Preserving the Past: Murfreesboro's Benevolent Cemetery and Its Storied Legacy

May 06, 2024 at 08:29 pm by WGNS News

WGNS' Scott Walker interviewed Margaret McKinley and Wilma McLean from the AAHSR - hear below.


MURFREESBORO, TN - An almost hidden plot of land along the railroad tracks and next to the bridge on South Church Street near Middle Tennessee Boulevard in Murfreesboro is where the 8-acre Benevolent Cemetery stands as a silent witness to over a century of history... That was Margaret McKinley, secretary of the African American Heritage Society of Rutherford County (AAHSR). McKinley told WGNS the cemetery, which was established in 1897 is now owned by the Allen Chapel AME Church.


This sacred ground serves as the eternal resting place for a diverse array of individuals, including former educators, farmers, and veterans... It also serves as the final resting place for local civil rights leaders.

The cemetery has evolved into a poignant testament to the lives and legacies of those who found solace in its grounds where approximately 320 people are buried, some of whom are in unmarked graves.

Over the decades, the Benevolent Cemetery has accumulated a rich tapestry of stories, intertwined with the struggles and triumphs of generations past. While the cemetery no longer accepts new burials today, its hallowed grounds bear witness to the memories etched in stone, both marked and unmarked. In the lush greenery lie remnants of history, with large sections of limestone dotting the landscape, which rendered certain areas of the cemetery unusable years ago.

As time marches on, efforts to preserve and honor the legacy of the Benevolent Cemetery continue. While the landscape may become marred by time, the spirit of resilience and remembrance endures, ensuring that the stories of those interred within its confines will not fade into obscurity... That was AAHSR board member Wilma McLean who is organizing a book of obituaries for those who were buried at the cemetery.

It's equally important to note that additional history involving African American families in Rutherford County can be found at both the Evergreen Cemetery and the Stones River National Cemetery in Murfreesboro, where special sections were marked in years past...

This Saturday morning at 10, the African American Heritage Society of Rutherford County will place flowers on the graves of those buried at the Benevolent Cemetery, off of South Church Street in Murfreesboro.

On May 18, 2024, guests are invited to visit First Baptist Church on East Castle Street to watch a special documentary and to learn more about the African American Heritage Society of Rutherford County.

More Information:

  • See the list of marked graves at the Stones River National Cemetery HERE.
  • You can find more information on Section M at the Evergreen Cemetery HERE.
  • Benevolent Cemetery (More Information)
  • Search Cemeteries and Find Grave Sites Here
  • African American Heritage Society of Rutherford County Website and Facebook.