Conservation Work at the Bledsoe-Beloit Cemetery in Castalian Springs

By Graham Perry

In October 2022, a successful restoration project took place involving two box tombs located at the Bledsoe Pioneer Cemetery at Bledsoe’s Fort Historical Park in Castalian Springs. The issue at the cemetery, currently managed by the Bledsoe Lick Historical Association, was that the box tombs had partially collapsed with pieces broken and were in a dangerous condition for cemetery visitors.

The cemetery is of key historical importance to Sumner County and Tennessee History, as a tangible link to one of Middle Tennessee’s earliest pioneer settlements. Revolutionary War Veteran Anthony Bledsoe was buried in this cemetery in 1788 after having been shot by Native Americans as he and a friend rushing back to the settlement to warn other residents of an impending attack.

Bledsoe Lick Historical Association hired CCUS Cemetery Conservator Mike Alexander for the project, which began on October 11th. A member of the Cemetery Conservators for United Standards (CCUS), Alexander is one of only a handful of cemetery conservators available for restoration work across the state. As one can imagine, conservation work is strenuous, time consuming, and requires specific supplies and tools and experience. THC is in the active process of locating more specialists who represent that they do cemetery restoration work.

Initially, THC was contacted by Bledsoe Lick Historical Association after another cemetery conservator was unable to complete the task. Historic Cemetery Preservation Specialist Graham Perry provided the association with THC’s list of recommended conservators. After contacting Alexander, work began on October 11. Using a tractor and other forms of heavy equipment, Alexander’s team was able to gather the heavy limestone pieces, place them back into position, and secure them to avoid future collapses that could otherwise result in injury to patrons.

The recent experience at the Bledsoe Pioneer Cemetery is a great example that while a cemetery may look beyond repair, they are often fixable by a certified cemetery conservator.

Image of box tombs prior to repair
Box tombs as they looked prior to the repair, note they have sunken in the ground over time. Portions of the tombs were not initially visible and had to be recovered to complete the work. (Photo by Mike Alexander)
Box tombs after repair
Box tombs as they appeared just after repair was completed. (Photo by Mike Alexander)