A connection to the past

August 23, 2019, The Murfreesboro Post, Jason Reynolds

Emily Ruth Dill (left) picks up her great-grandfather’s grave marker. also pictured are Dawn Brown, Murfreesboro Police Department Evidence Technician and Robbie Wall, Evidence Technician.

Emily Ruth Dill received quite a surprise – and a trip down memory lane – when a gravestone bearing her great-grandfather’s name turned up on Broad Street, at least 15 miles from where he is buried at Milton Cemetery.

A motorist hit the grave marker, which was lying in the street, on Aug. 6, the Murfreesboro Police Department said on Facebook. The department posted a photo of the grave marker in an effort to find a family member. The name on the marker is Rufus M. Baxter.

Althugh it’s hard to read, this grave marker is for Rufus M. Baxter, who was buried in Milton in 1939.

The motorist had first taken the grave marker to Stones River National Battlefield, thinking it was from there, the MPD said. When officials there said it was not affiliated with the battlefield, the motorist took the marker to the MPD.

Dill said she was taken by surprise when she learned the MPD was looking for her.

“I didn’t know what in the world they were talking about,” she said, adding it was kind of the motorist to take the marker to the authorities.

Calling this a big mystery, she said she is unsure how the grave marker appeared on Broad Street. Her great-grandfather’s grave in Milton has had a permanent headstone for approximately 80 years. She said the marker that showed up may have been a temporary marker used before the permanent headstone was installed.

The remnants of at least one, if not more, grave markers lie in this vacant lot on East Castle Street near the junction of South Academy and Broad Streets.

“Where that grave marker has been for 80 years is beyond me,” Dill said.

She said she does not believe the marker was moved as a result of mischief. Instead, her theory is that when the permanent marker was installed, the temporary one was tossed away somewhere. She heard speculation that a large number of old markers had been piled on a vacant lot on East Castle Street near the junction of South Academy and Broad streets. She said she looked around and indeed saw five or six markers there.

Dill said she will keep the grave marker, which now gives her a connection to her family’s past.

She said she does not know a great deal about Baxter. She does know that he owned a farm in Milton, where he lived all his life. He was a clerk for District 16, which she said was a precursor of the Rutherford County School Board, sometime around 1911. He showed horses “successfully,” but she is not sure of the details. For all those reasons, she said, he was a prominent man in the community in his day, something noted on his obituary.

Dill said she was born in 1961 and Baxter died in 1939, so her mother, Robbye Baxter Dill, would have been about 12 when he died.

Dill said that although she does not know much about her great-grandfather, she and her family still have a connection through agriculture and animals, in a way. Her brother, Jim Dill, raises cattle, and his daughter, Chloe Dill, once showed cattle. Emily Ruth Dill said she ran a dog grooming business for years, and she shows bantam chickens.

Remarking again on the mystery, she said, “It’s just kind of a weird situation, because how many grave markers end up in the middle of Broad Street in Murfreesboro.”

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