Rocky Top tackles ‘eyesore’

City to take over cemetery?

(photo:Submitted )
Wilson Cemetery, which sits on a hill just north of the Econo Lodge in Rocky Top, has been an eyesore for years.

And while volunteers have asked the city if they could clean it up, they can’t — nobody knows who owns it.

That’s something that Rocky Top councilwoman Denise Casteel is trying to change. She’s the chair of the downtown growth committee, and has asked the city to take ownership over the cemetery.

“It’s about pride and respect for our history,” she said.

The committee has retained the services of University of Tennessee students in the legal department at no cost. Those students are digging through records and trying to determine who the last owner of the property was.

So far, nothing has shown up.

“We have people interested in cleaning it up, but they are reluctant to do that without knowing who owns it,” she said.

It’s a liability issue, one that would be resolved if the city took ownership of it, according to Casteel.

The UT students will also hopefully do underground sonar to see if there are more burial plots where headstones may be missing. This past year, several people have worked on the cemetery to clean it up, including Avery Johnson, according to Casteel, and prisoners from the Anderson County jail.

“They have cut so much and cleared it,” Casteel said. They’ve also tried to get headstones replaced. One headstone, according to Casteel, is four-sided for a man and his three sons, all of whom were coalminers. Someone has donated a flagpole and she would like to see the city put up some benches. They might possibly even install a miner’s statue and a retaining wall with a fence. “Those stones are so old, they’re hard to read,” she said. “It’s pretty amazing. We’re excited that so much has been done.”