Searching for the Past

The Daily News Journal, February 27, 2011

Carlocksville was located near the present-day community of Big Springs in the southeast corner of Rutherford County.

Rutherford County’s Archivist John Lodl pushed through the underbrush on a warm winter’s morning to discover a long-lost gravestone staring back at him slightly cock eyed.

The stone is part of an equally long-lost cemetery hidden in a cedar glade off Manchester Highway near the now defunct town of Carlocksville, which is better known as the Big Spring community.

Lodl found himself in this distant part of southeastern Rutherford County after Colleen Dwyer wandered into the Rutherford County Archives about six months prior and told him she may know the location of a black cemetery.

Lodl has been working for the last two years on the five-year project to locate every black cemetery in the county with the help of the Bradley Academy Museum and Cultural Center in Murfreesboro.

“There is a cemetery book for Rutherford County, but there are very few black cemeteries in it,” Lodl said.

The archivist is using historic records, African-American churches and citizens to locate as many black cemeteries as possible.

“We will then publish a book through the Rutherford County HIstorical Society of these findings,” he said.

Lodl may have just found another cemetery to help keep history alive for the nearly forgotten of the community.

The single gravestone is likely associated with a much larger cemetery that grew up with Carlocksville in the years after the Civil War.

Settled originally in the late 1700s, Carlocksville was a stop on the turnpike, which later became Manchester Highway, Margaret M. Powell wrote in the Rutherford County Historical Society’s Winter 1984 publication.

“By 1878 the population was 1,163 of which 200 were blacks, who came and quickly formed a community of their own,” Powell wrote, adding the black community was located west of the town between the turnpike and coach road.

“A few homes were built …” Powell wrote. “They had big families – were strong and hard working and blessed with many talents.”

But as the years passed, the children of these big families moved on and Carlocksville slowly returned to the cedar glade.

“Homes were deserted and fell into decay,” Powell wrote. “The school went as the students did and was torn down when the pike was widened in 1936.”

The people may have left but the cemetery stayed leaving one solitary gravestone to mark its presence.

The overgrown cemetery was rediscovered by Dwyer, who lives across the highway and rides horses with her husband John through the forests along Manchester Highway.

She spent summers in her youth in this section of the county visiting her aunt and playing on the family farm. During her childhood, she heard stories about the black community that had once thrived across the road from her family’s farm.

When she stumbled across Lodl’s project, she invited him out to take a look.

Rutherford County Archivist John Lodl looks at a gravestone hidden in a cedar glade off Manchester Pike.

Rutherford County Archivist John Lodl looks at a gravestone hidden in a cedar glade off Manchester Pike.

So far he has documented about 150 black cemeteries in the county, but there are countless more out there waiting in the underbrush to be rediscovered and kept alive for the community.


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