The Roulhac-Hill Cemetery, which is the resting place of the founders of La Vergne, was recently discovered to be unkept and full of weeds.
A Facebook post brought the issue to light and almost immediately, La Vergne residents James and Mindy Adamson jumped into action.
“I’ve lived in Rutherford county for the last 20 years, a few of those years in La Vergne,” James said. “My wife and I graduated from La Vergne High School. If the Marine Corps has taught me anything, it’s pride.”
He said that the pride he felt meant to him and his wife, that he needed to step up.
“I felt if that were my family, I would be ashamed,” James said. “But after reading a bit about the absence of any local family, I felt bad that no one cares anymore. Coincidentally, my wife and were talking about our ideas about what happens after death. (Was that a) coincidence?”
He said he is “doing a bit of research about caretaking and headstone care, so I can take proper care, without disturbing or damaging the headstones.”
While La Vergne does not have a “city” cemetery, there are dozens of old family cemeteries throughout the town, according to the city’s website.
City spokesperson Anne Smith said that now, the official count of cemeteries in La Vergne numbers 22. Of those, 12 are being mowed by the city, according to Smith. There are a number of others around town that the city hasn’t recognized.
According to the website “Rutherford County Tennessee Cemeteries,” there are 38 cemeteries in La Vergne, as well as 13 that are identified as La Vergne, but located in Davidson County. Those cemeteries were enumerated by the Rutherford County Historical Society in 1975.
However, when that information was gathered, city officials could identify at least four more cemeteries not recorded in the cemetery source, including Batey-Rowland, Mason, Roulhac-Hill, and Franklin cemeteries.
According to the website, the city has compiled the names of 51 separate cemeteries from various sources including county records, books, word-of-mouth, and observation.
In 2008-09, city historian Margie Murphy put together a document listing cemeteries still in La Vergne. It listed 21 cemeteries, but they are not all the same ones as the city leaders are counting now.
Mayor Jason Cole said the issue of the city mowing private cemeteries was discussed at the city’s planning retreat.
While the board of mayor and aldermen agreed that something needed to be done, they are aware that the cemeteries must be mowed.
“I know of two cemeteries that cars have crashed through,” Cole said, noting that the families of those buried in the cemetery should be responsible for the maintenance. “It’s not just the mowing. There are fence repairs, headstone repairs, tree removal, things like that.”
Cole said the city is searching for a title company that could help locate owners of the cemeteries so those owners could begin to take care of the cemeteries themselves.
There are two cemeteries that are noted as Waldron Cemeteries. Calls, texts and emails to Alderman Dennis Waldron about whether relatives are buried in the cemeteries and whether his family would take over maintaining them, were not returned.
City mowing may stop
Often, the cemeteries are family plots that have been forgotten over the years. Cole said that the practice of the city mowing the lots should stop.
“Number one, this is not a service of the city,” Cole said. “It’s private property and public funds shouldn’t be going to mow private property.”
Also, he continued, by finding an owner, the city can help “connect a family back to their heritage. They can make connections and those ties may help in the long run.”
The cost for mowing the cemeteries is not available because it is broken down into mowing, personnel and other line items in the budget.
Cole said that the city has budgeted $10,000 to find a title company and reaching out to those who own the cemeteries.
There is a line item in the 2021-22 budget that is strictly for cemeteries, Cole said. It falls under the city administrator budget and will be for the title search.
“Hopefully, we will be taking first steps in the journey of locating the owners,” Cole said. “We will begin this budget year and in subsequent years, get each one. How do you eat and elephant? One bite at a time.”
For more information about city history and cemeteries in the area, go to https://tinyurl.com/kbpfezxt.