In this episode of Memphis Type History: The Podcast, we both tell each other a few select stories about being buried in Elmwood Cemetery. First, we learn that Elmwood is the oldest nonprofit in Tennessee. Then Rebecca shares how the cemetery got its name even though it didn’t have any elms. I school you on the history of mourning (Queen Victoria is involved) and why Elmwood feels like a beautiful park where you want to spend time. Finally, hear about some people (and one surprising non-person) buried in Elmwood Cemetery.
The Civil War doubled the size of Elmwood Cemetery. The six cases of Yellow Fever that occurred in Memphis required mass burials in Elmwood. The 1878 epidemic was the worst one with 17,000 people contracting the disease… and overall the entire sickness led to the creation of the No Man’s Land monument.
Rebecca tells the story of the cemetery superintendent’s daughter, Gracie, who became know as the Graveyard Girl. But she decides to wait until the end of the episode to tell us all about Rufus the Dog… I dig right in (get it?) with the story of Annie Cook, aka the Madame with a Heart of Gold, aka the Mary Magdalene of Memphis. The upscale bordello owner figures prominently in the Elmwood story and, of course, has everything to do with the Yellow Fever (as does most of Memphis history, it seems).
Finally, we wrap up with an Elvis connection and that story Rebecca’s been dangling in front of our ears for the entire show.