Ooltewah Residents Upset About Displaced Cemetery

County Puts Stop Work Order On Entire Project

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

County Commissioner Bill Hullander said a number of Ooltewah residents are upset about a pioneer cemetery being displaced for a shopping center across from the Publix grocery.

Commissioner Hullander said, "The more I hear about this the more upset I get."

He said headstones from the old Wells Cemetery are under a plastic tarp at the site at Snow Hill Road and Mountain View Road.

Commissioner Hullander said he was advised that the Texas developer plans to move the remains next to the Mill Run subdivision. But he said in a 2002 rezoning of the property, the owners were supposed to leave a 50-foot buffer of trees next to Mill Run.

Commissioner Hullander said those trees have been knocked down.

He also said the area by Mill Run has been rezoned for office and a cemetery could not go there.

Morgan Construction Company of Chattanooga is handling the project, he said.

Jeff Morgan, president of Morgan Construction, said the moving of the cemetery "is being handled in a most respectful manner by a qualified archaeologist."

He said he and the developer have not found any record of a required buffer zone next to Mill Run and only learned Tuesday from a Mill Run resident about such a requirement.

Mr. Morgan said no record of such a requirement is in the deed and he said it was not mentioned "in two Alta surveys, which is the highest level survey you can have."

He said, "No one has done anything deliberately wrong. We will find out what is required and will make it right."

Mr. Morgan said the headstones are under a tarp and the remains themselves have been placed in locked storage containers on site.

He said it was planned to relocate the cemetery next to Mill Run and that site is specified in the court order from Chancery Court.

The developer of the Shops at Mountain View went to Hamilton County Chancery Court in April to get permission to move the cemetery. The petition was granted in July when no heirs protested. The zoning issue did not come up in that lawsuit before Chancellor Howell Peoples.

Pat Payne, the county building inspector, on Tuesday put down a stop work order on a portion of the property.

Commissioner John Brooks said the order should be extended to the entire property and the developer should have to come back before the County Commission for a new rezoning.

On Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Payne put a stop work order on the entire project.

Barry Bennett, executive director of the Regional Planning Agency, said leaving the 50-foot buffer was a requirement of the rezoning. He said all the conditions have to be met or the zoning reverts to what it was before - agricultural.

Officials said the site plan from 2002 shows the cemetery to be left alone. But that was not made a condition of the rezoning.

Assessor Bill Bennett, who is a resident of Mill Run, said, "It's unfortunate what's happened. It takes a long time to grow trees back."

Commissioner Fred Skillern said it is possible to buy 20-foot trees and have them planted. He said, "You can have a forest tomorrow. It depends on what you are going to pay."

Some of the headstones at the Wells Cemetery date back to the early days of the county. One is from the year of the Cherokee Indian Removal (1838).

Commissioner Hullander said no one in the community was made aware of the earlier lawsuit over moving the cemetery.

Commission Chairman Curtis Adams said, "I thought when you were buried that's where you stayed til the Lord comes back."

A cemetery survey from many years ago gave this account:

The Wells Cemetery is 10 miles north of Chattanooga.
Follow highway #64 to the old Georgetown Road where the cemetery is located one half mile to the left. The
land for cemetery was given by Mr Bonham Wells, but is now owned by Mr J E C Hundley. There are forty or fifty graves, some having no markers.

Green, William - Apr 30, 1829 - Mar 15, 1876
Green, W R - Co D - 5th Tenn Inf
Ragan, Nancy - Wife of David Ragan - Apr 29, 1865
Sacred to the memory of Wells, P L - Son of F T and M Wells - May 30, 1841 - Apr 5, 1863 - Age 22 yrs
Sacred to the memory of Wells, Moses N - Jan 26, 1854 - Age 2 yrs
Sacred to the memory of Wells, Sarah - Jan 6, 1854 - Age 65 yrs
Sacred to the memory of Wells, John - Son of F T and M Wells - Apr 22, 1849 - Age 3 yrs
Sacred to the memory of Wells, Bonham - Aug 26, 1798 - Mar 30, 1838 - Age 40 yrs
Sacred to the memory of Wells, Jane - 1808 - Oct 30, 1838 - Age 30 yrs
Sacred to the memory of Wells, James H - Son of R and J Wells - June 1, 1836 - Nov 10, 1838 - Age 2 yrs
Ragan, David - Feb 20, 1790 - May 5, 1848
In memory of Ragan, Jacob - Apr 22, 1788 - June 14, 1872 - Age 84 yrs, 4 mos 23 days
Ragan, Eli - Aug 18, 1818 - Mar 22, 1851
Ragan, Sarah Isabell - Oct 7, 1867 - Oct 9, 1871
Gate, Alfred M - Dec 20, 1828 - Sept 13, 1871 - Age 43 yrs 8 mos 24 days
In memory of Couthers, John I - Apr 17, 1832 - Feb 14, 1848
Allen, M W Mary - Wife of Wm. B Allen - July 25, 1847 - Age 29 yrs 5 mos 14 days
In memory of Cate, I M - Sept 18, 1822 - Mar 2, 1858

George P. Wells, a well known merchant of Ooltewah, is a native of Tennessee , and was born in what is now James County (though at the time of his birth it belonged to Hamilton County ), September 15, 1838. He is a son of Barnum and Mary ( Hopkins ) Wells. The father was of Scotch descent, and the mother of Dutch descent. His grandparents were Virginians, and his parents were natives of that State, and both were born in Smith County-the father about the year 1790, and the mother about 1794. Both died, when our subject was but an infant, in Hamilton County, though now James County. They were married in their native State about the year 1830. In 1837 they immigrated to Tennessee , and settled where they soon died of milk poison. The father was a farmer and stock trader, and though he was not very successful, he was a man of energy and industry. Our subject, an orphan, was reared by a first cousin, Flemming T. Wells, who watched over him in his infancy and youth with a father's care. He secured a good academical education in his youth, and after completing the same up to the age of thirty-three years (1871), he gave his attention exclusively to f arming. In the early part of 1872 he entered the firm of Stone & Read at Ooltewah as a salesman, and remained with this establishment until October, 1873. Mr. Read sold out to Mr. Stone in the spring of 1872, and Mr. Stone died in July, 1873. In January, 1874, he established a store of general merchandise at Ooltewah of his own, and from that date to the present he has been engaged in mercantile business at this place. Our subject is a first-class business man. He began life rather poor, but by industry and close application to business he has secured a fair competency. He now controls a business of about $7,500 dollars annually. October 17, 1877, he was united in marriage to Miss Rebecca E. Caruthers, a most worthy lady, born in what is now James County , March 17, 1848. This excellent lady died November 2, 1884. This union resulted in one son, Willie F., born July 12, 1882. Our subject is a decided Democrat, and always supports that party; is a worthy and consistent member of the Missionary Baptist Church . His wife was a member of the same church.
“Goodspeed’s History of East Tennessee,” James County , 1887


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