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Haunts of the rich and famous...Nashville's Mount Olivet Cemetery

Acklen Mausoleum
Acklen Mausoleum
Photo by Teri Lynch Pugh

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Living in Nashville, Tennessee
gives one an abundant
opportunity to explore the
richness of our southern culture;
be it found in an architecturally
delightful church, the antebellum
home of a famous president, or a
leisurely walk through deaths
final resting places.
Dying in the south, at least in
one of Nashville's esteemed
locations, was a right of passage
that the affluent knew a little
something about...where traces
of their wealth still flaunt
silently from the grave.
Is it possible to live forever?
The ancient Egyptians believed
that as long as a man's name was
spoken aloud; one maintained a
semblance of life...

At 1101 Lebanon Pike, resting stately upon a Nashville hillside is Mount Olivet Cemetery, where one can see  such  mysterious wonder. Founded in 1856, and on the National Register of  Historic Places, it resides as the final resting place of many famous Nashvillians, statesmen, and soldiers.

The forty gardens alone, with their wealth of centuries old flora and fauna,
is a living collection of more than 75 labeled species and variety of trees.
This alone would be enough to lure you into a pleasant afternoon visit, even if death or dying were the last thing on your agenda.

So much so, that the Nashville Tree Foundation recently recognized Mount Olivet
as an Arboretum for all the hard work and dedication to preserve Nashville's urban forest. Possibly solitude and sanctity could be the motivation that beckons you to visit. On most any sunny afternoon, it reminds one of a hallowed sanctuary, certainly as silent as the grave.

Yet, most likely it is the rich history of its inhabitants that will stay with you long after you've shaken the dust from your feet and headed home... The gardens and statuesque trees stand pale to the sight of many private crypts,
mausoleums, and catacombs that undoubtedly hold the remarkable stories of the interred, too intriguing to leave buried there. You'll find yourself asking for more, as the touch of their icy fate tempts you from the graves.

The remains of the rich and famous read like a high society guest list. Women like Cornelia Fort, the first woman aviator in U.S. history killed on active duty. Or Caroline Douglas Meriweather Goodlett, one of the founders of the Daughters of the Confederacy. More recent, Tootsie Ross, owner of the world famous Tootsie's Bar, a favorite haunt of Grand Ole Opry performers. Men, too, like George Dickel, famed whiskey brewer, and Joel A. Clark, inventor of Maxwell House coffee.

Yet, the women hold their rank within the hallowed halls of wealth, women such as Adelicia Acklen, matriarch of  Nashville's Belmont Mansion who resides in her fairytale castle mausoleum, along with her first two husbands and several of her children.

Belmont Mansion, an Italianate-style villa with its 36 rooms and 19,000 square feet was the summer home to Adelicia, one of the wealthiest women of the South.
Today it is the site of Belmont University. History notes that Adelicia lived
lavishly, and her tomb stands testament that her death did not hide her wealth
within it's murky shadows. Her wealth is etched upon every stone that dwells within the miniature castle walls, and flaunts its transparency throughout the delicate, stained glass windows, somewhat like the names of her kinfolk, withstanding the test of time, still legibly carved in stone.

One can't help but wonder if the life-sized statue of an angel was placed inside the tomb to guard Adelicia's wealthy secrets that she carried to her grave. It is truly a site to see... Walk across the way and you'll find Confederate Circle. After the war between the states, the women of Nashville bought land and buried the remains of about 1500 soldiers and 7 generals, moving them from battlefield sites. A 45-foot granite marker was erected in the center of the circle, honoring their dedication and sacrifice.

The women...so stated on the nearby marker; no names are mentioned, but they had to be a band of tender hearts most likely grieving the loss of a son , father or husband.

Among the cherubic angels and moss-covered stones is a corner tomb dedicated to
a beloved husband, guarded by regal stone animals, whose faces, like that of  the great Sphinx, have begun to decay and fall away...

One can't help but wonder if on a cold winter's night, that lonely widow still mourns her beloved, and her weeping continues to echo throughout the ancient, rustling trees. Or perhaps, by now she has sobbed herself into an eternal sleep...

Is it possible to live forever? One thing is for certain, the life...or death of these privileged souls will haunt your memory long after you drive away...

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