Research effort clears up grave confusion at Elizabethton's Green Hill Cemetery

John Thompson • Apr 24, 2013 at 11:53 AM

ELIZABETHTON — Two new Civil War cavalry veterans, one who fought for the North and the other who fought for the South, have been discovered at the Green Hill Cemetery as a result of a research effort conducted by the Watauga Historical Association to correct some records in the Find-a-Grave website.

The Union soldier is John Holly, a Carter County native who was born Jan. 7, 1848, and died June 10, 1923. He served as corporal in Company C, 13th Tennessee Volunteer Cavalry.

The Southern soldier is George W. Bays, who moved his family to Carter County in the 1880s from Russell County, Va. He was born in 1842 and died in 1899. He served in Co. H, 34th Battalion of the Virginia Cavalry, a unit first known as the 1st Battalion, Virginia Mounted Rifles.

Watauga Historical Association member Dawn Peters said the research began when Find-a-Grave reported that William Andrew Becker was buried at Green Hill. A footstone with the initials “GWB” was attributed to Becker.

Peters said there is no record of Becker being buried at Green Hill and she suspects he is buried at Colbaugh Cemetery on the other side of the Watauga River, where Becker’s wife is buried. She said the GWB footstone belongs with the headstone of George W. Bays, even though the two stones are now in different parts of the cemetery.

Teresa Treadway said that is not unusual. When the Watauga Historical Association began maintaining the cemetery, many of the headstones had been knocked down and moved as a result of vandalism. The headstones were put back up, but there was no way of knowing where the stones were supposed to go.

The confusion has led to the founder of Elizabethton, Samuel Tipton having a new monument placed beside what is actually the grave of child, Peters said.

On Tuesday, two new headstones were erected at Green Hill, one for Bays and one for Holly. Peters said other veterans have markers which commemorate their military service.

“We feel that since all other known veterans buried at Green Hill already have military markers at their graves, both these veterans graves should be marked as well.

Peters said the association approached Veterans Affairs to obtain government markers, but were told that since both Bays and Holly already had headstones in the cemetery, they did not qualify for government markers. The historical association decided to buy stones for the two men to commemorate their military service.

Peters said they have now placed the new stones in plenty of time for Memorial Day for these two men who had previously had no record on their graves that they were veterans.

Progress is being made and new information is coming to light on the history of the cemetery and the genealogy of those buried there through the Watauga Historical Association’s continuing research. The organization asks anyone having knowledge and proof of someone who was buried at Green Hill to share the information with the Historic Green Hill Preservation Committee of the Watauga Historic Association. The committee is searching for photos of the cemetery or individual headstones prior to 1980 in order to identify as many of those buried at Green Hill as possible and restore the cemetery to its original condition before the vandalism.

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