cemetery cades cove
April 30, 2021

When you explore Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you are constantly reminded that people once lived here with remains such as old cabins, churches, homesteads, and cemeteries. In fact, there are more than 150 documented cemeteries within the boundary of the park that offer a glimpse into past burial customs, religious beliefs, and cultural influences! Here are 4 cemeteries that are a fascinating part of Great Smoky Mountains National Park history:

1. Little Greenbrier Cemetery

little greenbrier cemetery

Another one of the cemeteries that is a fascinating part of Great Smoky Mountains National Park history is the Little Greenbrier Cemetery in the Metcalf Bottoms area of the park. This cemetery is directly next to the Little Greenbrier School, which might come as a surprise since you would normally expect to find a playground! This is because the school also served as the community’s church, which was a common practice in rural areas. A few of the original tombstones still have legible inscriptions, but most of them have faded away over the years. Some living family members have replaced the deteriorating stones with a granite memorial that is placed at the base of the old stone.

2. Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery

The Primitive Baptist Church is located on the Cades Cove Loop Road and was established in 1827, although the current building was constructed in 1887. The church cemetery surrounds the building and is fairly large, containing about 300 plots. This is where you will find the gravestones for many of the early settlers of Cades Cove, including the very first settlers, John Oliver and his wife. Their cabin is located on the loop road just before reaching the church. The Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery is also the resting place for Russell Gregory, who was the founder of Gregory’s Bald. His tombstone reads “murdered by North Carolina rebels” due to his involvement in leading an ambush of confederate soldiers with his son, Charles Gregory.

3. Ownby Cemetery

porters creek trail

The Ownby Cemetery is located about 0.8 of a mile down the Porters Creek Trail in the Greenbrier section of the park and gets its name from Joel Ownby, an early Greenbrier settler who lived from 1836 to 1909. The Ownbys and Whaleys were the first families to settle the Greenbrier region, and members of both families are buried in this cemetery. This is also the burial site for others who lived in the area, including the grave for Union soldier David Proffitt.

4. Plemmons Cemetery

The Plemmons Cemetery is one of the largest cemeteries in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is not far from the Greenbrier Picnic Area but must be accessed by a dirt road that blocks vehicle access. The cemetery name comes from David Plemmons, the last preacher of the church that once stood on this land. He donated the land for the cemetery expansion shortly before everything was purchased by the state government, and it is now the home of more than 700 graves. While viewing the tombstones, you will find many names that are familiar to the area including Whaley, Mayes, Ownby, Cantrell, Husky, Bohanan, and Rayfield.

Now that you are familiar with the historic cemeteries of the Smokies, you can find out even more fascinating information about Great Smoky Mountains National Park history! Click here to learn about the top historical places in the National Park!