Cemeteries: Location, Location, Location...

By Graham Perry

The Tennessee Historic Cemetery Preservation Program continues to provide preservation assistance across the State. One successful site visit determined the boundary of a cemetery in Campbell County. Program Specialist, Graham Perry, was able to provide a resolution between a property owner and family member at the Boyd Cemetery after probing efforts to map out the cemetery.

Upon Perry’s visit, it was clear that a cemetery existed in the area, judging by a single obelisk which had toppled over. Knowing that often parties erroneously believe that the number of graves in a cemetery is equal to the number of markers, Perry probed the area, discovering a distinct line of at least seven unmarked graves. Further probing and manual dirt removal revealed several shaped stone markers with some graves and a likely perimeter was established. Both parties were very happy with the results, and they were able to easily determine the area that should be fenced to protect the cemetery from the landowner’s cattle. Furthermore, the family member offered to upkeep the cemetery in exchange for the erection of the fence by the landowner.

TCA 46-8 obligates a landowner to “protect” any family cemeteries that are known to exist on his/her property. What “to protect” means is not specified in the law and is open to interpretation; however, it stands to reason that permitting cattle to roam freely through a family cemetery is highly likely to cause damage and could be prosecuted as desecration. In such a case, a family member has every right to challenge a landowner. The good news is that the landowner offered to fence the cemetery based on the newly determined boundary.

Truly this case shows that there is middle ground between landowners and family members that can be reached without conflict. In essence, that is a primary goal of the THC cemetery program: To help find reasonable and amicable solutions between affected parties. Doing so bodes well for the protection of Tennessee’s cultural resources.

Cemeteries Recently Added to the Tennessee Historic Cemetery Register

Since the release of the Statewide Cemetery Map and the Tennessee Historic Cemetery Register in April 2023, the Tennessee Historical Commission has listed sixteen cemeteries to the Register. Thanks to the efforts of the public, new information and cemeteries are added to the Cemetery Map and Database daily.  

The new Tennessee Historic Cemetery Register listings are:

  • White Cemetery, Maury County. Listed on August 26, 2023
  • John Butler Tipton Cemetery, Monroe County. Listed August 27, 2023
  • Mt. Moriah Cemetery, Blount County. Listed August 27, 2023.
  • Marsee-Grub Cemetery, Claiborne County. Listed August 27, 2023.
  • Holly Springs-DeHart Cemetery, Monroe County. Listed October 24, 2023.
  • Alexander Greer Cemetery, Bedford County. Listed October 24, 2023.
  • Woods-Handly Cemetery, Franklin County. December 6, 2023.
One of the shaped stone markers discovered
One of the shaped stone markers discovered
 Grave layout at the Boyd Cemetery as determined by probing.
Grave layout at the Boyd Cemetery as determined by probing.