Trips to White, Warren, & Van Buren Counties, Tennessee

By: Robert Moore

Updated: May 30, 2015

   Click on the highlighted text to see more information about the referenced locations.

     Several years ago my brothers Bill and Risden Moore and I made a trip to Middle Tennessee to seek out information about the birthplace of our mother Tressie Sullivan Moore.  We met in McMinnville, Tennessee and began our quest to find Bone Cave Mountain in Van Buren County, Tennessee.  Risden and his sons had previously visited the area and had found out some information.  We drove through the area on Bone Cave Road; but had very little luck.  Finally we stopped at a convenience store on the McMinnville to Spencer road (Highway 30), and made inquiries.  Just by luck we discovered a couple of men from the Grissom family who turned out to be distant cousins of ours.  They gave us a lot of information and guided us to the Long Cemetery where several of our ancestors are buried. Our 3rd great grandparents Major and Anna Anderson Passons are there.  In addition our great grandparents Andrew Jackson and Margaret Cotton Passons are also buried there.  Several other kinfolk are also there.  The inscription on Andrew Jackson Passons' headstone has become very dim and is difficult to read.  Major and Anna Passons are buried in tent-style, or comb, graves.  These style graves are common in that area.  Most seem to date to the last half of the 1800s.  Major Passons farm and the farm of Andrew Jackson and Margaret Passons  were located very near this location.

Major and Anna Anderson Passons Gravesite at Long Cemetery, Van Buren County, Tennessee


After note:  In April 2009 Cousin Bob Rhodes, Brother Risden Moore and I rectified the problem with Andrew Jackson Passons' inscription being unreadable.  We placed an additional stone on the gravesite.

     We finally determined the location of the road that led up Bone Cave Mountain.  The mountain is not very high; but the road is very narrow with several looping curves.  Driving up that road is not something I would like to do very often, and not at all during inclement weather.  There were a couple of house trailers just as you reached the top of the mountain; but that was it as far as inhabitants.  Note: At one time we thought that our mother was born on the mountain; but later information seems to indicate that she was likely born in the Bone Cave Community which is a fairly large area. †Although we had no idea of exactly where our mother's family dwelt; we all had a feeling that our mother was there looking down and smiling at us. †After talking to local residents it seems several of the Passons families eked out a living on top of the mountain. But only sparse evidence of any farming exist at this time.  It is quite beautiful and serene.  We sought out a Passons' cousin, Emma Hitchcock, who spent considerable time telling us about the family.  She was very gracious.

     The next morning we drove east along Highway 30 up to Spencer the seat of Van Buren County, Tennessee.  Note: We had a misconception that our grandfather, John Duncan Sullivan was born there; but later information shows clearly that he was born in Warren County near McMinnville.   We inquired about the Sullivans at a local restaurant, and met a gentleman who volunteered to show us around the local cemeteries where our Sullivan ancestors might be buried.  We visited several cemeteries; but were unable to ascertain if any of the Sullivans buried in them were our kinfolk.  Note:† Later information shows that many of the Sullivans in the cemeteries we visited were indeed our kinfolk.

     We returned to McMinnville and Bill went back home.  Risden and I decided to take a circuitous route back to South Pittsburg, Tennessee.  We drove along Highway 30 back through Spencer to Pikeville in Bledsoe County, Tennessee.  This is the area where our maternal great great grandfather, James Sullivan, was raised up.  The road was pretty good; but the descent into the Sequatchie Valley was scary.  Beautiful; but scary.  We continued on eastward to Dayton in Rhea County, Tennessee.  Our father, James William Moore, was born in that area.  Not having any real information on where the family lived, and not having any idea if any of the Moore family still lived in the area we did not stay long there.

        Looking from the highway off the mountain into the Sequatchie Valley

                               View of the Sequatchie Valley near Pikeville, Tennessee


                          Aerial view of the Sequatchie Valley looking northward from South Pittsburg, Tennessee

      We all felt that our trip was very successful.  More importantly I feel that this very first trip led us on a quest to learn more about our ancestors.  We have returned to Van Buren County on several occasions.

     A couple of years later I was visiting Tennessee for our annual family reunion.  My son's family was able to accompany me.  Risden, his son Mike, my son Robert Aaron, my grandson Garrett, and I visited Van Buren County, Tennessee.  We spent the better part of the day just driving around the area.  This included a slow trip with many stops on top of  Bone Cave Mountain just to look around.  We visited Long Cemetery, and walked over it in its entirety.  After we returned to Louisiana I asked my son and grandson what portion of our weeklong visit gave them the most pleasure.  Both, without hesitation, stated that it was the visit to Van Buren County.

Later trips to Middle Tennessee

     There have been several references that indicate that some of the Passons family were buried in the Mt. Pisgah Cemetery north of Walling in White County, Tennessee.  None of the White County cemetery surveys give an indication of where any of the Tilford and Sarah Passons family are buried.  This is not unusual in itself, since many families were desperately poor during and just after the Civil War.  Many people were buried without the benefit of headstones, and frequently deaths were not officially recorded.  Tilford Passons died in 1861 early in the war.  This left Sarah Passons alone with 12 children at home to care for.  She lived over 30 years after Tilford died, and saw five of year children die.  It is fairly certain that Tilford, Sarah and Benjamin Franklin Passons are buried in this cemetery.  Two or three more of their children may also be buried there; but there is just not enough information to make a judgment.

     In August of 2011 Thomas Risden Moore, my son Robert Aaron Moore, and I briefly visited Mt. Pisgah Cemetery in White County, Tennessee and searched in vain for the gravesite of one of our ancestors, Benjamin Franklin Passons, who was supposedly buried there with only a rock with an inscription scratched into it.  His parents, our great great grandparents Tilford and Sarah Moore Hutson Passons, are reportedly buried next to him.

     We also paid a visit to Long Cemetery in Van Buren County, Tennessee where our great grandfather Andrew Jackson Passons, and his wife Margaret Cotton Passons are buried. Also buried there is our 3rd great grandfather and grandmother, Major and Anna Anderson Passons.  We found the cemetery in very good condition.  Major and Anna's headstone inscriptions are becoming faint.  We are considering having a marker similar to what we did for Andrew Jackson Passons' grave site done for them.

     Risden and I made two trips to the Mt. Pisgah Cemetery in White County, TN during my visit in early November 2011.  Mt. Pisgah is located between McMinnville and Sparta north of Walling, Tennessee, off the Old Kentucky Highway.  Our maternal great great grandparents, Tilford and Sarah Passons, are buried there with no headstones. On our first visit on November 8, we knew that a rock with the inscription "B F. Passons" marked the site of their son's grave.  They were reportedly buried next to him.  Risden found the rock located in the Hutson family plots.  Of course Sarah Passons' maiden name was Hutson.  Her father and mother are buried just in front of the location we found.  We met with the administrator of the cemetery and gained permission to place headstones there for them and their son Benjamin Franklin Passons.  We returned to Mt. Pisgah on 14 November, and marked the gravesites. We have ordered the stones and expect to install them next April.  There are several other of our maternal ancestors buried there, including Hutsons and Knowles.  We also visited the old Hutson Cemetery #3, not far from Mt. Pisgah.  Some of Abel Hutson Junior's children and spouses are buried there.  Our maternal 5th great grandparents, Abel Junior and Sarah Hutson, are buried in another Hutson Cemetery that we were unable to find.  However; since our visit, we now have direction on how to find it.

                Tilford Passons   Sarah Passons   BF Passons

     The Hutson Cemetery #3 is located in the middle of a meadow about 2 miles north of Walling, White County, Tennessee just off the Old Kentucky Highway.  In the past it was allowed to become in disrepair; but a local historical society has cleaned it up and marked it with a sign.  Isaiah Hutson, Able Hutson Junior's. son,  who at 63 years was killed by Yankee soldiers while defending his family on this very farm is buried here.  Other members of the Hutson family are also buried here.  This type gravesite is referred to as "tented or comb", and is common in the cemeteries in White County, Tennessee.  They appear to mostly date during the last half of the 1800s.

                    Hutson3 2

                                                                                     Hutson Cemetery #3


                     Trips During  April 2012

     In April 2012 Risden and his son Mike, our nephew Jason Raulston, and I made a trip to White County, Tennessee.  We installed headstones at the Mt. Pisgah Cemetery for Tilford Anderson Passons, Sarah Moore Hutson Passons, and Benjamin Franklin Passons.  Everything went exceeding well since we had the strong backs of the younger men to do the work.  Of course brother Risden presided over the installation insuring that it was done correctly.  I just observed.  We visited the Long Cemetery in Van Buren County on our way back home.  Everything there was in very good condition which is normal.  Someone had done a fantastic job cleaning the inscription on some of the headstones.  The inscription on Andrew Jackson Passons' headstone is now quite readable.

Tilford Passons 


Sarah Hutson Passons 


 BF Passons


    Continuing our April 2012 Trips                                                                                                           .

     Risden and I returned to Sparta, the seat of White County, TN,  and visited the county courthouse; but found that the White County Archives did not open until midday.  We decided to venture out without the documents describing cemetery locations we had hoped to obtain.  We had pretty good instruction on where to find the old Abel Hutson Cemetery, and started there.  The instructions told us that the cemetery was located about 250 feet straight across the main road from a house, through a stand of trees.  Foolishly we followed the instructions to a T.  What it did not state was that there was a 100 foot wide patch of blackberry brambles and vines we had to traverse before we reached the trees.  I managed to linger back long enough to allow brother Risden to lead the way.  We literally had to cut our way through some areas with our pocket knives.  Both of us had plenty of hand and leg scratches before we got past the blackberries.  To add to our discomfort the temperature was about 40 degrees and the wind was gusting to around 40 miles per hour.  Considering my thinned-out Louisiana warm weather blood, it was cold to say the least. 

     After finally making it through the blackberries we entered the trees and went up a little hill. The trees and underbrush  were very thick.  We knew that a historical society had placed a stake with a green sign that read "Abel Hutson Cemetery" on it; so we looked for that.  Without the sign we would never have found the cemetery.  The gravesite consists of four adult graves; but only two are marked with small slabs of  sandstone rocks embedded in the ground.  There are no inscriptions. Abel Hutson Sr. and his wife Sarah Moore Hutson are there.  Francis Marion Hutchins and his wife Arminda C. Moore Hutchins are also buried there.  The remains of a child's limestone tented (comb) grave is also located there. It is thought that this is the grave of a child of the Hutchins.  The Hutchins were kinfolk of Sarah Moore Hutson.  Local lore says that the gravesite was vandalized by enemies of a later owner of the property named Bob Carter.  Some say that Bob is also buried here; but others think he was buried in Hutson Cemetery #3 across the road from this cemetery.  We found a circuitous route back to the road to avoid the blackberry patch.  I don't think I would want to visit the cemetery during warm weather due to the likelihood that venomous snakes would likely make the area unsafe.

Blackberry Vines 

            Blackberry patch leading to the Abel Hutson Cemetery     

Abel Hutson grave

          Abel Hutson Cemetery

Risden at Hutson  

                   Risden Moore at the Abel Hutson Cemetery

Robert at Hutson

               Robert Moore at the Abel Hutson Cemetery

                  Aerial view of the Abel Hutson Cemetery and Hutson Cemetery #3
       The roadway in the center of the picture is the Old Kentucky Highway (Tennessee 136)
            These cemeteries are located about 1 mile south of the Mt. Pisgah Cemetery

     We had information that William Brittain Hutson (our great great grandmother Sarah Moore Hutson Passons' brother), and his wife Martha Howard Hutson were buried in Hutson Cemetery #2 in the Horseshoe Bend area west of Walling, TN near the Rock Island State Park.  So we decided to try to find it.  We drove the entire 6 mile length of the road that runs through the Bend and saw not a soul.  There were a few houses; but there was not one person stirring.  The road is narrow and quite hilly.  Finally on our way back along the road toward Walling, TN we spotted a cattleman heading to tend his stock and was able to get his attention.  He was very cordial and helpful.  He led us to an elderly lady who was a Hudson (the Hutson and Hudson names are frequently interchanged, although they are all kin.).  She and the cattleman were able to provide us with some phone numbers of people who eventually were able to help us.  It seems that an idiot who owned the land where the cemetery was located bulldozed the headstones out of pure meanness.  This must have occurred in the 1970s.  One of the Hutson boys, along with some friends,  recovered the headstones and moved them to the Mt. Pisgah Cemetery.  I talked over the phone to one of the men who helped move the stones and he helped us locate them.  They are made of sandstone, and are hand engraved.  The engraving was originally quite shallow and time has taken its toll.  They are almost unreadable.  If one knows what should be on the stone, you can make out enough to be sure it is the right one.  Ironically, we have been within a couple feet of these stones several times.  They are only a few feet away from the ones we had recently installed for the Passons. 


                    William Brittian Hutson

 Martha Hutson

                               Martha Howard Hutson

     By this time the White County Archives in the White Count Courthouse was open; so we returned to Sparta.  The historian is a Mrs. Pollard.  I had talked to her over the phone last year and she had helped me locate the manager of the Mt. Pisgah Cemetery to arrange a meeting to gain permission to install headstone there.  Mrs. Pollard was exceeding helpful and was very informative.  She mentioned an area called the Passons Farm not far from Sparta.  I'm not sure if this was Major Passons farm before he moved to Van Buren County or not.  I intend to investigate this further.  (Note: I have since determined that the referenced farm belonged to a grandson of Major Passons.)


                            Trip in April 2013

      In April  of 2013 my brother Risden and I made a trip to the Bone Cave area of Van Buren County, Tennessee.  The purpose of our visit was to make arrangements to purchase grave plots  in which we intend to erect memorial headstones for our motherís grandfather and grandmother, James and Lucinda Jane Black Sullivan. 

     Since we were early for our appointment with the caretaker of Laurel Creek Cemetery, we made a stop at Long Cemetery to check on our Passons ancestors who are buried there.   As usual the cemetery was in very good condition.   The headstones for Major and Anna Anderson Passons continue to become more worn and are becoming harder to read.  We also stopped at the Mount Pisgah Cemetery in White County.  It too was in fine shape.  The headstones we placed last year for Tilford, Sarah, and Benjamin Franklin Passons look just fine.

     We met with Mr. Wayne Simons who is the caretaker of the Laurel Creek Cemetery there.  Although we are unsure if either of our ancestors is buried there, they lived in close proximity to the cemetery.  There are many unmarked graves in the cemetery, and there are no other cemeteries close by.   It seems likely that they would have been buried there.  We were able to purchase the plots and they have been marked.  When we returned to East Tennessee and Alabama we made a trip to the Skyline Monument Company near Skyline, Alabama and arranged to have headstones made.  We intend to install them in June.

Laurel Creek Cemetery. Our plots are just to the right of the front large black headstone.

     Temporary Markers for James and Lucinda Jane Black Sullivan

Risden Moore and Wayne Simons

Trip in June 2013

On June 16, 2013 We made the trip to Laurel Creek Cemetery to install the headstones for Our great grandparents James and Lucinda Jane Black Sullivan. It was an ideal day with lots of cloud cover; but no rain. With four strong men, a great supervisor, and two final inspectors the installation when just great. We were very pleased with our efforts.

James Sullivan.jpgLucinda Black Sullivan.jpg

Work Crew.jpg

The installers Mike Moore, Jarred Henderson, Risden Moore, Jason Raulston, and Zach Raulston


The final inspectors: Linda Hilliard, Risden Moore, and Betty Muir


Trip in April 2014

     On Saturday April 12, 2014 Risden, Betty, and I took our sister Mary Ruth Moore Raulston on a tour to visit our maternal ancestral sites in Middle Tennessee.  We went through Whitwell, TN, Dunlap, TN, Spencer, TN, then down the mountain on Tennessee highway 30 to where Laurel Creek passes under the highway.  This is the area where our 3rd great grandfather Major Passons had his farm.  In this same area our Grandmother Augusta Passons Sullivan was born and raised. 

     We followed Laurel Creek road several miles to the Laurel Creek Cemetery where we had installed memorial headstones for our great grandparents, James and Lucinda Jane Black Sullivan last year.  The cemetery is in excellent condition.  Our Sullivan family lived within a short distance of this cemetery in the late 1800s.  A male voter census taken in 1891 showed Great Grandfather James Sullivan, Grandfather John D. Sullivan, and Cousin James Sullivan living in this area.  Of course our mother, Tressie Sullivan Moore was born here on October 14, 1900.  Mary Ruth really enjoyed being in the cemetery next to the headstones and talking about the Sullivan history.

Mary Ruth at Laurel Creek Cemetery

      We then drove on into Warren County through the town of Rock Island, TN into White County, TN.  At Walling, TN we took the Old Kentucky Highway northward over the Caney Fork River.  We passed by Hickory Mountain where many of our ancestors owned land during the 1800s and early 1900s.  We arrived at the Mt. Pisgah Cemetery, and found it in excellent condition as usual.  Mary Ruth was amazed by the number of Comb, or Tent, graves located there.

       Risden & Mary Ruth at Mt. Pisgah Cemetery

     After having lunch in McMinnville, TN, we drove along highway 30 back into Van Buren County and stopped at the Long Cemetery where our great grandparents Andrew Jackson and Margaret Cotten Passons are buried.  Our 3rd great grandparents, Major and Anna Anderson Passons, along with other members of the family are also buried there.

    Risden & Mary Ruth at the Long Cemetery

     We really enjoyed our visit this year.  Mary Ruth mentioned how much our mother would have loved going on a trip like this.  I'm sure she was looking down and blessing us today.

Trip in September 2014

     About two months ago I was contacted by a Dr. Margaret Rhinehart from Van Buren County, TN.  She has done considerable work on the history and people of Van Buren County.  She had noticed the headstones that we placed in the Laurel Creek Cemetery, and informed me that James and Lucinda Jane Black Sullivan were not buried in Laurel Creek, but were in Long Cemetery.  Dr. Rhinehart got me in touch with Donna Sullivan who is the great granddaughter of William C. (Bill) Sullivan, the brother of our grandfather John Duncan Sullivan.  Donna's folks remember Bill commenting each time he passed by Long Cemetery that his father was buried there.  Donna's father was Jim Emery Sullivan.  Donna is on the cemetery committee for Long Cemetery and has arranged for us to move the headstones from Laurel Creek to Long Cemetery.  This works out just great for us because our Passons family grave sites are less than one hundred feet from where we will be moving the headstones.  We hope to move the headstones next month.


New site in Long Cemetery for the Headstones.   The stones in the background are the Passons.

                     Donna Sullivan at Long Cemetery, Van Buren County, TN

     On September 10, 2014 Risden and I made a trip to Middle Tennessee to meet with Donna Sullivan and another member of the cemetery committee.  We met at Long Cemetery.  Donna is a very gracious and friendly person.  We immediately felt right at home with her.  We spent some time at Long Cemetery measuring out the location where the headstones are to be moved.  We also had a chance to become better acquainted with Donna.

     After leaving Long Cemetery we drove westward a few miles along Highway 30 to just inside the Warren County line to the Johnson Cemetery.  This cemetery is located on a privately owned farm.  The farm owner has allowed Donna access across his property so that she can maintain the cemetery.  William C. and Frances Cordelia Dorsey Sullivan are buried there along with several family members.

 Robert & Risden Moore at Johnson Cemetery                                                                  Donna Sullivan & Risden Moore at Johnson Cemetery

     After our visit to the Johnson Cemetery we had lunch at a restaurant on U.S. Highway 70 about half way between McMinnville, TN and Sparta, TN.   Donna had made arrangements for us to visit Elvina Sullivan, who lives in Quebeck, TN.  She was named after our great grandmotherís sister (Elvina Black Sullivan) who was married to James Sullivanís brother Isaac (Ike).† Elvina is now 88 years old, and is the daughter of James Parker (Jim) Sullivan and his second wife, Victory Yates Sullivan Scott.  Her memory is not that good anymore, and we did not want to tire her so we only visited for about half an hour.  She was very gracious and seemed very pleased to see us.

     Elvina Sullivan Presley Davis at her home in Quebeck, TN

     We then took Donna to the Mt. Pisgah Cemetery in White County, TN.  As usual everything was in great condition.  We spent the better part of an hour at Mt. Pisgah talking family with Donna.

      After taking Donna back to her car, we went by Laurel Creek Cemetery to check on the headstones we had placed there.  It was in superb condition.  We made our way back to South Pittsburg without incident.  We feel very good about our trip.  Our plans are to move the headstones sometime next month.† Note: Illnesses delayed this until the spring of 2015.


Trip in May 2015

     On May 21, 2015 Brother Risden, his son Mike, our nephews Jason, Tom, Jarred, Hunter, and I made a trip to Van Buren County, TN to move the headstones for Great Grandparents James and Lucinda Jane Black Sullivan from the Laurel Creek Cemetery to Long Cemetery.  After a great breakfast at the Waffle Hours in Kimball we made our way through Whitwell, Dunlap, and Spencer to Laurel Creek.

      Lucindaís stone was very easy to remove since we had just set it down on a bed of gravel.  Jamesí stone was another matter; since it was an upright stone we had set it in concrete.  Consequently it had to be dug up which was quite a task.  Once it was raised from the ground, a few licks with hammers removed all of the concrete.  So it was a simple task to load them on the truck with all the manpower we had.

     Just as we finished refilling the headstone sites; Mr. Mason Hale came up to visit with us.  Mr. Hale is on the Laurel Creek Cemetery Committee.  He farms very near the cemetery.  He is a very gracious person.  We made a contribution to the cemetery maintenance fund to show our appreciation for the use of the cemetery plots.

†††† I recently found out that Dr. Rhinehart, who initially informed me that we had Jim and Lucinda in the wrong cemetery, had passed away.† She did a tremendous amount of work on the history and people of Van Buren County, TN.†† We were also informed that our cousin Emma Grissom Hitchcock had recently passed away.† Both of these gracious ladies will be greatly missed.

     We met our cousins Jimmie and Donna Sullivan at the Long Cemetery which is only about 4 miles from the Laurel Creek Cemetery.  

                                 Jimmie and Donna Sullivan        

Since we already had markers placed; it was a simple task to dig the holes for the headstones.  Everything went well, and the stones are now installed where they should be.   The location of the plots is only around 25 yards from where our Passons kinfolk are buried.

The Sullivan Plots Long Cemetery



                   The Work Crew at Long Cemetery, Van Buren County, TN

     We were will pleased with our efforts.  We made our way back to the South Pittsburg area and had a great lunch at the Chinese Restaurant in Kimball.