Murfreesboro tombstones bulldozed to make way for construction

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MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) – Historic headstones were bulldozed in Murfeesboro to make way for new construction.

As construction crews cleared the property off of New Salem Road for a new gun range and gun store, they say they mistakenly bulldozed the tombstones.

Once it was discovered, a stop-work order was issued and crews dug pieces of the tombstones out of a large dirt pile and then placed them on the site with a temporary fence around them.

As you could imagine disrupting the tombstones have made many folks upset.

“This is a southern heritage, southern history that we have. The problem we have now is that the developers are coming in are not from Tennessee they just really don’t care… it means nothing to them, but it means everything in the world to us,” Bret Hawkins told News 2.

Councilman Eddie Smotherman believes crews made a genuine mistake.

“I think what happened was an honest mistake and I’ve talked to the person who was actually operating the equipment and he feels great remorse of what’s happened here,” said Smotherman.

The councilman says the cemetery hadn’t been maintained for at least 50 years and that you couldn’t see the tombstones. He adds that the graves were also originally registered in the wrong location.

The tombstones belong to early settlers who actually signed a petition to have Murfreesboro and Rutherford County established making them even more significant to the history of the area, said Smotherman. 

Like many farms in the South, the Thompson farm had a family cemetery on the Property known as The Warren cemetery according to a relative.

“This is my 4th great aunt, Katherine Thompson Warren,” Steve Primm told News 2 as he looked over a piece of a tombstone.

He has been looking for his ancestors for decades, but this isn’t how he expected to find them.

“They came in and just bulldozed all the tombstones in a pile. You feel bad because this is family and you feel bad because this is Murfreesboro history, but you know these people when you are buried this is supposed to be your forever resting place and look at it, look at it we are in the middle of construction all around us,” said Primm.

John Thompson and his wife Katherine have been buried on their former farm for nearly 2 centuries, Primm explained.

“The Thompson’s were one of the original families in this area before it was a state. I know all about the history of this area and it just kind of hurts,” he said.

An Archeologist was on the grounds Tuesday and found at least 6 graves near where the markers are now.

Councilman Smotherman is working with family members to potentially relocate the graves closer to the greenway and put a historical marker up.

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