Ahh, Memphis, home of blues and Elvis, barbecue and the Mississippi, yet also the home resting places of many famous persons in history. I stumbled upon this little historical gem while becoming yet again lost while driving through the great city. It’s in a side part of town, not exactly the best side, but don’t let that discourage you from visiting. The grounds are open daily from 8 am – 4:30 pm, and the office has the same hours during the week, but only 8-noon on Sat. and closed on Sunday.
At 80 acres, Elmwood Cemetery was established in 1852, and since then 75,000 people have been buried there. It’s a cemetery that was built to be a garden, a monument to the living, and an honored place for the dead. It is a sprawling mass of tree lined pathways richly filled with history and stories that only the dead can tell. It is also an amazing gallery of Victorian cemetery sculpture.
Some of the graves I found interesting here are:
*The Sultana Monument which honors all the dead from the largest maritime disaster in US history, in which a steamboat exploded on the Mississippi, killing 1,647 people.
*No Man’s Land, honoring the 1,500 unmarked graves claimed by Yellow Fever victims. (This disastrous disease not only decimated more than half the population, but also bankrupted the town & made them lose their township charter.)
*University of TN section that honors all town residents who have donated their bodies to science.
*Professor Herman Frank Arnold, who wrote down the original score to the song “Dixie” and has the score engraved on his tombstone
*Whyte and Kate Bedford monument which has this large stone globe on top of it that was put there as an experiment by a local physicist. The globe apparently turned on its own over time. Oddly enough, a local groundskeeper noticed it and glued it back in place, thus ruining 20 years of study.
These are only a few interesting monuments. There are many politicians, famous businessmen, free thinking women, and great writers and artists buried here. Another interesting fact about Elmwood Cemetery is this is where the funeral scene from John Grisham’s The Firm was filmed. The grave site it was filmed on is still there, and is one of the more impressive sections of the cemetery. If you visit during office hours, you can buy an CD audio tour for $10 and drive through to see the more famous graves, or you can take a walking tour and purchase the map for $5. There are also guided tours on select days which are listed on the website. And due to the 1200 trees located on the property, there are arboretum tours on select days as well. And if you love the place after your visit, you can purchase your own plot there, since there are about 15,000 places still available, and settle in your own plot among history.
Filed under: North America | Tagged: 80 Acres, audio tour, barbeque, blues, buy your own cemetery plot, cemetery, Dixie, Elmwood Cemetery, Elvis, Herman Frank Arnold, John Grisham, Juror #11, Memphis, No Man's Land, Sultana monument, Tennessee, the Firm, TN, tour, trees, Victorian sculpture, walking tour, Yellow Fever | Leave a Comment »