Who is responsible for the upkeep at Tipton-Haynes Cemetery?

Brandon Paykamian • Updated Dec 4, 2017 at 6:59 PM

In many cultures, cemeteries are considered holy places of reverence for the dead, but Johnson City resident Edda Boyer said she could hardly tell that by looking at Tipton-Haynes Cemetery behind her home on Haynes Drive, where she has lived for about a year.

When she first walked to the cemetery at Arroyo Drive, the condition of the headstones and the burial grounds left her appalled. With decrepit headstones falling over and piles of leaves throughout the graveyard, she wondered who was responsible for the upkeep of the cemetery that includes the remains of veterans from the Revolutionary War, Mary Taylor Haynes and legislator John Tipton, who was instrumental in Tennessee’s development in becoming the 16th state. 

Boyer said the condition of the cemetery was “disgraceful” and said she hopes to see someone step up to help take better care of the burial grounds.

“Somebody needs to rake this and bring it up to date,” she said. “It’s terrible. We noticed a 9-month-old baby buried here, and the stone here is broken.”

The cemetery is owned by the state of Tennessee as part of the Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site, funded under an agreement with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Tennessee Historical Commission and donations to the nonprofit Tipton-Haynes Historical Association, which is responsible for maintenance through these grants, according to the commission. 

The state is only involved in maintenance on a case-by-case basis in extreme instances, such as damage from natural disasters. 

But Wes Spurgeon, co-director of the historical site, said they do what’s required to manage the site, which he said was “actually looking better than it has been in a while.” 

“It’s been kept the same way it has been for decades,” he said. “There have been a few broken tombstones for decades, and the leaves have never been raked. Every year we maintain it by mowing the property.”

To respect the dead, Boyer said she has put some of the stones up herself. 

“It needs to be taken care of,” she said. “Tipton-Haynes — for heaven’s sake — what’s wrong with them?” 

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