Mountain Home National Cemetery is located in the northeastern section of Tennessee in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains within the city limits of Johnson City. The cemetery is on the grounds of the Mountain Home Veterans Administration Center.
Originally known as the Mountain Home Branch of the National Asylum for Disabled Volunteered Soldiers, the facility was the product of sustained efforts by Tennessee Congressman Walter Preston Brownlow. In 1901 Congress approved a bill introduced by Brownlow to establish a national home in the Johnson City area. A designated board of managers chose a 450-acre site and commissioned New York architect J. H. Freedlander to design 36 French Renaissance-style buildings. The home opened Oct. 15, 1903. Five years later, special dispensation was granted to permit the interment of Congressman Brownlow in the Mountain Home cemetery. He and his wife occupy the only graves inside Monument Circle.
The Mountain Home Branch of the National Homes was the ninth, and last, of its kind funded by Congress to care for Union veterans of the Civil War. In 1973, it was transferred to the Veterans Administration and the home cemetery became a national cemetery.
Medal of Honor Recipients
Sergeant Henry G. Buhrman, (Civil War) Company H, 54th Ohio Infantry. Vicksburg, Miss., on May 22, 1863 (Section C, Row 2, Grave 12).
Lieutenant Frederick Clarence Buck, (Civil War) US Army, Company A, 21st Connecticut Infantry. Chapins Farm, Va., on Sept. 29, 1864 (Section F, Row 1, Grave 9).
Staff Sergeant Junior James Spurrier, (World War II) U.S. Army, Company G, 134th Infantry Division. Achain, France on Nov. 13, 1944 (Section HH, Row 15, Grave 8).
Mountain Home Cemetery was established in 1903. Although not all buildings of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (NHDVS) – Mountain Branch were completed at the time, interments began.
The earliest interments of veteran residents of the Home were Francis Conaty, on Sept 18, 1903,(Section B Row 1 Grave 1) and William H. Garland on Dec 11, 1903, (Section A Row 1 Grave 1). The oldest sections of the cemetery (Sections A through H) surround Monument Circle and were referred to as “The Silent Circle” in a local newspaper article from 1915.
Mountain Home Cemetery did not become part of the VA National Cemetery System until 1973. Until that time hospital patients and residents of the domiciliary were the primary persons interred. In addition there were some individuals who were not
volunteer soldiers who were interred also.
Congressman Walter P. Brownlow and his wife, Clayetta are interred in Monument Circle, on which an obelisk monument (like the Washington Monument in our nation’s Capitol) was erected. Congressman Brownlow was Representative of the First District of Tennessee and responsible for seeking funding for the NHDVS – Mountain Branch. In 1900 he made a request of the Board of Governors of the NHDVS to locate the ninth branch in his district. The Board had established a policy of no new branches, instead encouraging individual states to fund such endeavors. Mr. Brownlow requested five minutes to present his argument to the Board, actually using only three to make his
case. He pointed out to the Board that (1) A Branch was established in
Virginia, a state that had not one volunteer Union soldier of record. (2)Eastern Tennessee had furnished 30,000 volunteer soldiers to the Union and there were 18,000 Union pensioners living in the First District at the time of this request. (3) Congress had just authorized $1,000,000 for construction of a federal prison in Atlanta. “Didn’t volunteer soldiers deserve at least as much as convicts?” argued Brownlow. The Board voted unanimously to approve the construction of the Mountain Branch in the First District.
In addition to the marker for Congressman Brownlow, there are additional memorial grave markers in the section referred to as Monument Circle. These markers are from the time period 1942 to 2002. They are in memory of veterans for whom no remains exist. These individuals are missing in action, declared dead, buried at sea, or donated their bodies to science. Future plans are to relocate this memorial section. “Special Section” (located between sections E and) contains individuals who were connected in some manner with Mountain Home, but were not always veterans. The area is readily identifiable by ornate markers that are not the standard tombstone shaped markers used for the veterans.
The resting place of John Powell Smith and his wife Florence Alexander Smith may be easily located. They have the distinction of being buried in the only gravesite marked with a double marker. Mr. Smith was the first “Governor” (manager) of NHDVS - Mountain Branch. He served as Governor from 1903 to 1917 and died in 1918.
Carl Anderson has one of the least ornate markers in this section. The rough-hewn block of granite is polished on the side bearing his name, and dates of birth and death (b. 6/29/1887, d. 6/12/1908). He
was the landscape architect responsible for the original landscape design for Mountain Home’s grounds. He and his family lived on the grounds.
The marker for the Rev. John K. Larkin (d. 7/13/1910) is readily identifiable by a large ornate cross on top of a marker. He served as chaplain from 1907 to 1910. His importance to Mountain Home and the local community was evident by the appearance of his death notice and funeral arrangements on the front page of the Johnson City Comet July 14 and 15, 1910. The notice in the July 14 article stated that the Reverend Father John K. Larkin was “the big brained, big hearted, brilliant Catholic Chaplain at the Soldiers’ Home.” In the July 15 article it was stated that “the remains of the distinguished priest, robed in his mass vestments and holding the chalice in his hands, will lie in state…” in the chapel.
Some children of staff are buried in the special section, including Clover Wadsworth (d. 1/1/1908), young daughter of C.W. Wadsworth, who had been adjutant on the staff at Mountain Home. Her simple square
marker has a clover on its top, as well as birthplace and place of death on one of its faces (Cumberland Gap, TN; Brooklyn, NY). (In 1931 Col. Wadsworth served as Director over the National Homes Service of the Veterans Administration). Two other children of employees, infant son Parish (d. 2/2/1926), and infant son Mackey (d. 3/17/1927), are buried in this section of the cemetery. On infant Mackey’s marker is the inscription “Budded on earth to bloom in heaven.”
As you drive through the cemetery you will notice that the faces of some of the veteran’s gravestones are different. There were specified styles of markers during different periods of time. (These styles will be explained more fully in the section titled “Cemetery markers.”) You may also notice that grave markers for the same period appear to be different. In National Cemeteries all gravesites are marked permanently. In the event those markers aged poorly or were badly damaged in some manner they are replaced. It is not possible to recreate the original style used for the oldest markers, but as close an approximation of the style possible is used. The oldest markers
in the cemetery are for veterans of the period of the Civil War.
Following incorporation of the Mountain Home Cemetery into the National Cemetery System in 1973, spouses of veterans were permitted to be interred in the same gravesite as their veteran spouse.
Graves in sections having upright markers containing veteran and eligible dependent are marked with the veteran's information on the front side and the dependent's on the reverse; in flat marker sections the veteran’s information is on the first 3 lines and the dependent's on the next 3 lines. In either case, the dependent's name and information is not added until time of demise. The cemetery underwent an expansion project in 2003. Over 4,000 additional gravesites were added which will permit use of the cemetery until 2025.
There are currently over 10,000 gravesites in Mountain Home Cemetery. All of the persons interred are “notable” with special stories to tell. As with most military cemeteries only certain information is retained in cemetery office records. Older markers include name, branch of military service, as well as the “company” and state regiment in which the veteran served. Newer markers contain names, branch of military service, as well as date of birth and death. As record keeping became more detailed the cemetery began to maintain records specifying inclusive dates of military service, as well as the place of death. The NCA maintains a computerized system that cemetery personnel may use to locate any individual buried in a Department of Veterans Affairs cemetery. As of the writing of this brochure in 2003 there is also a website that the general public may use to identify interees in our cemetery. The listing is complete through 2000. The Internet address is: