Friday, June 1, 2007

With all due respect - old fashion names you've never heard of in TN cemeteries

It's wilderness now, can you imagine how isolated it was 100 years ago?

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, Luvernia
Many 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.


Tennessee Mom said...

I realize this is an old post, but I just found it:)

It would be great if you could upload those pictures to . Someone somewhere would love to see them.

I've just started researching my family genealogy, and it's wonderful to find pictures of graves online.

Anonymous said...

Just a hunch but I would guess those first names might have been brought over from various non-English speaking European countries. Several are Flemish, Italian, French, Welsh, or German names, several look like they might be either Basque or from somewhere in the Balkans, and Ulus could be Turkish or Russian. Not surprising at all since it's the coal mining part of Tennessee we're talking's a matter of who came over to work in the mines. That part of Tennessee is unusual in that the settlers were not mostly Scots-Irish like in the rest of the state. The area I'm personally familiar with was mostly Welsh but looking at that list of names I'd say they came from all over.