Walnut Mountain Cemetery annual Memorial Day Dinner set May 29

Published 3:19 pm Thursday, May 19, 2022

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The Walnut Mountain Cemetery Association will have its annual meeting and dinner Sunday, May 29, at 1 p.m. at the cemetery.
Driving across Walnut Mountain might suggest to the casual observer that it was almost never inhabited. But that thinking would change when you see an old abandoned church building (Walnut Mountain Church of Christ) and see a well-kept cemetery.
In December 1880, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Banner buried their six-year-old son on that peaceful tract of land. The following year on May 23, 1881, Henry Banner deeded this plot of land to the community for the purpose of “educational and burial purposes.” Many families over the year would be grateful for the Banners’ generosity as the plot of land would, too, become their final resting place. For over 140 years the small piece of land has continued to absorb the tears of the living with the bodies of the mountain people who found their rooms on Walnut Mountain.
Surprising to some, during its peak, Walnut Mountain was home to some 100 families. The growth came in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The boom came after the Pittsburg Lumber Co. purchased 1,200 acres of virgin time in the Laurel Fork area of Carter County in 1909. The call for labor and the dream of land and the opportunities it promised brought families with strong backs and calloused hands to call these rugged mountains home.
Within 15-20 years the virgin timber was gone and so was the lumber company. Without work, some families left the area completely. But others put down roots continuing to live off what the mountains would yield. After WWII, America was rebuilding and growing its wealth. By the 1950s and ’60s the call for workers in far-away places like Ohio, Michigan, and New York and elsewhere promising unheard of wages began to siphon off the families of Walnut Mountain with hopes of better and easier living. Gradually, these rugged people moved away leaving the land idle. Today, roads and sometimes, mere paths lead to stone foundations of houses, barns, and other buildings where folks once called home.
However, even to this day, families who found their origins on Walnut Mountain carry back their loved ones to be buried on the land they once called home.
For over a 100 years the care of the cemetery has fell on those with loved ones buried there. But, it was not always a well-kept cemetery. In the ’50s and ’60s after most people had left the mountain, the cemetery became overgrown with briars that towered over the tombstones. During this time different folks would volunteer to work for a day to take care of the neglect, but there was only one to provide constant care. That changed 40 years ago.
In 1982, a dozen men and women who were raised on the mountain had the foresight to develop a cemetery association. Due to their efforts the Walnut Mountain Cemetery is one of the better kept cemeteries in the area.
Today, all 12 of the original members of the cemetery association have died. Yet, the cemetery association continues with the descendants of those buried there. If you have someone buried in the Walnut Mountain Cemetery and would like to get involved with its care, you have a special invitation to the annual covered dish dinner on the grounds of the cemetery at 1 p.m. Sunday, May 29.
Also, a donation for the upkeep of the cemetery can be sent to Walnut Mountain Cemetery, c/o Donna Heaton, 104 Pritchard St., Roan Mountain, TN 37687.

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