Ever since I got really involved in hiking and supporting Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its park partners, I’ve heard of “the cemetery book.”
When I joined the board of the Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA), Steve Kemp, editor and publisher for GSMA, now retired, said that the book was “coming along”.
Now Cemeteries of the Smokies by Gail Palmer is here!
Flipping through its 704 pages – yes, 704 pages – I can understand why it took Dr. Gail Palmer two decades to finish it.
If you’ve walked almost anywhere in the Smokies, you’ve encountered cemeteries – the Woody cemetery in Deep Creek, the cemetery outside the Little Cataloochee Baptist church, the ones on the Cades Cove drive.
But Palmer found 152 cemeteries. For each site, she provides in-depth histories alongside a complete listing of burials and dates, kinship links and epitaphs. The author has collected this infomation in one place, displayed with color photographs, detailed lists, charts and an index of local family names.
Dr. Gail Palmer has a doctorate in cultural studies from the University of Tennessee. She’s written novels set in the Smokies and understands mountain life. Members of her mother’s family has lived and died in areas that are now in the national park.
“While finishing my doctoral degree in cultural studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, I decided I wanted to write a book about the Smokies,” Palmer said.
‘“I knew many of the cemeteries were hidden away from view in beautiful locations, sometimes only a few steps from a roadway or well-traveled trail.” She received help from many people and spent hours searching archival material and locating cemeteries.
As a hiker, I want to know that the trail directions are clear and correct. I tested them on the Hoyle cemetery, a four-grave cemetery that I found only with the help of my companions at a Decoration Day years ago. The directions in the book were spot on. Maybe I’ll create a new hiking challenge – find all the cemeteries in the Smokies, as described by this book.
Buy this book from the Great Smoky Mountains Association, a park partner that donates money to the park.
Cemeteries of the Smokies by Dr. Gail Palmer, published by the Great Smoky Mountains Association, 2017. ISBN 978-0-937207-92-5. Price $29.95.