A project to honor and preserve the memory
of those at rest in Great Smoky Mountains backcountry cemeteries
The land that is now Great Smoky Mountains National Park was once entirely private property populated with dozens of small communities and hundreds of homesteads.
The land purchase to create the National Park displaced hundreds of families.
These people were not only forced to vacate their homes - they left behind over 170 documented cemeteries and countless more undocumented gravesites.
Today's visitor may be aware of about a dozen cemeteries accessible by car, but most of the old cemeteries require a certain amount of hiking. Some are quite remote. Some of these sites may have only one grave, or just a few.
Through the Remembrance Project, it is our intention to visit every known grave within Great Smoky Mountains National Park, pay our respects, and document the sites for those who may be unable to visit in person.
It is not that these people died and were buried here. It is that they LIVED and were buried here.
The Knoxville News Sentinel newspaper hosts a website called "GoSmokies," providing a place where people with knowledge of the Smoky Mountains have a place to post their work. This is where we publish our research and accounts of the old cemeteries.
Even with the presence of our own "Remembrance" website here, we will continue to post our cemetery reports on GoSmokies, because its knowledgeable members frequently contribute comments and feedback that help illuminate the places we visit and answer questions we may have.
For those who will never be able to visit the more remote backcountry cemeteries, we hope to take you there in spirit by conveying a sense of place, to remember these largely forgotten people.
We are Renée Michot and Jim Rigsby, two ordinary hikers who happen to listen for these voices out of the past. The Remembrance Project exists to perhaps keep a memory alive, if only by acknowledging its presence.