Bringing Back a Special Place
The historic site now known as Murfreesboro’s “Old City Cemetery” is located on the 300 block of E. Vine street. It is the oldest historic site in Murfreesboro and encompasses the buried archaeological site of the original First Presbyterian Church (1820), its burying ground (1820), and the city’s first public cemetery, opened in 1837. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this special place represents the early days of “Murfreesborough” and Tennessee. The original First Presbyterian Church was the location of significant social and political events and Civil War activities. Founding families, soldiers, the enslaved, and other early residents of the city are buried here. What should be a jewel of the city—a visual representation of our history and shared cultural heritage—had all but been forgotten.
For numerous decades, the cemetery has been deteriorating and the gravestones and monuments in dire need of attention. Proper non-damaging cleaning of the stones is a must if they are to be preserved. There are gravestones that are cracked, off-set, and lying flat on the ground. Gravestones and large broken tombs lie about the property and many are buried below the surface. Back in 2008, the cemetery was named one of Tennessee’s most endangered historic places by the Tennessee Preservation Trust, which noted the graves and architectural elements were suffering from “neglect and improper care.” The historic significance of this special place is not being shared with the community, our school children, or heritage tourists.
Since March 2017, volunteers of the Rutherford County Archaeological Society and community volunteers, in an agreement with the City of Murfreesboro, Parks and Recreation Commission, have been working hard for the sustainable revitalization and public interpretation of the Old City Cemetery site. A 501 (c)(3) nonprofit educational and charitable association, RCAS welcomes the participation of organizations, groups, and individuals to help with this important project. On-site volunteer opportunities include cleaning gravestones, re-survey, historical research, documentation, and helping staff open days, guided tours, and special commemorative events. With the dedicated efforts of the members of the Rutherford County Archaeological Society, community volunteers, and support from the public, it is our goal that this earliest piece of Murfreesboro–a historic treasure in our midst–will become a place for which the city and its citizens can be proud.
You can help us bring back this special place! To volunteer, please contact us at email@example.com or call 615-995-2979 .
Laura Bartel, M.A.
President, Rutherford County Archaeological Society
Director, Old City Cemetery Project