So, I went out to Calvary Cemetery to make sure that some folks were in there who I thought were in there for my big bombing project, and I ran into a priest who was just a joy to talk to about history stuff.
But one of the things we talked about was the old Catholic cemetery and he had it in a slightly different spot than I know Fort Negley thinks it is. He told me a delightful story about what a problem they had getting the Irish Catholics in town to stop burying their dead in the old cemetery illicitly.
But, if the Catholics are right about where the old Catholic cemetery was, then what was where Fort Negley thinks the old Catholic cemetery was?
My wonder…and I’m not sure how to go about figuring this out, since maps of the cemetery are so hard to find (really old maps, I mean) is whether the cemetery at first stretched on both sides of the tracks. The city cemetery, I mean.
Here, I made a map:
Okay, so the rectangle made by the red and blue lines, the smallest rectangle, is kind of the obvious looking old boundary of the city cemetery. This also matches up with problems the owner of one of the business I know of has had in the upper northwest corner of having gravestones on his property. The yellow circle is very loosely where Fort Negley has thought the Catholic cemetery was based on old maps and an old picture they have that shows tombstones in that area.
The gray circle is where the Catholic priest at Calvary showed me the old Catholic cemetery was. And you can see clearly why they had to get everyone out of there when the land got eminent domained for the railroad. They believe they moved 700 bodies out of the cemetery (though whether they got all the Irish people who were illicitly putting bodies in it, who knows?
So, if the Catholic cemetery was where the gray circle is, roughly, who was where the yellow circle was? Whose gravestones are in that picture?
I have a guess. It’s a guess of pure speculation, and you should not put any faith in it at this point, since it’s just a guess. But if you look above and to the right of the yellow circle, in the city cemetery, you’ll see a big grassy area full of unmarked graves. Those are, by and large, African American graves. Jack Macon, for instance, is in there someplace.
But pre-Civil War Nashville had a small but vibrant community of free people of color. There was some black wealth. Not a ton. But some. There were some black people who could have afforded headstones. Again, not many, but some. Would those headstones have been separated from the grave markers of wealthy whites? Maybe.
Would they have been easily lost due to racist neglect and the needs of the railroad? Yes.
I mean, you can go in the city cemetery and find markers for white people who died in the 1840s and 1850s. But markers for black people with a little money? Again, I’m not talking very many. Maybe even as few as ten or fifteen families, but the photo doesn’t show that many markers, maybe only as many as ten or fifteen families’ worth.
And if that is the old western edge of the black part of the cemetery, is it so hard to believe that’s where they opened the ground and put the black workers from Fort Negley?
Was the old city cemetery originally the size of the red box?