Tennessee Historical Commission Cemetery Preservation Program to Launch Statewide Cemetery Map this Fall

By Graham Perry, THC Cemetery Program Specialist

The mission of the Tennessee Historic Cemetery PreservationProgram is to identify, protect, and preserve Tennessee’s historic cemeteries while serving as an historical and cultural resource for the public. Goals include documenting historic cemeteries, providing cemetery-care advice to the public, and coordinating advisory committee efforts.

The program flourishes under the leadership of Historic Cemetery Preservation Specialist Graham Perry. Perry has paid special attention to working with specialist Andrew McDonagh at theTennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and East Tennessee State University graduate student Heather White,to ensure the release of the new statewide cemetery map. Since the upcoming Tennessee Historic Cemetery Register Program is coupled with the publication of this map, it has become crucial to expedite the process. It is scheduled to come online this fall.

Perry continually assists callers with various cemetery issues, a few of which have required significant attention. For example, he recently worked successfully with Wilson County officials and a host ofother interested parties to ensure that a long-forgotten cemetery near Mt. Juliet was protected from a potential building project. Unfortunately, the landowner had not been informed of the cemetery’s existence at the time of purchase. As a result of this experience, THC highly recommends that sellers of property and their representatives practice due diligence to ensure the recording of any known cemeteries on deeds and to disclose their existence to prospective buyers prior to transfer as required by state law (TCA 46-8-103,TCA 62-13-403). In this case, the cemetery was not listed on any previous deed, but had been identified in a previous survey. As a matter of practice, a surveyor is required by state law to do proper research to determine if a cemetery exists or has ever existed on theproperty (TCA 62-18-127).

Perry frequently makes public speaking appearances upon request, some of the more recent being at the Cane Ridge Community Center in Davidson County, the Todd Family Cemetery Organization in Murfreesboro, and the Lebanon Chamber of Commerce. In addition, cemetery visits have picked up noticeably. Some of the more recent visits include the Isaac Shelton Gravesite on the Appalachian Trail in Greene County, the Spring Hill Cemetery in Madison, the Pioneer Cemetery in Castalian Springs, and the Bruce Cemetery in Mount Pleasant. Perry always welcomes new information regarding any cemetery site regardless of size or location throughout the state. The THC Cemetery Database to-date includes more than 32,500 known cemeteries with more being added each day.

Unnamed cemetery nearly lost to time near Mt. Juliet, Tennessee

Unnamed cemetery nearly lost to time near Mt. Juliet, Tennessee

THC would especially like to thank members of the current Cemetery committee whose role it is to examine state statutes and suggest relevant changes in state cemetery law. Members include Dr. Beverly Bond (Memphis), Ms. Fletch Coke (Nashville), Dr. Kevin J. Hales (Knoxville), Mr. Nick Fielder (Former State Archeologist), Mrs. Loni Harris (Jackson), and Mr. Phil Hodge (State Archeologist).

Shelton Graves, Greene County Tennessee.

Shelton Graves, Greene County Tennessee.