sadly, i'm not too surprised that it's in east tennessee where someone's been caught bulldozing a cemetery. an article in the chattanoogan on 15 november about what is the chattanooga area's parker cemetery being bulldozed has sadly reminded me of the sorry state of nelson cemetery in hamilton county where we had to hack through poison oak and five-foot briars to see the burial site of george washington phillips and his wife lizzie. i'm reminded of bean cemetery in rhea county where pine beetle damage has felled dozens of trees and may be responsible for the destruction to david montgomery's stone. i'm reminded of the now total inaccessibility of william monroe and lucy (bowling) ellis's graves in the ellis family burial ground in what's now meigs county from the double whammy of 2003 tornadic winds and east tennessee's recent ubiquitous pine beetle infestion. and I'm reminded of the tragic chemically-burnt-ground look (not as visible in the photos we took as it was onsite) and apparently concurrent escalation of grave marker deterioration between our september 2003 and august 2004 visits to the brashear family cemetery in sugar grove valley in roane county.
in the chattanoogan article about the bulldozing, the judge is reported to have said that it was "not some cowboy going out and wrecking a cemetery." and that's not what's happening to the cemeteries where my ancestors are buried, either.
hey, i'm not looking to pin blame here. if i were, i'd have to accept a big share of it myself for not using hunks of my research trips home to organinze and clean up the family plots, for my lack of overall due diligence. keeping any cemetery intact is a formidable job requiring energy, access, and funding, and i don't have a lot of any of those on any given day.
still, i can't help but be sad when i consider the precarious state of so many of our historical records and artifacts. the reason that the national archives has had to post a special header notice in its online military records section deflecting the rumor that it will be destroying original miltary records at the national military personnel center once they are digitized is that many of us know how many records have been tragically, if sometimes inadvertently or accidentally, destroyed in just the past few decades. we've learned that we might ignore such rumors at our peril.
nationally, just since the 1960s, we've experience an almost wholesale destruction of the "hard copies" of our newspapers and census records. a fire at the military personnel center has destroyed years and years of military and service dependents' records - including my own transcript from a military high school, for instance. our preferred storage media haven't always lived up to their initial promises and recorded tapes have molded, early cd data fragmented.... the list is endless.
none of this is new, of course, and we're certainly not the first nation to lose much of its recorded history [e.g. an article about bosnia's archives, 1992]. that doesn't make it less sad to me. especially since we're so young a nation, still so idealistic in many ways....
well, i jsut hope we all try to do better. and that's really what genealogy is, anyway, isn't it - the trying?
- want to shudder? the article on the bulldozed cemetery can be accessed here: 11.15.2004 - judge does not find malice in damage at parker cemetery - breaking news - chattanoogan.com
- an article that pretty much sums up what has happened (and continues to happen) to our newspapers can be accessed here: 11.02.2000 - battling to preserve remnants of history -newspaper archives expensive and complex
- and, as i wrote about in this blog, a wate tv (knoxville) item recently detailed the difficulty in maintaining our own roane county, tennessee archives : roane county courthouse records may be in jeopardy