Inside Elmwood Cemetery / Andrea Zucker

Find The Famous (And The Infamous) At Elmwood Cemetery

“Memphis at rest since 1852.” That’s the tagline for one of America’s most famous cemeteries.

Established in 1852, Elmwood Cemetery is the oldest, active cemetery in Memphis, and one of the South’s first rural garden cemeteries. Garden cemeteries are notable for their pastoral landscaping, scenic viewpoints, ancient trees, and beautiful memorials. Between 75,000 and 85,000 souls have been laid to rest in the cemetery, including some who fought in the American Revolution, brothel madams, suffragists, civil rights leaders, and blues singers. When you first arrive at Elmwood, stop by the Office at the front entrance and pick up a $5 map/pamphlet, so you can navigate your way around.
Nearly 1,000 Confederate soldiers are buried in the section named “Confederate Soldiers Rest”. During the 1870s there were several devastating outbreaks of Yellow Fever, which terrorized the people of Memphis and resulted in over 5,000 victims. Half of these are buried over four lots in the cemetery. It’s reported that some of the victims were nuns, doctors, and even prostitutes who contracted the virus while tending to the afflicted. Sadly, during the plague, nearly 1,500 bodies were left unnamed, these are interred in a mass grave known as “No Man’s Land.” There’s also a mass grave comprised of about 1,000 Confederate Soldiers, marked with simple block-shaped stones. You’ll also come across a granite monument in the cemetery which marks the mass grave of hundreds of slaves.
The Miller Circle section of Elmwood features a nondescript row of three grave markers that are in the shape of bathtubs. These are often referred to as the “bathtub graves”. However, they are simply oval ringed gravesites that mark the final resting place of Jules Rozier, Elizabeth Rozier Archer, and James Swearengen (no, not the bartender from the HBO series “Deadwood,” though that would be pretty cool). In addition, the University of Tennessee maintains an area in the cemetery that’s a memorial to people who have donated their bodies to science. Historic cemeteries are often under-explored, but they can be particularly compelling places of interest when traveling and exploring the local heritage.

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