Old Glory

Nashville City Cemetery, Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville City Cemetery, Nashville, Tennessee

WILLIAM DRIVER

BORN IN SALEM, MASSACHUSETTS

MARCH 17, 1803

DIED IN NASHVILLE TENNESSEE

MARCH 3, 1886

William Driver is buried in the Nashville City Cemetery at Nashville, Tennessee. Driver was an adventurous sea captain. Of his exploits one is noted on his gravestone—the rescue of a large number of descendants of the Bounty from Tahiti back to the Pitcairn Island:

A MASTER MARINER. SAILED TWICE AROUND THE WORLD, ONCE AROUND AUSTRALIA. REMOVED THE PITCAIRN PEOPLE FROM SICKNESS AND DEATH IN TAHIETA [sic] FOR TO THEIR OWN ISLAND HOME SEPT. 3, 1831. THEN 69 IN NUMBER, NOW 1200 SOULS.

Driver was born in Salem, Massachusetts, and became a sailor at a young age. Before he first set sail, he was presented with an American flag that had been lovingly stitched together by his Mother and some of “the girls” of Salem. The flag was for him to take along his sea voyages. What Driver is best remembered for is how much he loved that flag. He cherished it and nicknamed it “Old Glory”. Driver was the first to refer to our flag with that nickname. It stuck and has become a term of endearment for our flag ever since. The scroll that wraps around his tree-stump gravestone notes his sea adventures but also his love for his flag:

HIS SHIP HIS COUNTRY

AND HIS FLAG

OLD GLORY

After Driver’s wife died, he moved with his small family to Nashville. He remarried and had nine more children. During the Civil War, Driver who was loyal to the Union took care to guard and protect the flag that was so dear to him. To hide it from Confederate soldiers, he sewed it into a quilt for safekeeping. Once Nashville was safely in Union hands, he removed it from the quilt and even flew it over the State Capitol building.

After Drive’s death, March 3, 1886, his beloved flag was given to his daughter. Years later “Old Glory” was donated by his family to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., where it is on display next to the Star Spangled Banner.

Driver’s tombstone is a white-marble tree-stump. The dominant symbol on the face of the gravestone is an anchor. The anchor is an ancient Christian symbol that has been found in early catacomb burials.  The anchor was used by early Christians as a disguised cross.  The anchor also served as a symbol of Christ and his anchoring influence in the lives of Christians.  Just as an anchor does not let a moored boat drift, the anchoring influence of Christ does not allow the Christian life to drift. The anchor in this case, however, is most likely a nod to William Driver’s career as a seaman.

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