Mike Karnitz, who has been involved with management of Pleasant Forest Cemetery for 20 years, laughs at the idea of it being haunted. But he admits that he occasionally “talks” to old friends John Campbell, John Smith and Mac Abel, who have monuments at the cemetery for their service as board members.
“There are only friendly ghosts here,” he says.
The historic cemetery is located at the intersection of Campbell Station and Concord roads. Mike became involved with the cemetery board through John Campbell, a fellow Farragut Museum volunteer. John ran the cemetery, and Mike took over the volunteer position in 2008.
The job suits him because of his interest in history and love of the outdoors. When he worked in Michigan, Mike regularly ate his lunch at a nearby cemetery. It was much like a park, as is Pleasant Forest.
“It’s a pleasant place. I’ve got a lot of friends here now.”
Pleasant Forest is the second oldest cemetery in Knox County. The oldest, located at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Knoxville, is full, but there are sites available at Pleasant Forest, thanks to expansions. This summer, three columbarium structures were installed in an area named Governor Roane Plaza after the cemetery’s most famous “resident.” A total of 168 spaces are available in the plaza.
Archibald Roane (1759-1819) served as a superior court judge and was the second governor of Tennessee. His farm was just east of Farragut Intermediate School, Mike says. Roane’s grave was unmarked until the state erected a monument at Pleasant Forest in 1918.
Mike points out other significant graves. The oldest marked grave belongs to a child, William Cole, who died in 1806. Revolutionary War soldier Thomas Boyd (1754-1814) served under George Washington. The oldest person in the cemetery is Nora Gillette, who died just before her 105th birthday in 2018.
Creating an accurate and up-to-date census of the cemetery has been a decades-long endeavor. An alphabetical graves list on pleasantforestcemetery.com provides the location and inscription of each marked grave. Some entries include biographical information.
The cemetery started in conjunction with Pleasant Forest Church and school. The original church was a log structure, but a brick building was erected in 1835. In 1863, federal troops used brick from the church to build chimneys for their cabins. A new brick church was built in 1871, but the congregation never recovered from Civil War tensions and services ended in 1893. The building was dismantled in 1940 and the siding was used on a barn near the Farragut Kroger.
The Pleasant Forest Cemetery Board was formed to manage the cemetery after the closing of the church. A monument stands in the spot of the former church and school.
Funding for the maintenance and operation of Pleasant Forest comes from a trust. Currently, interest from the trust exceeds annual expenses, but the cost of maintenance is going up, Mike says. He is currently working on a succession plan that would ensure that the cemetery will continue to be an asset to the community in the years to come.
Anyone who loves history, the outdoors and “friendly ghosts” is welcome to volunteer.
Wendy Smith coordinates marketing and public relations for the town of Farragut.