Submitted by Bob Baker – Upper Cumberland State Veterans Cemetery Association
On April 3, 2013, a group of veterans was assembled to form a steering committee to try to find a place to build a veterans cemetery in the Upper Cumberland area of Middle Tn. This 14 county area is between Pickett County to the North to Warren County to the South; from Cumberland County in the East to Trousdale County in the West. The state has already built a new veterans cemetery in East Tn. and had established a committee to find a place in West TN. We were tasked to find three possible sites to build a veterans cemetery with some stringent criteria attached. The site had to be relatively free from rock and unstable soil; not be swampy; land should be level to moderately hilly; the site should have good highway access and have easy access to utilities; it should have storm flow runoff and sewage capabilities; the water table at be least 8’ down from the surface and the acreage to be at least 70 acres so the cemetery would be useable for a 100 years.
In addition to finding 3 sites, we also had to come up with funding to buy the property; put in an access road; bring utilities on to the property and provide for sewage disposal. We also have to pay to have the Committal Chapel glassed in. The glass will cost us between $125,000 and $150,000. The Committal Chapel is an eight-sided building where the funeral takes place. After the funeral service is done, the funeral director, preacher and one member of the family go to the graveside for the burial. Afterwards, the family can go to the grave.
When we had formed our committees we discussed how to fund this project and we came up with the sum of $10 per veteran in each of the 14 counties. We thought that with this money, and some help from the state, we could accomplish our goal. We started raising money and looking for sites. We eventually came up with 3 sites that we rated as #1, #2 and #3. We submitted these to the state.
Now for the update. All 3 sites were disqualified. When we set up our committee the state engineers found the center of our 14 counties to be between Cookeville and Monterey. We drew a 25 mile radius around this point and said our cemetery had to be inside this circle so that no one would have to drive more than 75 miles to get to the cemetery. Sites #2 and #3 were disqualified because they were outside this circle. Site #1 was disqualified because it was too hilly. Apparently the criteria from the National Cemetery Administration was changed from about a 15 degree slope to about a 2 to 4 degree slope due to a different burial method. Instead of individually digging each grave they were going to dig a trench from border to border and place concrete crypts that interlock side by side. They then would place a concrete lid on top. A burial would just be a matter of scraping some dirt off of the lid, placing the coffin inside and then replace the lid and cover with dirt.
After our 3 sites were thrown out we were advised that STREAM (State Real Estate Management Team) would take over finding a property. Our goal now is fund-raising. We have filed the paperwork to obtain a 501-C (3) accreditation. We are changing our name to the Upper Cumberland State Veterans Cemetery Association.
One of our problems is that not all of the counties are represented all of the time at our meetings and therefore the counties do not know what is going on. We have had representatives some of the time from Pickett, Van Buren and Warren Counties. We have never had a representative from DeKalb County.
We have raised $139K in fund-raising and county donations to date. We have added a website to help keep people updated; www.ucsvca.net.
We NEED the help of ALL of the counties in trying to meet our funding goal. If we can get a donation from each county, it would go a long way in influencing our representatives to help in our funding. I have 3 donation cans in the county for individual donations: at the Chamber of Commerce; at Citizen’s Bank Gordonsville and at Martin’s Grocery Store in Defeated. I have collected about $4000.00 to date. Thank you Smith County.
I have made up a list of the 14 counties, vet population in each in 2013, compensation paid to those vets in 2016, education benefits paid to those vets in 2016 and donations made to the cemetery fund from those counties up to Nov. 2017.
(County) (Vet Pop. In 2013) (Compensation Paid) (Education Paid) (County Donation)
Clay 678 $1,975,000 $93,000 $7,229.24 (106.6%)
Cumberland 6926 $21,079,000 $1,065,000 $2,112.54 (3.1%)
Dekalb 1443 $3,738,000 $471,000 $7813.44
Fentress 1254 $7,577,000 $213,000 $19,998.34 (159.5%)
Jackson 930 $2,389,000 $211,000 $11,037.05 (118.7%)
Macon 1478 $4,631,000 $184,000 $10,200.00 (69%)
Overton 1776 $6,716,000 $341,000 $1,069.06 (6%)
Pickett 527 $2,650.000 $41,000 $763.68 (14.5%)
Putnam 5468 $22,637.000 $2,832,000 $58,552.25 (107.1%)
Smith 1556 $3,834,000 $279,000 $13,724.19 (88.2%)
Trousdale 685 $1,840,000 $71,000 $2,769.86 (40.4%)
Van Buren 549 $1,346,000 $47,000 $0 (0%)
Warren 2664 $11,719,000 $646,000 $319.55 (1.2%)
White 2240 $9,240,000 $489,000 $580.05 (2.6%)