Rebecca Woodward Eckle (8/25/1825-4/26/1880)
One of the most tragic burials in Old Gray—Rebecca Woodward Eckle (8/25/1825-4/26/1880) was murdered by her 26-year-old son Yell. Yell, a tinsmith by trade, was said to be a decent man until he became inebriated. On that fateful spring day, he came home drunk and was being abusive to his wife. Their home adjoined his parents. Hearing the disturbance, Rebecca came down and, in an attempt to keep him from harming the two small children, apparently slapped him. His wife ran to call someone from her mother’s house across the street. When Rebecca stepped out onto the porch, Yell grabbed a crib slat and hit her from behind at the base of the neck. She fell and died immediately. He was taken to jail, alternately crying, raging, and generally uncomprehending.
The next day, sober, he was taken from the jail to view his mother’s body. He looked down at her and said, “Did I do that?” At the hearing two weeks later, he was sentenced to seven years in the penitentiary. While waiting for the train to Nashville along with a group of convicts who were returning from labor at Coal Creek, Yell remarked to the officer that he hoped and expected to walk the streets of Knoxville again but in different circumstances, and a different man.
We don’t know if that ever happened. Yell seems to have disappeared from news after that date; we haven’t found even a death or burial notice.
Rebecca Eckle was 55 years old at the time of her death. During her thirties, she had lost four children, all before the age of one year. Her husband, William K. Eckle, was a builder and architect. He died seven years later at age 77 and is buried beside her in Old Gray.
Their surviving daughter Minnie was 14 at the time of Rebecca’s death. Minnie Eckle Hunt was the grandmother of one of Knoxville’s most colorful, beloved and world-traveled citizens, Martin Condon Hunt, Jr., who died in 2014 one month shy of 95. Jack Neely wrote a beautiful tribute to Martin for the Metro Pulse. Sadly, the complete Metro Pulse archive, a rich trove of Knoxville history, was deleted from the Internet by the KNS in 2015.