Welcome! Friends of Nashville City Cemetery Newsletter

August 2016

Letter from the President

 Dear NCCA Members and Friends,

Following up our highly successful Memorial Day Dash partnered with the Adventure Science Center (thank you Clay Bailey and the Nashville Striders!), it is with great excitement that we announce the inaugural edition of our brand new e-Newsletter.  With tremendous thanks and appreciation to Board members, Paula Godsey (Editor) and Amy Blackman (Design).  This initiative has been in the works for several years now, and we cannot express enough our gratitude for the two of you making it a reality.  

We anticipate that this will allow us to keep us in much better contact with our membership about happenings on the grounds in real time, as well as on the horizon.  We will invite you to participate in upcoming activities and events.  And invite you as well to submit articles for consideration, or ideas for publication.  We hope to tie all of this in with our wonderful new APP, our Website, and our Social Media sites for maximum convenience to you and the general public.

If you haven't been out recently, please come by and tour the grounds.  We have a number of new hand-carved wooden grave markers (the fantastic Mr. Fred Zahn), a new circle of Dogwoods (thank you Metro Parks) in front of the Keeble building, beautiful plantings by the Master Gardeners, and more.  And we are getting ready to undertake another round of cleaning, restorations, and refurbishments as time, personnel and finances allow.  We also have in development several new tour scripts and hope to be able to offer frequent tours to interested groups for outreach and education.  Please consider becoming a docent.

Finally, please mark the date for our fun-filled Living History Tour at the site in October.  This year's theme is going to be particularly fun and enjoyable.  See you there!!!

With warm and humble regards.....

Historically yours,

Todd Breyer, landscape architect, NCCA President 2016

Events On The Horizon

A Taste of Wedgewood Houston – September 15
Purchase tickets at TasteOfWeHo.eventbrite.com.
For more information contact cary.allyn@vanderbilt.edu, 615-585-0080.
Hope to see you there!


 Living History Tour- Saturday, October 15

The Living History Tour enables visitors to see the past come alive as costumed characters tell their

Preservationists Project:
Marking the unmarked graves of the 19 Tennessee State Penitentiary inmates from 1833

The Nashville City Cemetery is now home to 19, newly produced and installed, red cedar headstones marking a group of Tennessee State Penitentiary inmates who died from a cholera outbreak during the summer of 1833.

These men were buried in individual graves, as opposed to a mass/pit grave, but were likely not the beneficiaries of any extra expense.
If they had markers originally, they were surely wood and not stone.  We know that "back in the day," there were quite a few wood markers at the NCC and although we don't have any evidence of what they specifically may have looked like, through research, we found an existing example, both from the mid-19th c., and from the middle-TN(ish) area.  From that example, we added a little personalization, and the result is what should be a historically faithful but modern representation of a wood grave marker from era, from this cemetery.  We also spent a great deal of time looking at historic fonts of the period and simplified a bit for what would have been appropriate on a wood marker of this type.  It is significant that these markers were among the least expensive of the options available, while still marking the grave in some way, and that it would be completely in conflict with such a utilitarian object to have a high-style "church pew end-esque" fancy carving on them, as that's just not what they ever were meant to be.  

Once complete, we had to closely examine a location for these new markers.  We know that the 19 were buried in the NCC in 1833.  We also know that in 1831, the city purchased additional land for the expansion of the cemetery.  This first expansion area consists of the sections now divided and known as 28e & 28f.  Further, we know that originally, Oak Av. & Central Av. did not connect at their western extents as they do today, and that they once ran straight, and ended at the west edge of the cemetery property.  As the sections of 28, bordered by Oak & Central, filled with more formal stone markers, it is reasonable to expect that the newer sections of 28, south of Central, were added for more "modest" interments.  This interpretation is strengthened by the evidence of a holding vault (which we know to have existed) in section 28f.  If a family wanted to pay for a fancy stone marker, they likely were also willing to pay for a spot further from the holding vault rather than one close to it.  So, all of that is to say, we know these men are there, somewhere, and we are as sure as we can be that they are in these sections, but, we also know there are quite a few other people buried in 28e & 28f, and we do not want to put these markers, errantly, on top of the wrong folks...  As the modern road is now relocated and the west end of Central Av. has been allowed to grow over, it was our decision to place the markers in this abandoned section of the road with the understanding that while they are not, directly, marking the prisoners' graves, they are also not erroneously marking somebody else's graves, and the men are close enough that they should have no trouble seeing and appreciating them from wherever they may be.

This project highlights well the philosophical challenge that we as "Preservationists" face at times.  It also highlights that "History" is almost never a straight-line clear record of events, so much as a researched, informed, interpretive, curvilinear narrative that connects an assemblage of disassociated crumbs...   In the management of the historic Nashville City Cemetery, the Metro Historical Commission must manage the needs of perpetual stewardship of those individuals entrusted to us; must manage the many facets of the site which make it such an important, educational, historic resource; and must actively manage an ongoing program of "improvements" in and about the cemetery property.  "History" is not a window, frozen in time, as much as it is a continuum, a constantly flowing river of change, and the greatest challenge of Preservation can be how and to what degree we permit and guide that change.  The Metropolitan Historical Commission, in cooperation with the Nashville City Cemetery Association, is very proud of the many many projects which have been done to restore and maintain all that the Nashville City Cemetery represents, and we hope that you will be interested enough to come and visit the cemetery soon!  We, all, very much appreciate your support!!!

Fred Zahn
Staff member for the Metropolitan Historical Commission

 what was the story behind
Margaret H. McCutchen’s tombstone inscription?

Listen to our own Fred Zahn with the Metro Historical Commission answer for WPLN.  curious.wpln.org

A City Cemetery Tour
An Unselfish Life–Elizabeth Porterfield Elliott
Script written by Fletch Coke 

I was born in Nashville November 20, 1860. I was the youngest child in my family and named for my mother. My father, Collins E. Elliott, was principal of the Nashville Female Academy, the largest girls’ school in the South. The War Between the States began when I was less than a year old, and our family, like so many others, was totally separated and changed.

Although he was from Ohio, Papa wholly supported the Southern cause. He said our family would “take no oath and give no parole”. He was sent to prison by the Federal officials and then exiled south. My brother Frank joined the Confederate Army. My sister Julia was sent to Papa’s family in Ohio. My other sisters, Susie and Mary, were exiled for trying to smuggle letters into Nashville from Confederate soldiers. We were all together when the war ended, but our once beautiful home, “Boscobel” on the Franklin Rd., had been badly damaged. Boscobel stood on forty-five acres and had eighteen rooms.  Fifteen hundred trees had been cut down and 36 doors removed to provide firewood for the freezing troops of both armies.

I had an independent spirit and realized that the past ideal of the woman’s destiny as wife and mother would not be appropriate for me. How excited I was when the State Normal School, to train professional teachers, was opened in the old University of Nashville buildings on Rutledge Hill. Thanks to the philanthropy of George Peabody, this became Peabody College, where I graduated when I was 21 years old. I’ve always been proud to be a member of the Peabody Alumni Association. I began teaching right away and I loved teaching the children all about the brave pioneers and the history of our city. Third and fourth graders were my favorites and I taught in the public schools for fifty years. I realized that as we older people passed on, those stories were being forgotten, so I wrote a book of all the tales I used in my classroom that my students had so enjoyed. “Early History of Nashville” was published by the school board and used as a textbook in the city schools.

As a teacher I knew that people learned by seeing and doing, so I was eager to rebuild Fort Nashborough. The Daughters of the American Revolution chapters took this as a project and we were able to dedicate that site in 1930. A speaker described the project as “the child of Miss Elliott’s heart and mind”, how proud I was!

I always wanted to be a member of the Tennessee Historical Society, but when it was organized in 1849, no women were allowed to join. The men had become a little more welcoming in1886, when we could attend alternate meetings, then in 1890, women accepted as full members. I served as an officer in the Society several years later.

I saw so many events in my long life, the end of one war, the World War, we women taking our place in the world, including our right to vote, the preservation of our historic places and our city of Nashville celebrating its 100th birthday. My marker states that I led an unselfish and useful life, and that was how I hope I will be remembered by future generations.

From the Tombstone
James Robertson

Nashville City Cemetery | P.O. Box 150733, Nashville, TN 37215 © Copyright 2016

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