4 Reasons to Enjoy a Cemetery Tour This October

Written by Meghan Gattignolo, Visitor Services Coordinator

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who are fascinated by cemeteries and those who avoid them. If your curiosity is piqued when you pass by elaborate monuments enclosed behind cast iron gates, I have some good reasons to join a walking cemetery tour soon.  

Headstone at Greenwood Cemetery. Headstone reads 'Frank Spencer Sutton, 1923-1974.'
Ornate statues at Greenwood Cemetery

Photos of Greenwood Cemetery

Hidden Local Stories

If you ever wanted to get to know your town’s past, a cemetery tour is an excellent way to start. Arguably, the best way to absorb history is in storytelling form, and cemetery tours are immersive storytelling platforms. You can learn stories you won’t read online. Discover the story behind the finely detailed statue or what that enigmatic epitaph really means. It also gives you an opportunity to experience these stories with the last physical reminder of that person’s life, hopefully in a way they chose to be represented.

Time Travel 

Not literally, of course; but, active cemeteries that have been around a long time are fascinating monuments to the century – or even decade – they were established. The people of any given time period have tastes unique to their experiences. A funerary monument from 1780 will have specific symbology that you will not find on a monument from 1870. Veiled urns and obelisks were prevalent in 19th-century funerary art, but not so much in contemporary plots. A walk through a cemetery of old is a bit like walking through time capsules, and a tour can give you insight into the symbology behind them.

Ornate place markers at Greenwood Cemetery

Photos of Greenwood Cemetery

Gain Perspective

Precious few people want to think about death. Often though, we get caught up in the minutiae of everyday life and forget to slow down. We forget life is preciously short and we ought to give ourselves time to enjoy the world around us. Most of us live in the future, anxious about what is to come. Death is, unfortunately, the ultimate future event waiting for all of us in the end.  Cemeteries are excellent reminders of how important it is to be rooted in the present. No matter how hard we work or how much we worry, eventually our time runs out. There is something very grounding about being in the place where someone has ended up after an eventful life and hearing about their journey, reflecting on what they accomplished and what possibly motivated them. Their lives were just as real and busy as ours are to us now. 

Ornate place markers at Greenwood Cemetery
Ornate place markers at Greenwood Cemetery

Photos of Greenwood Cemetery

Tours Available this Month

One of Clarksville’s keepers of local history, the Customs House Museum & Cultural Center, is hosting a pair of cemetery tours this month. Register for our walking tour of Greenwood Cemetery, one of the oldest active cemeteries in Clarksville and Montgomery County, Tennessee here. Tour dates are exclusive to Saturday, October 17 and Saturday, October 31, both start at 10 a.m. at the cemetery entrance. Greenwood Cemetery is distinct for its beautiful monuments and grounds. There is plenty of local history, intrigue, funerary symbolism and grounding moments to be had. 

Meghan Gattignolo

Meghan Gattignolo is the Customs House Museum & Cultural Center’s Visitor Services Coordinator and regularly contributes articles to the Museum’s blog. From a military family, Meghan has spent most of her life in Clarksville. She loves learning about Clarksville’s history and writing. Meghan holds a B.A. in History from Austin Peay State University, with minors in German and Political Science. She lives in Clarksville with her husband and two daughters. 

Maegan Collins, Media & Communications Coordinator, prepares photographs and visual images as well as prepares the blog posts for the web.

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