I just returned from a wilderness dual-sport (on/off road) motorcycle adventure in the vast forest wilderness between Oak Ridge and the KY border, east of Rugby and Big South Fork, west of La Follette. In the quarter-million+ acres of off-road trails, I came upon a few isolated family cemeteries. Finding any sign of humanity in the wilderness is intriguing to me. Back in the day where people lived in areas not bound by modern utilities, close-knit family communities of Appalachia often buried their own, 'back yonder on the hill'. I'm amazed where I find some of these graves, Tennesseans 100 years ago would plant their deceased just about anywhere.
But the really amazing thing are the first names! Forget the trendy Brittneys, Ashleys and Kaylas of today. Forget the Biblical John, Luke, Matthew... boring. Even the 'ethnic' names Kamisha, Tawanda... forget it, these 19th century Tennesseans' names are unique!
OK - here's the list of first names from just 3 small family cemeteries:
Dausewell, Parzida, Shecum, Nerva, Cardella, Lueliza, Morletta, Clodie, Lonzo, Rittie, Flem, Maudy, Inus , Lark, Serelda, Ozias, Ortha, Shyann, Hesler, Ohmer, Pearside, Gussie, Pherbia, Othelia, Arzo, Ulus, Armelda, Mertie, Hiter, Edis, Mashack, Alvis, LuverniaMany of these people were born in the 19th century. I photographed every gravestone bearing the names quoted above, it's the easiest way I could document all these names. Ever hear of anyone alive with any of these names today? Perhaps it's a statement of the individualism, creativity and isolation of these 19th century people of Appalachia.
I traversed a few hundred miles of trails in the Royal Blue WMA, Sundquist WMA, Brimestone and Coal Creek. More on the trip later - the ride is going to be the subject of my next article in Adventure Motorcycle Magazine.