West: Cemeteries a place of memories

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In most cases, cemeteries are a place of honor. That is particularly true in Cannon County.

Some 22 cemeteries dot the country side ranging from small, family plots to large ones like Riverside. Most, if not all, are well-maintained and often visited. Few, if any, are neglected.

Why? Cannon County is a close-knit community and that feeling goes back generations.

It was like what historian Robert Mason wrote years ago about "Mr. Jim" Cummings that he "evoked the essence of a more gracious, gentler time - of friendly towns and family farms and hills and valleys and country roads."

Most cemeteries here have a "Decoration Day," which predate the federal Memorial Day holiday that was officially established by President Lyndon Johnson in 1966. The traditional days are a link between present and earlier generations.

This Southern tradition of Decoration Day is believed to be an inspiration for Northerners who created Memorial Day after the Civil War, writes Alan Jabbour, author of the book "Decoration Day in the Mountains."

One big difference: Memorial Day is on a set date, while Decoration Day, which can also be found in the North, varies by community, Jabbour says.

The end of the Civil War put an added emphasis on Decoration Day with the Grand Army of the Republic holding a major event with Gen. James Garfield making a speech at Arlington National Cemetery where 5,000 participants helped decorate the graves of more than 20,000 Civil War dead.

Garfield, who was later elected president, had served as chief of staff for the Union Army of the Cumberland, led by Gen. William S. Rosecrans. Following the Battle of Stones River, Garfield was stationed in Murfreesboro.

While Memorial Day is designed to commemorate the death of American soldiers, Decoration Day honors all the dead.

In the past, dinner on the grounds was often a part of Decoration Day ceremonies and while that is not usually the case any more, some churches still have lunch before families adjourn to the cemetery to visit the freshly decorated graves of their forebearers.

To most of us, seeing the bright spring flowers brings memories to life particularly in a cemetery that is the last resting place for generations of family members. Honoring their memories is so very appropriate.

Decoration Day is an event well worth keeping and it makes me proud that Cannon County maintains that tradition so well.


As fall begins its annual cycle into winter, we have to smile about the beautiful weather we have been blessed with recently.

With deep blue skies, white-puffy clouds, the weather has been fantastic.

Now we all hope that Cannon County’s beautiful trees will turn into their bright autumn colors. We need a beautiful fall. Don’t you agree? 

It is coming .... soon.

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Mike West
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Members Opinions:
October 07, 2013 at 7:19pm
Good, thoughtful and thought-provoking column ... !
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