College Cemetery reveals an interesting history

As October comes to an end and the spooky season reaches its peak, Maryville College’s College Cemetery might be expected to attract more visitors. However, it isn’t well-known by the public, or even its own students. Maryville College Archivist Amy Lundell — a graduate of the class of 2006 who serves as the College’s unofficial historian — revealed that the College Cemetery is rich in history and lore.

To date, more than 70 memorials have been erected in the College Cemetery. The initial internment in 1878 was Reverend Ralph E. Tedford, the father-in-law of Rev. Thomas Jefferson Lamar, an MC graduate from the Class of 1848. Lamar was instrumental in reopening the College after the Civil War and served as a professor for nearly three decades. At the time of his father-in-law’s death, the current cemetery site was not officially owned by Maryville College. The transfer of the land to the college in 1879 marked the formal beginning of burials on the premises.

In the 1800s, the cemetery itself wasn’t much to look at. It didn’t have an enclosing fence, and cows and pigs grazed over the land. Maryville College operated a farm to feed students and staff, selling surplus produce as an extra source of income.

Dr. Peter Mason Barlett, who served as the College’s third president, was buried in the College Cemetery 1901. However, his wife disliked that her husband’s burial location was on campus. She arranged for his remains to be moved to another cemetery, making him the only late MC president interred in the College Cemetery.

In 1933, a significant landscaping project began at the cemetery with the help of Susan Wiley Walker, a generous benefactor of the college and the architect behind Morningside (now RT Lodge), and her brother-in-law, Dr. William Patton Stevenson, who served as the College chaplain at the time. Primarily funded by Walker, the first fence was erected around the cemetery, and the House in the Woods and Morningside were built during this time.

In 1935, the remains of Maryville College’s second president, Rev. John Joseph Robinson, was moved to the cemetery. In 1960, final renovations took place, expanding the cemetery and fencing it in again.

What are the specific criteria for burial at the cemetery? Ultimately, the College President and the Board of Directors determine eligibility. At minimum, individuals must have a relationship with the college. In the unfortunate event of a student’s passing, a few have been laid to rest in the College Cemetery. However, most are former presidents, deans, other members of the administration, faculty or staff (or their relatives). Retirees often reserve plots in the cemetery.

One former MC staff member requested that her dog, Chili, be buried with her when she passed. Margaret Ware, whose name graces the dining room in Pearsons Hall, was the dietitian and manager of the Dining Hall from 1934 to 1973. 

Ware never married but loved her dogs as if they were her own children, according to Lundell. The College administration didn’t approve of burying Chili in the College Cemetery. When he died first in 1970, he was buried just outside the fence.

Ware passed away in 1996. She has no grave marker in the College Cemetery because she was cremated. Interestingly, visitors to her resting place reported a peculiar occurrence. Her ashes, Lundell said, were scattered over Chili’s grave.

According to Lundell, her nephew wasn’t surprised by this, and it is assumed he was the one who scattered her ashes over Chili’s grave. After all, she shared her final resting place with her beloved dog.

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