For years, every time we so much as touch a toe out of state, I’ve put cemeteries on our travel itinerary. From garden-like expanses to overgrown boot hills, whether they’re the final resting places of the well-known but not that important or the important but not that well-known, I love them all. After realizing that there are a lot of taphophiles (cemetery and/or tombstone enthusiasts) out there, I’m finally putting my archive of interesting tombstones to good use.
Finding someone’s grave? That’s for amateurs. It’s usually pretty easy, even if the stone doesn’t belong to someone who happened to be famous back when he or she was breathing. If it’s a big cemetery, the chances are pretty good that the office will have plot records that will help with your search.
Now, finding the object that caused someone’s death—that’s typically a bit more challenging. But the source of Jasper Newton Daniel’s death is not only easy to find, it’s actually still on display at the distillery that bears his name.
Photo by Stacy Conradt
Sometime in 1906 or so, Jack Daniel headed into the office early one morning to TCB before anyone else got there. The problem? They always opened the safe for him. After trying the combination several unsuccessful times, Daniel grew frustrated and tried to teach the unyielding steel a lesson by kicking it. His toe yielded instead. The broken toe got infected, gangrene set in, and eventually, the famous purveyor of whiskey lost his left leg. On October 9, 1911, the gangrene took the rest of him as well.
The joke on the distillery tour is that Jack could have lived well beyond his 62 years had he only dipped his toe into his own whiskey to sterilize the wound. He was buried at the Lynchburg City Cemetery in Lynchburg, TN, and the stone is easy to spot, not only due to its size, but also thanks to the set of iron chairs that allow visitors to sit down and enjoy Jack’s namesake libation with him. But they’ll have to buy it somewhere else—Lynchburg is in a dry county.