Old Gray Cemetery is named in honor of Thomas Gray (1716-1771), the English poet who wrote "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard". After considering a great number of names ending in "vale", "dale" or wood" or commencing with "mount", the name Gray was suggested by Mrs. Henrietta Brown Reese, wife of Judge William B. Reese, the first president of the cemetery board of trustees.
The following stanzas from Thomas Gray's beautiful poem captures the essence of Old Gray:
The Curfeu tolls the Knell of parting Day,
The lowing Herd winds slowly o'er the Lea,
The Plowman homeward plods his weary Way,
And leaves the World to Darkness, and to me.
Now fades the glimmerin
Landscape on the Sight,
And all the Air a solemn Stillness holds;
Save where the Beetle wheels his droning Flight,
And drowsy Tinklings lull the distant Folds.
Sacred to the memory of
Died July 14, 1851
Age about 23 years
William Martin was the first person buried in Gray Cemetery. He was fatally injured by the explosion of a cannon during a celebration held on July 4, 1851 in Knoxville on Asylum Hill. He was buried in the northwest corner on July 15, 1851 before the cemetery was completely laid out. His grave was unmarked. [Written on front of gravestone]
The story of his death and burial is recorded in a history of the cemetery written in 1885. His interment is listed in the records of St. John’s Episcopal Church. The monument was placed on June 4, 2000 to mark the Sesquicentennial Celebration of the founding of this historic cemetery. [Written on back of gravestone] Quadrant D 3
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