Michelle Willard, Daily News Journal, October 25, 2015
MURFREESBORO — Evergreen Cemetery became Murfreesboro’s city cemetery when Dr. James Maney granted 20 acres to the city in 1872.
Since then it has grown to more than 90 acres and stands as a capsule of Tennessee history with many notable Rutherford countians making their final resting places there, including author Mary Noailles Murfree, Tennessee Gov. John Price Buchanan, Confederate Gen. Joseph B. Palmer and NFL coach Ken Shipp.
Other burials are notable more for the headstones the families chose to mark their loved ones’ graves.
Here are the stories of some of the most notable burials, statues and markers in the city-owned cemetery.
The Louisa School
The most interesting marker in Evergreen Cemetery isn’t a tombstone at all, but a statue.
Seen from Greenland Drive, a sculpture of a child between a mother and father marks not a grave, but the memory of the Louisa School.
The Louisa School was a facility for people with intellectual disabilities that operated on Highland Avenue. The facility has since changed names and locations — to Stones River Center on Memorial Boulevard — but the statue serves as a reminder.
Martha Collier (1870-1884) and Nama Collier (1870-1886)
The Collier cousins, Martha, 14, and Nama, 16, lie under large magnolias in Evergreen Cemetery.
“The Collier family ordered these monuments according to the likenesses of the cousins. Unfortunately they came back with the names reversed,” explained Mary Beth Nevills, education director at Oaklands Mansion.
She explained the markers are heavily ornamented with symbols from the late 1800s.
“The cross and anchor intertwined on Martha’s monument both represent Christ,” Nevills said. “The wreath stands for love and eternity.”
The fern leaves on Nama Collier’s marker represent immortality, the lily mourning and the cross Christ, she explained.
James D. Richardson (1843-1914)
A Confederate veteran and politician from Rutherford County, James Richardson was buried with all the pomp and circumstance befitting a Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite Masons of the Southern Jurisdiction.
When he died on July 25, 1914, Richardson received a “Knight Templar Kadosh” ceremony, which is reserved for Masons of the highest rank, according to an essay written by Jim Roberts, Richardson’s great-grandson.
The ceremony started at the stroke of midnight July 26, 1914, with two trains filled with Masons, who brought hundreds of condolence messages. Roberts said 150 Nashville Masons and another 1,000 people attended the funeral that began in the Central Christian Church on East Main Street.
“Nine candlesticks four-feet high stood in three triangles on the east, west and south sides of the coffin. Each was lighted, but the chapel was otherwise unlighted, except for fitful flashes of lightning that added to the weirdness of the scene,” said an article about the funeral from the DNJ archives.
Richardson was laid to rest July 27, 1914, in Evergreen Cemetery as a Master Mason.
Confederate Circle is the mass grave of more than 2,000 soldiers who died in the Battle of Stones River and other area skirmishes, Nevills said.
“There are men from nearly every Southern state buried here, most of them unknown,” Nevills said. Those who are known, less than 10 percent, are listed on the marble monuments flanking the central obelisk.
The Confederate soldiers were originally buried at Stones River National Battlefield. In 1867 and were moved to a cemetery 2 miles south of Murfreesboro on Shelbyville Highway.
“Confederate Circle was established in 1890 when this plot was granted to Gen. Joseph B. Palmer of the association of Confederate Soldiers Tennessee Division,” Nevills said, adding the Murfreesboro Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy moved the soldiers to their final resting place in 1891.
Gen. Joseph B. Palmer (1825-1890)
Resting under the shadow of a large obelisk draped in cloth, a symbol of mourning and grief, lies Confederate Gen. Joseph B. Palmer.
Palmer’s regiment fought in some of the most hellish battles of the Civil War, Stones River, Chickamauga, Atlanta and Gen. John Bell Hood’s fateful invasion of Middle Tennessee, according to the Rutherford County Historical Society. He was also part of the garrison surrendered at Fort Donelson in February 1862 and was recovered as part of a prisoner exchange. Please click here for more information regarding this fascinating native of Rutherford County.
After the war, Palmer returned to Murfreesboro where he practiced law for the remainder of his days.
Woodsmen of the World
Dotting the cemetery are tombstones that appear more at home in a forest than a graveyard.
Shaped like tree stumps, these stones mark the resting place of a member of Woodsmen of the World.
According to the insurance company, which is now called WoodmenLife, the program was discontinued in the 1920s because of cost.
The rusted remains of a tin obelisk stand on the edge of Evergreen’s pauper cemetery.
Only the shadow of a name, possibly “Carrie,” remains on the tombstone that is flanked by members of the Moore family.
Local legend has it that the pauper cemetery is also the cemetery started for the slaves from Oaklands plantation. No headstones are on the plot, only a seemingly open field.
Mary Noailles Murfree (1850-1922)
In 1864, Mary Noailles Murfree published her first of 25 books under the pen name Charles Egbert Craddock.
During the 1870s, Murfree wrote and published a number of stories appearing in various national journals. Her tales of regional life were often compared to the work of Mark Twain, Bret Harte, Joel Chandler Harris and William Dean Howells, according to DNJ archives.
After her death in 1922, she was interred in Evergreen Cemetery.
Charles Ready Jr. (1802-1878)
The son of one of the charter members of Rutherford County, Charles Ready Jr. makes his final home in Evergreen Cemetery.
Born in Readyville, on the Rutherford and Cannon county line, Ready served as Murfreesboro mayor, in the Tennessee House of Representatives and U.S. House of Representatives.
These stately buildings, such as the Hayes mausoleum, were erected by families as interment spaces for the dead.
Reach Michelle Willard at 615-278-5164, on Twitter @MichWillard orfacebook.com/DNJBusiness.