Flashback Frank - Cemeteries

Dec 09, 2021 at 08:00 am by Dalton Barrett

Did you know there are more than 1,100 cemeteries and graveyards

in Rutherford County, Tennessee? Yep, 1,100 cemeteries and
graveyards and seemingly more being discovered each week.

The difference in a cemetery and graveyard is simple. A graveyard is

associated with a church. A cemetery is NOT associated with a

Daily, we drive past massive cemeteries such as Evergreen in
Murfreesboro, Roselawn in Florence, Mapleview in Smyrna, the
Benevolent Cemetery on South Church Street. But we also drive past
small, small family plots, some as small a one single solitary grave.
Sometimes we drive past a graveyard or a cemetery that isn’t even
marked and hasn’t been cared for in decades, perhaps even lost to

In the 1970s, late Rutherford County Historian Ernie Johns and others
from the Rutherford County Historical Society undertook the
painstaking task of documenting almost 800 cemeteries in Rutherford
County. These volunteers documented these 800 cemeteries the old
fashioned way – they trudged through the briars and brambles and
wrote down each and every grave they could find using maps, paper
and pencils.

Today technology allows the world to view and share incredible
information helping preserve and honor those whom have gone

Beginning in 2014 Rutherford County Government and the Middle
Tennessee State University Center for Historic Preservation along with
the volunteers of the Rutherford County Historical Society created a
digital survey of the original 800 cemeteries mentioned in the survey
from the 1970s and simply kept finding more and more cemeteries.

The new digital survey helps local planning departments make better
decisions concerning land use and also helps property owners know
more about what may be in the back yard.

Lodl explained the information will then be shared with local planning
departments so future development can avoid destroying historic

Honestly, the volunteers of the Rutherford County Historical Society
have done a very nice job preserving our local cemeteries. A couple of
our volunteers spend seemingly every waking minute using
chainsaws, weed eaters, scrub brushes and other tools to preserve
and honor these forgotten plots.
We’ve had dozens of victories, uncovering and preserving these
forgotten cemeteries. We’ve worked to educate property owners and
developers the proper and legal way to build a around or move a

cemetery. Yes, the penalties for destroying a cemetery include fines
and jail time.

Our website and Facebook page receive probably three-to-five
messages each week wanting to know more about this or that family
plot. From time-to-time we have someone visit the Ransom School
House Museum (the headquarters Historical Society at 717 North
Academy Street) bringing photos of a headstone they found in the
brush in their subdivision.
We also take action when we hear of a cemetery being desecrated by
vandals. Or development.

Want to see the interactive map of the more than 1,100 cemeteries
and graveyards? Visit www.rutherfordtnhistory.org, look along the
top navigation bar and click ‘Historic Cemetery Map’.
Do YOU know of a small family plot that has been neglected or is
endangered by a new development? Reach out to the Rutherford
County Historical Society at rutherfordtnhistory@gmail.com or stop
by the Ransom School House, 717 North Academy Street near
downtown Murfreesboro any Saturday morning between 9AM and

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