By Sherryl Appleberry
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (Feb. 6, 2018) -- In celebration of Martin Luther King Day, the Chattanooga community joined Hurst United Methodist Church to clean up the historic Beck Knob Cemetery. Volunteers armed with chainsaws, pruning shears, machetes, rakes, and sheer determination worked for hours removing debris and overgrowth.
Beck Knob Cemetery was founded by Joshua Beck, a staunch abolitionist and prominent citizen of Hamilton County. Beck saw the need for a cemetery for slaves and their families and donated the land for Beck Knob Cemetery. On May 13, 1888, the sons of Joshua Beck deeded the property to Hurst Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church. According to death records, more than 90 people are buried at the site. Many graves are without markers.
Hurst maintained Beck Knob for many years, but as the members grew older, the cemetery quickly fell into disrepair. Over the years, other groups have initiated restoration and preservation efforts, but none have been consistent.
"We’ve been trying to figure out how the Lord was going to lead us into getting this taken care of and He sent more than we could've imagined to help us get started,” Hurst member Gary James told local media.
Interest in the property has increased in recent years as construction crews for a local developer, GreenTech Homes, found burial plots within their work area. The developer’s obligations to build a wrought-iron fence around the area, erect a wrought-iron sign and replace the entrance to the cemetery have not been met. However, Hurst members remain prayerful that GreenTech will honor their commitment to preserve and protect Beck Knob.
More work to restore the cemetery is planned. Eventually, Hurst hopes to have the cemetery designated as a National Historic Place.
Chattanoogans give back on MLK Day (WRCB, Jan. 15, 2018)
Developer says Beck Cemetery will be protected (CTFP, Aug. 16, 2015)