, born in Washington County, VA., March 22, 1784, Died Sept. 4, 1840. He served his country as a military officer, the Methodist Episcopal Church as an esteemed minister for twenty years and died in full hope of a blissful immortality. He was a noble specimen of human nature—of a Christian gentleman of a true minister of Christ, an instrument in the hands of God of the conversion of thousands. His reward is on High. By his children.”
In the same year, Barcus arranged for Granite Works to erect a “simple stone” to replace McFerrin’s son-in-law, Noah Smith’s, original stone. Smith’s grave lies to the north of McFerrin’s. The new monument reads the same as its original, “Noah Smith, Born May 12, 1809, Died August 4, 1836.”
In conclusion, the varied designs of the cemetery monuments represent a shift in funerary customs, as seen in its range of funerary art from vernacular hand-carved markers to the industrialized high-style typical of the early 1900s. In spite of Charleston Cemetery’s age, it has not experienced theft, vandalism, or destruction of detail. Therefore, the church and cemetery retain their rural setting and have not experienced significant alterations.
Names and Dates of those buried at Charleston Cemetery.
- Information from Connie Lambert, great niece of the Deverells, December 31, 2019.