Monday, January 09, 2006

A Walk in Riverside Cemetery

History of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, seen in tombstones

I'm tired of walking my usual routes, so this morning I decided to walk in Riverside Cemetery. Riverside is, by my estimate, about 1/4 mile wide and perhaps a little longer. It's on Hopkinsville's Main Street, just north of the Little River. Its boundaries are formed by Main Street, Little River, the railroad tracks, and the road to the Hopkinsville water plant.

As a rule, I'm not depressed by cemeteries (at least not by old ones.) I enjoy the names and dates on the tombstones and I wonder what those people's lives were like. Riverside Cemetery dates back to pre-Civil-War days, so walking there is a stroll through local history.

I noticed an interesting thing. In the decades from 1870 to 1910, many of Hopkinsville's fine old homes and buildings of commerce were constructed, and during the same years, a number of markedly large and tall gravestones were installed in Riverside Cemetery. It's quite obvious in Hopkinsville, as in most Kentucky towns, that some families prospered during the Reconstruction -- enough to build big ornate buildings and to erect big monuments to their families in the graveyard.

I used to come to Riverside Cemetery once in a while during my lunch break to walk, but I was always on a tight schedule and I didn't want to perspire much, so my visits were brief. Maybe that's why I had never walked past the Camp Alcorn Confederate Cemetery in a section near the river.

I saw the rows of identical stones this morning from a distance , and I wondered at first if it was Hopkinsville's "potter's field" for the indigent. As I came nearer, I was surprised to see that the rows of identical stones bear the names, ranks, and companies of Confederate soldiers.

The Jefferson Davis Camp #1675, Sons of Confederate Veterans, provided the granite grave markers and a monument that tells a bit about the men. The soldiers were stationed at Camp Alcorn in Hopkinsville, and most of them died from measles, typhoid fever, pneumonia, and other diseases. Over 300 died during the winter of 1861-1862. The remains of a few were taken back to their homes, but over 290 were buried in Hopkinsville. Many of them were from Kentucky but others were from Mississippi, Texas, and probably elsewhere as well. (This paragraph updated 1-02-10.)

One gravestone has an inscription on both sides. The front of the stone identifies the grave of Private Washington Hall of Hills Company, Gregg's Regiment, 7th Texas. The back of the stone notes that Washington Hall was a "man of color." The following is in quotation marks as if it might have come from the hospital records or perhaps a letter -- "This old man was a faithful servant to his master and died much beloved to his company."

550 feet to the northwest, there is another monument to unknown Confederate soldiers.  Some remains were moved there in 1887. I did not see this monument, but  I read on a historic marker near the front entrance that over 100 unknown Confederate soldiers are buried in Riverside.

Edgar Cayce, the famous psychic healer, is buried somewhere in Riverside, but I didn't see his grave. Also, there's a Union general buried there. I didn't read all the historic markers at the entrance in detail because some of my rambling needed to be a walk-for-exercise instead of a leisurely stroll. If I walk there again this week, I'm sure I'll be making additions and corrections to this report.

Related articles:
More About Riverside Cemetery
Civil War Graves at Riverside Cemetery in Hopkinsville, KY
Camp Alcorn at Hopkinsville, KY

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Anonymous said...




Bill Harper said...

Hello. I live in Illinois but I am originally from Hopkinsville. Riverside Cemetery was right behind my great-grandparents home on North Main so I used spend a lot of time walking in the cemetary as a kid and fishing on Little River with my great-grandfather. I was especially fascinated by the Confederate Monument. It was always a quiet, peaceful place. My family has a plot in Riverside but I haven't been back to visit the graves for many years. I really enjoyed reading your blog and it brought back memories for me. Thank you and God bless you.

Genevieve said...

Bill, you should come back to Hopkinsville for a visit this summer. Some things have probably changed a lot, but I'll bet you'd enjoy seeing the town again, anyway.

Bill Harper said...

I'm sure I will visit Hoptown again sometime, Genevieve. Most of my family is either living somewhere else in the country or have passed away. I have an aunt, an uncle and some cousins still living there but I haven't seen them since the 1980's. I noticed that the town had changed a lot even then. Hopkinsville was a great place to live and I still love it. We moved to Illinois in 1966 when I was 13 years old. I subscribed to your blog so I won't miss anything you may write about Hopkinsville :) Thanks again, Genevieve.

Linda said...

I live in evansville, indiana and plan on making a trip to Hopkinsville once again to find the graves of my ancestors. Most of my family were named Fosters whom were a prominent name in Christian Co Ky. It will probably take awhile to find their gravestones but I admire the history of Hopkinsville and as my ancestors worked in the coal mines and on the railroads all of their lives and also farming. I think is is a shame that most of the old towns have lost a lot of history as the buildings that were so grand are gone. linda yuan

Genevieve said...

Hi, Linda. The folks at Riverside Cemetery are pretty helpful at looking things up if you stop at the office. Also, I wondered if you had searched the Daily Kentuckian for your ancestors names. The early years of the Kentucky New Era can also be searched via the Google News Archives Advanced Search. Just specify "Kentucky New Era" (without the quotes) as the source you want to search.

DThomas said...

Edgar Cayce is buried in front of the old chapel it is just a small headstone and sometimes you will see pennies around it the people at the cemetary told my father that people make wishes on it. By the way you have a great site alot of interesting topics.

Genevieve said...

Well, I've been right at Edgar Cayce's grave several times, then. Now I know where to look for it, next time I'm there. Thanks!

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