JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) — The Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee & Southwest Virginia hosted a Summer Social in the Old Jonesborough Cemetery on Saturday, and community members didn’t let the rainy weather dampen their fun.
The idea came after local historians discovered an unmarked mass grave on the old cemetery’s property in April, which they believe to be the result of a cholera outbreak in Jonesborough in the 1870s.
Executive Director of the Heritage Alliance Anne Mason said in the late 1800s, it was a common pastime for families to visit their deceased loved ones at a graveyard for a picnic of sorts.
“Victorian cemeteries were meant to be very public spaces,” she said. “They were designed to actually be parks, and people used to do stuff like picnic in the cemetery and just hang out in cemeteries. It was a pretty normal thing actually in the late 1800s, early 1900s. So, we’re bringing that tradition back here.”
Mason told News Channel 11 that the alliance was pleased to unveil a temporary marker at the exact location of the mass grave, which aims to remember those lost to pestilence hundreds of years ago.
“We’re happy to have rediscovered the mass grave from the cholera epidemic of 1873. So, we’ve got a temporary marker, so that won’t be lost again to nature or time, to bring those stories back that were kind of lost is also a big responsibility but also an honor.”
She says that an abundance of knowledge and local history awaits the community at their local and regional heritage alliances. All families have to do is visit a heritage alliance to learn the rich history of the community in which they live.
“Go check out your local historic cemeteries, because there are so many stories there, and get to know those stories and get to know the people who came before. And, you know, they were designed to be places for people to go and contemplate. And also just kind of relax in a way.”