A Photo Tour of Memphis' Historic Elmwood Cemetery

Learn about Elmood Cemetery with these Photos

Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee.

Thomas R Machnitzki / Wikipedia Commons

Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis was opened in 1852. It is the city's oldest active cemetery and it occupies a huge chunk of land in inner-city Memphis: 80 acres.

A wide assortment of people call Elmwood "home" including generals, politicians, Confederate soldiers, victims of the yellow fever epidemics of 1800s, outlaws, and everyday folks. Some of these people have massive monuments in their honor. Others rest beneath dilapidated tombstones that are sinking into the ground.

Without a doubt, Elmwood is one of the most fascinating places to visit in Memphis. With its breathtaking statuary and rich history, it is not to be missed. Enjoy this photographic preview of the peace and history you'll find at Elmwood.

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Home Sweet Home

Photo by Teresa R. Simpson

Some of Elmwood's residents were so prominent in life, that they were issued addresses in death, as you can see from this photo. People buried here include Mayors of Memphis, Governors of Tennessee, U.S. Senators, blues singers, generals, Civil Rights leaders, and more.

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Gone and Perhaps Forgotten

Photo by Teresa R. Simpson

There is no way to tell how long this plot's occupant has been buried here, but it's safe to say that it has been quite a while. Many of the cemetery's engravings have faded away. This person might have suffered from one of the many outbreaks of Yellow Fever that plagued in Memphis in the 1800s. 2,500 victims are buried in four public lots at Elmwood. And it's not just victims: doctors, nurses, ministers, nuns, even prostitutes died while trying to help those who were sick.

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A Room with No View

Photo by Teresa R. Simpson

Elmwood is full of mausoleums. In the photo you can see two of them, one of which is built into the grassy hill. Some are so large they could be small houses. Others have elaborate inscriptions or engravings on them. Most are made out of sturdy stone, meaning they will survive for years to come.

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Church Family Mausoleum

Photo by Teresa R. Simpson

This mausoleum is where Robert Church and his family are entombed. Church founded the Solvent Savings Bank and Trust Company and was reported to be the South's first African-American millionaire. He rose to prominence during the American Civil War and was an inspiration for many people.

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In the Round

Photo by Teresa R. Simpson

Beyond the tombstones at the forefront of this photo, a Memphis couple is buried beneath the circular structure. In 2002 grounds of Elmwood Cemetery were entered on the National Register of Historic Places. It's not just the burial structures that are historic. The site also has ancient elms, oaks, and magnolias thriving on the grounds.

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Grave of Boss Crump

Photo by Teresa R. Simpson

This obelisk monument was erected above the grave of E.H. Crump, former mayor and political boss of Memphis. Officially he was only Mayor of Memphis from 1910 to 1915 and then again in 1940 but people he essentially elected every mayor in between because of his power and influence. His tactics weren't all pure. He manipulated votes at the ballot and use the city machine to put bureaucratic obstacles in the way of his opponents.

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A Little Spooky

Photo by Teresa R. Simpson

This quartet of graves is located in the shade of a magnificent magnolia tree that makes the scene a little eerie. More than 75,000 people have been laid to rest in Elmwood through the years. The cemetery does tours that bring their stories to life.

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A Watchful Eye

Photo by Teresa R. Simpson

This angel is keeping watch over the grave next to which she is situated. This style of monument reflects the Victorian style, which presented a romanticized view of death and often used symbols like angels and flowers. 

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A Beautiful Place to Visit

Photo by Teresa R. Simpson

This view of Elmwood represents only a small portion of the cemetery but should give you an idea of its vast beauty and hopefully, inspire you to make a visit. You can learn more about Memphis history here than most museums.

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Elmwood Visiting Info and Tours

Monument at Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis
Holly Whitfield

Elmwood Cemetery regular offers walking tours of the cemetery with a docent. The tours are open to the public, and some have themes like women suffragettes or yellow fever. Register online ahead of time as tours fill up. Look at the website for the schedule.

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