Volunteers clean up historic Beck Knob Cemetery
Volunteers are helping to restore Chattanooga's oldest African American cemetery.
Beck Knob Cemetery in North Chattanooga has been part of the city's history since the late 1800s. The goal is for the cemetery to become a recognized historic site in the state.
“It will be something that the church and the community will be proud of,” Gary James, a member of Hurst United Methodist Church, said.
James is a longtime member of Hurst United Methodist Church. The cemetery has belonged to his church since 1888.
Volunteers from across the Tennessee Valley and beyond are cleaning it up to preserve its rich history.
"It just makes us very, very proud that they care enough to come out on a Saturday morning and to give up their time to help us clean off a cemetery,” James said.
By clearing debris and restoring headstones, volunteers hope it becomes a historic site for the state.
"There's a huge bucket of stories to be told within this space,” Brenna Kelly with Southeast Conservation Corps said.
Kelly is helping the church and the city with the cleanup.
"To let people hang on to their history, to learn from it and be better going forward is really important,” Kelly said.
The passion to help this cause has extended beyond the Tennessee Valley. Some volunteers came as far as Murfreesboro.
"It shows the connection of a community beyond just like a neighborhood street or a zip code,” Kelly said.
That connection is what will keep the people who are buried here remembered.
"The church is excited about it; the community is excited about it; and these volunteers, if they are not excited, they are certainly committed,” James said.
Volunteers will lead a few more cleanup efforts throughout the year.