St Johns Cemetery
PHOTOS OF CEMETERIES IN MAURY COUNTY TENNESSEE
The history of St. John's Episcopal Church
is intertwined with that of the Polk family of Maury County, Tenn. Col. William
Polk, as a result of Revolutionary War grants and by names of certain other
"business ventures", secured more than 5,000 acres of land on what was
to become the Mt. Pleasant Pike. This land was deeded to four of his sons;
Leonidas, Rufus, Lucius and George. William, Jr., fifth son of the family,
received his acreage on the western side of Columbia, including the area where
the U.S. Arsenal was later built and which was later to become the Columbia
Military Academy. The Polks were all staunch Episcopalians, a faith not too
popular with their Scotch-Irish neighbors. Leonidas Polk, then rector at St.
Peter's Church in Columbia, led his brothers in the erecting of a meeting house
near the point where their plantations met on the Pike across from his home,
Ashwood. The building was built by their slaves and was made of materials taken
from their lands. It was dedicated in 1842, with Leonidas serving as its first
rector. The churchyard was soon transformed into a cemetery as Rufus Polk, one
of the brothers, passed away and became the first person buried in this spot.
St. John's was much abused during the Civil War, but miraculously was spared the
torch, the fate of so many of the old churches in the South. Its cemetery was
used for the burial of several soldiers killed in nearby skirmishes and three of
the generals who fell in the Battle of Franklin were interred here but were
later moved closer to the home of each man. For more than a century this old building
has not been used for regular services. It is more of a shrine. About once a
year it is opened for religious services. Its cemetery is the place of final
rest for the Episcopal bishops of Tennessee, at least five of them having been
interred in this cemetery. Interestingly, the place of burial of Leonidas Polk,
one of St. John's founders and its first rector, is not here. He was appointed
Bishop of Louisiana, was commissioned Lt. General in the Confederate Army and
was killed in the Battle of Kennesaw Mtn. in Georgia. His remains were taken
back to New Orleans where they were buried in Christ Cathedral. The other four
Polk brothers are buried here, however: Rufus King, in 1843; William Julius, in
1866; Lucius Julius, in 1870; and George Washington, in 1892. The photos and transcription were done by Mary Bob
McClain Richardson. Editing & programming by Wayne Austin September
As I was reading the book "Co. Aytch", I found this excerpt Samuel Watkins written about St. John's. It describes the feeling you still have when you step on the property.
MEMORIES OF ST. JOHN'S DURING THE CIVIL WAR.
".......Just go back to your camp, Johnny, chase round, put on a bold front, flourish your trumpets, blow your horns. And, Johnny, we don't want to be hard on you, and we'll tell you what we'll do for you. Away back in your territory, between Columbia and Nashville, is the most beautiful country, and the most fertile, and we have lots of rations up there, too. Now, you just go up there, Johnny, and stay until we want you. We ain't done with you yet, my boy--O, no, Johnny. And, another thing, Johnny; you will find there between Mt. Pleasant and Columbia, the most beautiful country that the sun of heaven shone upon;; and half way between the two places is St. John's Church. Its tower is all covered with a beautiful vine of ivy; and, Johnny, you know that in olden times it was the custom to entwine a wreath of ivy around the brows of victorious generals. We have no doubt that many of your brave generals will express a wish, when they pass by to be buried beneath the ivy vine that shades so gracefully and beautifully the wall of the grand old church. And, Johnny, you will find a land of beauty and plenty, and when you get there, just put on as much style as you like; just pretend, for our sake, you know, that you are a bully boy with a glass eye, and that you are the victorious army that has returned to free an oppressed people. We will allow you this, Johnny, ......."
Samuel R. Watkins the author of "CO. AYTCH", served with the 1st Tenn Infantry Co. H, and is also buried amongst the Generals at Zion Churchyard Cemetery, Columbia, Maury Co., Tennessee.
COLUMBIA "This is my own, my native land." Once more the Maury Grays are permitted to put their feet upon their native hearth, and to revisit their homes and friends, after having followed their tattered, and torn, and battle-riddled flag, which they had borne aloft for four long years, on every march, and in every battle that had been fought by the Army of Tennessee. We were a mere handful of devoted braves, who had stood by our colors when sometimes it seemed that God himself had forsaken us. But, parents, here are your noble and brave sons; and, ladies, four years ago you gave us this flag, and we promised you "That we would come back with the flag as victors, or we would come not at all." We have been true to our promise and our trust. On every battlefield the flag that you entrusted to our hands has been borne aloft by brave and heroic men, amid shot and shell, bloody battle, and death. We have never forsaken our colors. Are we worthy to be called the sons of old Maury county? Or have we fought in vain? Have our efforts been appreciated, or have four years of our lives been wasted, while we were battling for constitutional government, the supremacy of our laws over centralization, and our rights, as guaranteed to us by the blood of our forefathers on the battlefields of the Revolution? It is for you to makeup your verdict. If our lives as soldiers have been a _failure_, we can but bow our heads on our bosoms, and say, "Surely, four years of our lives have been given for naught, and our efforts to please you have been in vain. "Yet, the invader's foot is still on our soil, but there beats in our bosoms the blood of brave and patriotic men, and we will continue to follow our old and war-worn and battle-riddled flag until it goes down forever. The Maury Grays, commanded by Captain A. M. Looney, left Columbia, four years ago, with 120 men. How many of those 120 original members are with the company today? Just twelve. Company H has twenty members, but some of this number had subsequently enlisted. But we twelve will stick to our colors till she goes down forever, and until five more of this number fall dead and bleeding on the battlefield. A FIASCO122 When we arrived in sight of Columbia, we found the Yankees still in possession of the town, fortified and determined to resist our advance. We send forward a "feeler," and the "feeler" reports back very promptly, "Yes, the Yankees are there." Well, if that be the case, we'll just make a flank movement. We turn off the main turnpike at J. E. R. Carpenter's, and march through the cedars, and cross Duck river at Davis' ferry, on pontoon bridges, near Lowell's mill. We pass on, and cross Rutherford creek, near Burick's mill, about three o'clock in the afternoon. We had marched through fields in the heavy mud, and the men, weary and worn out, were just dragging themselves along, passing by the old Union Seminary, and then by Mr. Fred Thompson's, until we came to the Rally Hill turnpike--it being then nearly dark--we heard some skirmishing, but, exhausted as we were, we went into bivouac. The Yankees, it seems to me, might have captured the whole of us. But that is a matter of history. But I desire to state that no blunder was made by either Generals Cheatham or Stewart, neither of whom ever failed to come to time. Jeff Davis is alone responsible for the blunder. About two hours after sun up the next morning we received the order to "Fall in, fall in, quick, make haste, hurrah, promptly, men; each rank count two; by the right flank, quick time, march; keep promptly closed up." Everything indicated an immediate attack. When we got to the turnpike near Spring Hill, lo! and behold; wonder of wonders! the whole Yankee army had passed during the night. The bird had flown. We made a quick and rapid march down the turnpike, finding Yankee guns and knapsacks, and now and then a broken down straggler, also two pieces of howitzer cannon, and at least twenty broken wagons along the road. Everything betokened a rout and a stampede of the Yankee army. Double quick! Forrest is in the rear. Now for fun. All that we want to do now is to catch the blue-coated rascals, ha! ha! We all want to see the surrender, ha! ha! Double quick! A rip, rip, rip; wheuf; pant, pant, pant. First one man drops out, and then another. The Yankees are routed and running, and Forrest has crossed Harpeth river in the rear of Franklin. Hurrah, men! keep closed up; we are going to capture Schofield. Forrest is in the rear; never mind the straggler and cannon. Kerflop we come against the breastworks at Franklin.123
Submitted Mary Bob McClain Richardson, April 11, 2005