Hidden Cleveland

Cleaning up the family past

Long-neglected Clingan cemetery gets needed facelift and a new roadside sign

LARRY C. BOWERS Banner Staff Writer
Posted 6/14/16

There’s a new road sign along Georgetown Highway, near the split before reaching Cleveland Middle School.

The sign marks the location of an old, very small, family cemetery marking the …

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Hidden Cleveland

Cleaning up the family past

Long-neglected Clingan cemetery gets needed facelift and a new roadside sign

Posted

There’s a new road sign along Georgetown Highway, near the split before reaching Cleveland Middle School.

The sign marks the location of an old, very small, family cemetery marking the location of the burial of Bradley County’s first elected sheriff, Alexander Adam “A.A.” Clingan.

The burial plot is located on the right side of Highway 60, northbound. It is up a slight embankment alongside a residence.

Clingan served in office from 1837-38, a year prior to the Cherokee Removal to Oklahoma along the “Trail of Tears.” He later served additional terms, from 1840 through 1846.

Clingan was not the county’s first sheriff. William James “Jimmy” Carter was appointed sheriff of the just-formed Bradley County in 1836, but died in office.

Clingan was then elected, in 1837.

The small cemetery suffered from neglect over the years, but recently descendants of the family discovered its location and cleaned up the area. The sign was then located along the nearby roadway.

The reclamation of the cemetery required removal of underbrush, leaves, poison ivy, 16 small saplings, one large dead tree, and straightening and repair of headstones which had fallen or were leaning. One headstone had broken.

The Clingan family of the first half of the 1800s has evolved into the Roark-Conner Family Association, and members are located across the nation.

Members of the association located the cemetery and initiated the reclamation project. They are hopeful a historical group or society in the Cleveland area will show interest in maintaining the old cemetery.

Anyone interested can contact the association’s secretary, Wanda L. Wilkey, 1372 Polaris Drive, Hixson, TN 37343-4337, or call 423-877-8177.

In a January, 2016, issue of the Roark-Conner Family News publication, a longtime official of the organization printed an article about the “Neglected Cemetery.”

The story says Gene F. Johnson of Harrison and Connie Perrin of Chattanooga located the cemetery after extensive “private research and geographical investigations.”

The highlight of the discovery was the headstone for A.A. Clingan, who was closely associated with the Roark and Blythe families in early settlement of the “Ocoee District.”

The cemetery contains the graves of 11 members of the Clingan family, plus three graves for three infants of the Spriggs family.

Research shows Clingan homesteaded in the Ocoee District, and was hugely involved in the formation of Bradley County in the 1830s.

He was born Feb. 20, 1801, in Hawkins County, the son of Edward and Jeanette Clingan. He met and married Martha “Patsy” Blythe in 1828.

They started their family in Sale Creek, but moved to a log cabin just north of present-day Cleveland in 1834 — in the Candy’s Creek community.

According to historical documents, the family later constructed a large home place a half mile east of Candy’s Creek, along Candy’s Creek Ridge.

The home was a two-story, three-chimney structure with twice as many fireplaces, and a long front porch.

The Clingans had 16 children, with three buried in the recently discovered family cemetery with their parents. A.A. Clingan died on Feb. 1, 1864, and his wife followed on Aug. 6, 1868.

There was an intermingling of the Clingan family with the Blythe and Roark families through the early years. There were also several marriages involving Cherokee heritage.

Many from the white families cast their lot with the Cherokees at the time, many raising their children in the Cherokee Culture.

Martha Clingan’s Blythe family had earlier founded Blythe Ferry on the south side of the Tennessee River, and had dedicated ties to the Cherokee. Many moved west with the Cherokee.

Martha Clingan remained in Cleveland with her husband, prideful of her Cherokee ancestry.

A.A. Clingan became connected with the Roark family through a niece, Jane, who was taken in by Joseph and Juda Ann Roark after her parents had died within a few weeks of each other in 1830.

This was when Clingan and his wife were in a log cabin with eight kids of their own. He asked the Roarks to consider taking in his niece, after he had assumed guardianship of her and four siblings.

The Roarks raised her as one of their own, although Juda was only 17 when Jane’s parents had died.

Through this family arrangement, Clingan remained close to the Roarks through the remainder of his life, and during his terms as sheriff.

Johnson, who located the old Clingan cemetery in 2014, has related his experience to Roark-Conner family members.

“I was in the process of giving up hope, when I stopped and asked a woman outside her house if she knew anything about the cemetery,” Johnson said. “She pointed to her side yard, and said, ‘There it is.’”

Since that time, the ancient cemetery has been reclaimed and cleared. The dominating feature is the tall A.A. Clingan marker, surrounded by the smaller markers designating the resting place of other members of the 19th Century family.

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