Just north of downtown Knoxville, Old Gray Cemetery is a little-known historic jewel. Founded in 1850 as part of the rural park cemetery movement, it became a popular destination for carriage rides and picnics in its early days. The name was suggested by Henrietta Reese, wife of the first president of the cemetery trustees, in honor of the English poet Thomas Gray. The beginning lines of his poem, “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,” express the serene atmosphere 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.
Though today it is surrounded by city streets instead of countryside, the cemetery remains a garden of peace and contains over 9,000 graves. Most of the burials took place between 1860 and 1910, which includes some of the most violent decades of Knoxville’s history, as well as the heyday of the local marble industry, when the fashion for elaborate monuments and statuary was at its zenith. Join us for a guided tour of notable interments and hear stories of statesmen, soldiers, scholars, and spirits.
This tour is offered with the permission of the Old Gray Cemetery Association, a non-profit organization responsible for the cemetery and its maintenance. Ticket sales for this tour help to support this worthy cause.
- Civil War soldiers, citizens, and statesmen from both North and South: our fugitive Congressman, a displaced priest and scholar, and the most successful and disliked newspaper editor of his time.
- Victims of family feuds and affairs of honor: a prominent family stalked by death and disaster and a forbidding father with a daughter doomed to a tragic end.
- Artists, friends, and ghosts: two ladies who shared a home and a love of beauty might still meet for a stroll, along with a pair of star-crossed lovers separated in life but lingering to reunite after death.
- Proceeds help support the cemetery
- ~90 minutes
- Meet at the Gate of Old Gray Cemetery, 543 North Broadway
- Reservations required (book tickets below or call 865-309-4522)
- Adults: $15
- Children 6-12: $10
- Group rates available
Contact us about other dates, large groups, and step-on bus tours.
Custom tours available by appointment for groups as small as three adults.
Call 865-309-4522 to schedule a tour.