A Visit to the Judd Cemetery: Cookeville, Tennessee


                                                “A nation divided against itself cannot stand…”

                                                        Abraham Lincoln

There is a cemetery in Cookeville, Tennessee called the “Judd Cemetery.”  It’s a quiet place. There used to be a church on the same grounds but it was long ago left idle. Eventually, termites got to it and it had to be demolished. There is a vacant spot where the building used to be. My second-great grandfather Matthias “Matt” Judd was a preacher of that church. The land that is now the cemetery used to be the farmstead of my family-the Judd family.  There was a tannery there too. Like most farms, it was once a place of screaming little children, fathers and sons working in the field, and animals moving about. But that’s all gone. Now the wind softy breezes through the tombstones which stand idle as testaments to lives that were once lived but live no longer. Now it’s a place for the dead. What was once a place to merely bury my Judd ancestors became a place to bury others-including friends and neighbors. They are welcome in there.

In the Judd cemetery, everyone there has no more divisions. All that separated them in life is over. Death– the great equalizer. There was a time in the nation’s history- and in my Judd family as well- that loved ones were torn apart. The great war of 1861 to 1865 would forever change loyalties. Each family member had to choose a side. Both sides were losers in the end. The Judd family was split. Andrew Jackson Judd had joined the Confederate army. Matt Judd joined the Union Army-the Blue and the Gray. Other Judds made their choices. When the war was over, those who survived the ordeal came home and tried to pick up the pieces.

Matt Judd came home partially physically broken. His service had taken it’s toll on his health. He would spend the remainder of his days going to doctors and trying to get approved for a pension. He became a traveling preacher. He started churches and raised his family. I don’t know if the Judds reconciled their differences. Loyalties died hard. This I do know: As I look across the landscape of the Judd Cemetery-and read the individual grave markers of my deceased Judd family members-I know that it doesn’t matter now. Matt Judd rests in his grave-his wife Polly at his side. The other Judds are there-including young Silas Judd- killed, as some say, by Confederate guerrillas. He was only 12 years old. And, yes, there are Confederate grave markers too. Yet, there’s no more talk of Lincoln and Davis. There are no discussions concerning slavery, state’s rights, and rebellion. The hurt that was caused in the hearts who bore the burden of that time-is vanquished.

People drive down the road that runs past the Judd Cemetery and don’t even notice it’s there. I had trouble finding it myself the very first time I went there. The old church bench was still sitting on the empty lot where the church used to be. I pulled a piece of it’s concrete loose and put it in my pocket. Then I sat down. I could see my grandpa Matt Judd come to join me. He walked like a crippled man but he didn’t complain. He was truly happy in the Lord. He started to tell me stories of the place and of the war. He told me that he never believed that the United States of America could split-and survive. He said he agreed with President Lincoln about the nation being divided against itself and not being able to stand. So after his little brother Silas got killed he joined the Yankee Tennessee Mounted Infantry. He also said with pride that he took time to marry Polly Bullington in ceremony in Nashville in 1864. Then he stared away into the graveyard and I saw him no more after that. Right before he left, he noticed an American Flag atop a pole nearby. I think when he saw that he knew he wasn’t needed there anymore-the nation did survive. And he had done his part to make it so. I salute you grandpa Judd. Good rest- all ye who lay in the Judd Cemetery-the nation is divided no longer…

 Mail this post

One Response to “A Visit to the Judd Cemetery: Cookeville, Tennessee”

  1. Susan Rice says:

    I have recently started tracing my family line and stumbled on to a wealth of information on the Judd family. My great-great grandparents – John William Bell married to Mary Susan Judd – are both great-great-great grandchildren of Rowland Judd. My great-great grandmother Ida Judd married to John and Mary’s son Clarence Edward is also a great-great-great grandchild. Reading of the stories I have come across on the deaths in the families during the Civil War breaks my heart. I lost my son in July 2011. I can feel their pain through the many years.

Leave a Reply