Kan Foster Cemetery of 19W

Kan Foster Cemetery of 19W

Spivey Mountain, Unicoi County, Tennessee

Documented by Beth Bradford-Pytel

updated on 04/06/16


The cemetery is named after the pioneer, hunter, storekeeper and grist mill operator of Coffee Ridge.  There is only one marked grave with the recent installation of Kan Foster's stone in June 2014.  There was a commemoration with descendants to celebrate the dedication of his new stone and decorate the cemetery.


There is only one marked grave with about 10 unmarked graves with fieldstones which are believed to be Fosters, Kersawns, and Byrds.


The Kan Foster sign was fabricated in partnership with Joe Fender and installed on July 1, 2014.



     2004 photo of the cemetery  


DIRECTIONS: Kanada "Kan" Foster Cemetery located on Spivey Mountain, Unicoi County, Tennessee.  From Erwin, take I-26 towards Asheville, NC and exit Temple Hill Road. At the bottom of the ranp, make a left.  At the stop sign make a right.  This is US Highway 19-23W which splits at Ernestville.  At the fork make a left onto 19W heading towards Burnsville, NC.  Proceed on 19W for about 2 miles and make a right onto Tilson Mountain Road.  Proceed for about a half mile and then make a left onto Coffee Ridge Road for about a mile.  Then make a left onto Viss Honeycutt Road. Go almost to the top of hill and there is a paved driveway on the left.  Follow this driveway to a private residence on left.  Directly in front of the house (on the right) you will see a steep logging road that leads to the cemetery. Follow the road up to the top and you will see an abandon hunting cabin. The cemetery is directly behind the cabin on the right. It is strongly recommended to use a 4 wheel drive vehicle to reach the top.


This project was in collaboration with Paul Chrisawn who surveyed and cleared off the cemetery in February 2012.  Paul and I are descendants of Kan Foster and working on identifying the people interred here.  Feel free to email me your comments, photos and/or corrections.


   ARTICLE by Paul G. Chrisawn  Destruction To Rebirth : How The Civil War Affected The Chrisawn Family    


1. FOSTER, Kanada "Kan" [unmarked - fieldstone]

b.  abt. 1814 - d. April 1891

(s/o Thomas T. Foster and Sarah __; Kan married 1st Rebecca Kersawn/Crissaun on March 17, 1833 in Washington Co., TN;  children:

1)  Thomas md. Naomi Chandler (buried Foster Cem #1)

2)  David James. md. Jane Chandler (Naomi and Jane are sisters and d/o Larkin Chandler and Sarah Metcalf)

3)  Mary E. md. David Ephraim Willis (buried Willis Cem. #1)

4)  Kannady Franklin Jr. md. Charlotte Williams (d/o Pittman Williams and Sarah Whitson of Yancey Co., NC)

5)  Martha

6)  Nancy

7)  Sarah Rebecca md. Thomas Clingman Sams

8)  Darcus

9)  Ruth Emaline md. William "Bill" Edwards

10) Henry Burton md. Sarah Bailey (buried Martins Creek Cem. #733/734)

11) Catherine

12) Harriett md. George W. Tompkins (buried Martins Creek Cem. #493)


Married 2nd Caroline Catherine Sheehan (d/o Aaron Sheehan of McDowell Co. and Sarah Hensley) on February 4, 1879 in Washington Co., TN; children: Emory, Mary Elizabeth, Florence.

BIO SKETCH:  Kan Foster was a tub miller and trader of the Spivey Mountain area.  He was described as being a handsome confident  man with stern dark eyes, weathered features and a black beard.  He was of medium height and wiry built.  Kan was a man who knew how to survive the wild woods of Spivey where bears, wolves and other creatures roamed.  In 1839, he was awarded 640 acres from the State of NC [grant # 618] on the Indian Creek, an area which straddles the NC-TN border.  Subsequently, he acquired an additional 300 acres which spanned a large portion of what is now the Coffee Ridge area of Spivey.  He ran an important tub mill in which the people of Spivey would bring sacks of corn to have it ground for meal.  In December 1857, as explained in Harper's Magazine, traveling journalists from Jonesborough were leaving Burnsville, NC and were heading back home.  They proceeded to take a short cut crossing over the Bald Mountain pass to Tennessee.   It was cold and the days were short.  Losing their path at dusk, they came to a sharp drop off called "Tumbling Fork" and lost their footing and a horse.  They had to negotiate the rest of trip by foot.  Hungry, lost and cold in the nightfall, the bewildered travelers came across Mr. Chandler's home at the foot of Tumbling Fork on the Tennessee side.  Although Chandler desired to help the men out, he explained that Kan Foster was better equipped to assist and that he had a larger place with an abundance of food.  Kan gladly assisted the travelers, providing them with meals, shelter and assistance, as well as as a little knowledge about the wild woods of Spivey.  During their short stay, one of the travelers was an artist who took notice of how beautiful Kan's daughters were, in particular Nancy, who was described as being "slender and graceful" like a Greek goddess. The artist sketched the entire Foster family at different intervals to include Kan's sister-in-law and her children.  Kan's Tub Mill was sold to the neighboring Tilsons, after which time was dismantled for parts to support an overshot wheel grist mill.  The Tilson's mill was donated to the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville.


NOTE: Tombstone photo BBpytel dated July 1, 2014.  Drawing of Kan Foster is taken from   "A Winter in the South"     Harpers Magazine, by David Hunter Strother, Dec. 1857, pg 173; Cornell University Digital Collection- MOA    I am Kan's 3rd great grand niece through his sister, Eleanor Foster [b. 1819].


Around 1962, Kanada's son, Emory, was interviewed by the Johnson City Press Chronicle.

The article, entitled    "There Were B’ars In Them Hills---And Not Too Long Ago, Either"      by Dorothy Hamill, offers reflections about his father, Kan, who was a pioneer / hunter / trader / storekeeper / lumber jack / grist mill operator of Coffee Ridge.


2.  FOSTER, Rebecca KERSAWN*   [unmarked - fieldstone]

b. 1818 - d. abt. 1879

d/o David Kersawn and Mary Lucille "Lucy" of North Carolina; w/o Kan Foster.

NOTE:  There are several spellings of Kersawn as follows:  Creason, Cason, Crissaun,  Kershawn, Crisson; 

photo of Kan and Rebecca when they were older circa abt. 1875 courtesy of Carrie OriIz.


plus several unmarked graves



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updated on 04/06/16