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Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - NASHVILLE SCENE WEBSITE

Phillips The Nashville City Cemetery's Living History Tour: People Were Dying to Get In

Posted by Betsy Phillips on Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 10:00 AM

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On Saturday, I and hundreds of my fellow cemetery enthusiasts all showed up at the Old Nashville City Cemetery for this year's living history tour. I know unbridled enthusiasm is totally square, but allow me a moment of complete un-hipness.

It was awesome. Folks were lined up from the cemetery gates almost to the motorcycle shop. Mayor Dean was shaking hands. And the cemetery was packed. The tours had between 20 and 30 people in each group, but there were a few times when the trail of folks looked more like a thick snake winding through the cemetery.

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I overheard one of the people taking money say she thought they had about 300 people go through last year and, by the time we got to the gate, 600 people had already gone through. She was bragging about the new marketing person for the Nashville City Cemetery Association and she was not alone. Our tour guide also remarked about the great job the new marketing person had done.

I thought the reenactors were excellent this year too. I mean, they're always good, but I don't know if it was just the energy of the overwhelming crowds or what, but the reenactors just seemed really spot-on this year and very passionate about the Nashvillians they were portraying. And they were all really informative about their characters, the cemetery, and their involvement in reenacting.

Quite a few people mentioned that they think that the Nashville City Cemetery may be the oldest city cemetery in the nation that was completely integrated, by race, religion and creed. If you were a Nashvillian, you could go in the cemetery.

Oh, and let me tell you the coolest thing! People in the cemetery who had wooden markers (which, of course, have long since deteriorated) are getting new wooden markers. I have been to a lot of cemeteries in Davidson County and I know of only one with a wooden marker still standing. I am truly excited that folks will be able to go to the City Cemetery and see this form of grave marking carried on.

All in all, it was extraordinary — and I hope that people getting their introduction to the cemetery will come back and poke around some more on their own. There's a lot of cool stuff, and the tour only barely began to touch on it. (You can see more pictures over at my blog.)

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