Andrew Johnson grave.

President Johnson's Towering Tombstone

Field review by the editors.

Greeneville, Tennessee

U.S. President Andrew Johnson died unexpectedly on July 31, 1875, without instructions for what to do with his body. One his former slaves, Sam, said that Johnson wanted to be buried on the crown of a tall hill south of his hometown of Greeneville. So he was. Unlike the elaborate national ceremonies for Johnson's predecessor, Abraham Lincoln, the funeral of the almost-impeached Johnson was conducted by the local Masonic lodge.

Andrew Johnson grave.

Three years later Johnson's children paid $9,000 to erect one of America's hardest-to-miss presidential tombstones: an elaborate, 27-foot-tall marble monument over his grave engraved with Masonic symbols, a bas-relief of the U.S. Constitution, and an eagle with a goofy expression perched on top.

For the next three decades Johnson was gradually surrounded by other dead family members. When his last child died in 1901, she willed the property to the federal government. Johnson, who spent his presidency fighting federal encroachment on states' rights, was probably spinning in his grave -- but his daughter had to find someone to pay for its upkeep.

In 1906 the property became a Fourth Class National Cemetery, even though only the Johnson family was buried in it. Veterans' burials finally began in 1909, and the graves were segregated until the 1940s. The cemetery still accepts internments, for those who don't mind eternally resting in the shadow of Andrew Johnson and his family. Margaret Johnson Patterson Bartlett, the last surviving Andrew Johnson descendant, was buried on the hilltop in 1992.

Andrew Johnson grave.

The federal government apparently doesn't have a lot of faith in Andrew Johnson tourism; the parking lot for visitors to this presidential grave only has three spaces.

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Also see: Tributes to a Traitor President

President Johnson's Towering Tombstone

Andrew Johnson National Cemetery

Address:
121 Monument Ave., Greeneville, TN
Directions:
Andrew Johnson National Cemetery. South side of town. From W. Main St. turn south onto Monument Ave. and drive straight into the cemetery. Follow the road to the top of the hill, where there's a tiny parking lot.
Hours:
Daily 9-5 (Call to verify)
Phone:
423-638-3551
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Johnson Family GalleryJohnson Family Gallery, Greeneville, TN - < 1 mi.
Bronze Andrew JohnsonBronze Andrew Johnson, Greeneville, TN - < 1 mi.
Andrew Johnson's Backwards BirthplaceAndrew Johnson's Backwards Birthplace, Greeneville, TN - < 1 mi.
In the region:
Mountaineer Inn Sign, Asheville, NC - 43 mi.

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November 19, 2019

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