January 30, 2018

Stories from a Cemetery

By Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief for Southern Writers Magazine 

Historic Elmwood Cemetery is the oldest active cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee. It was established in 1852 as one of the first rural garden cemeteries in the South. A funeral scene in Paramount's 1993 legal thriller The Firm was filmed here. 

There is a dramatic entry bridge, a Carpenter–Gothic office cottage along with 80 acres. All of which is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is also an official Bird Sanctuary and Arboretum.

Can you imagine the stories that can be created using this cemetery as a setting? Even as a character?

Beneath ancient elms, oaks and magnolia trees you will find the famous and infamous, those who were loved and feared. You will find veterans of every American war, including the Revolutionary War. There are generals, governors, mayors and madams, side-by-side.

All you need do is choose a character, do your research, decide your plot, and begin your story. There are archives waiting for you, here at Elmwood.

Functions are held every year at this cemetery. You can also take a guided tour of this magnificent cemetery. Here you will find the history of Memphis is told through the residents of Elmwood Cemetery. The city fathers, early mayors and the everyday people who lived in Memphis and helped shape its history.

One of the functions coming up in January is the “Stories and Secrets of Elmwood Cottage where you will learn what’s hiding in the archives. The story of the Victorian Gothic Cottage and furnishings; and you will hear about the “Frozen Charlottes”, mysterious little dolls left on the graves more than 100 years ago.

If you walk through this cemetery you will find your mind reacting to this place. Perhaps stories will begin creating themselves, not just one, but many.

Look around your towns, what do you have that is very old, and has a history to it? Do your research, and in the process you too may just find “your Elmwood Cemetery” full of stories. Who knows, you might just find your next series waiting for you there.

Happy Writing!

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