Benevolent Society No. 11 . Forgotten Tennessee

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A few weeks ago a friend of mine had come into my part time job at the gym. While shooting the breeze my friend Mathew mentioned that he and his wife had stumbled upon and old and clearly forgotten cemetery. He gave me an idea of it’s whereabouts and a name. I went to work using Google searching for Benelovent Cemetery. Benev 93-Edit copy

My internet search was short and lead me to Benevolent Society No. 11 . Was a society and resting place for African Americans in Murfreesboro, TN. From what research I did I learned that the land for the Society was purchased in 1897 and has around 650 plots  of laborers, Doctors, and Veterans from World War 1 and the Spanish American War.

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Some of the members of the society were

  • Berry Seward was the first African American electrician in Murfreesboro.
    George C. Harden was a medical doctor and graduate of Meharry Medical College.
  • Dr. John McClellan, a medical doctor. He graduated from Meharry in 1880 and worked his entire career in Murfreesboro.
  • Dave Ransom was a railroad laborer and worked for the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Rail Road

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Beyond that I did not learn much else other than in 1931 the Society’s property changed hands. I wish I could tell you more about what happened to the Society and the cemetery and likely I will do more research into it. For now though I guess I will just post the photos I took today. Sadly this is what happens when we forget the past and who the past was. This cemetery is a sad example of why my photography is titled Forgotten Tennessee.

Below are my sources for information. Please visit them. If you the reader have more info motion please feel free to leave your remarks and or message me.

Shout out to Justin Stokes for coming along on this shoot.

Sources of info

Click to access benevolent-cemetery-presentation-4-26-14.pdf




18 thoughts on “Benevolent Society No. 11 . Forgotten Tennessee

  1. The cleaning up and restoring of this cemetery would be a great Eagle Scout project. Others have done similar cemeteries for their scout project. Mention it to the Middle Tennessee Boy Scout Council to pass along to all nearby troops. This one might be big enough to justify more than one Eagle project. Rutherford County Archives director can elaborate on previous projects of this nature.


  2. The Benevolent Cemetery is the most well known “forgotten” cemetery in Rutherford County! Our African American citizens, especially the older ones, are extremely familiar with this cemetery and its history. During the time of segregation, this was one of the largest African American cemeteries in the county. The Benevolent Society itself was a social organization, part of a national trend, to help black citizens in the post-Civil War years, especially the elderly. After the last member of the organization passed away in the late 1900s, the cemetery was deeded to Allen Chapel AME church in Murfreesboro. The cemetery was cleaned up in the 1990s and looked amazing for awhile. The church has full intentions to clean up and preserve this cemetery with support of the city, but because of the size of the cemetery and the complexity of preservation issues there, it has been a slow process.


  3. So sad, maybe you could get some eagle scouts interested in cleaning it up. We had a cemetery in bad repair and they cleaned and did such a great job. Just a thought.


  4. Who can I trust to send money for help on this project in Rutherford Co., TN for this AME Cemetery?
    I have one of my own in Humphreys Co., TN in need of helping hands to clean and care for a big family cemetery and I will send them $$ to help. I wish I lived there to give of my time but not to be.
    Also if there is family in the area they may be able to lend $ or a hand in the clean up but the Boy or Girl Scouts would be a fine group to present this idea to them. The Historical Society or Genealogy Group could also be in the mix to help.
    Thanks to those who brought this to our attention.
    God bless those who step forward in any way possible.
    T. G. – Calif.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m just a photographer who loves to photograph old and abandoned places. I am thinking of going to the owner and talking to him about helping out in a monetary way. Mu idea is to sell prints from my photos with 30% going to the church in a trust to pay for supplies to help clean up and keep the place up.


  5. Theres a man named james allen Gooch who is currently cleaning up this cemetery, u should go see it now, he gave me a tour back in the summer and even since then it looks immaculate now, bushhogged, trash cleaned up, it wont be forgotten much longer as u can see it now when going over the bridge on church st


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