Cemetery Community Digital Collection gathers together a wide range of public records, newspaper articles, photographs, and oral histories that document the people and land of a large post-emancipation community located north of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, near Stones River National Cemetery. This rural, African American community began to form after the Civil War as formerly enslaved men and women resettled the area and soldiers who had served in the U.S. Colored Troops decided to put down roots where they mustered out.
Cemetery community covered a large expanse of land on which the Battle of Stones River was fought (December 31, 1862 – January 2, 1863). Prior to the war, this area comprised a mix of plantations and smaller farms. As agricultural production resumed after the war, African Americans began working the land as free people. Over the decades, many African Americans became landowners, and two settlement clusters emerged, called the Cedars and the Bottom. Three churches and a school located in these clusters gave the larger community stability and a distinctive identity.
After Congress authorized the creation of Stones River National Military Park in 1927, the War Department selected approximately 325 acres of land near Stones River National Cemetery as the park’s location. Although several landowners protested the taking of their properties, most of the African Americans residing in the Cedars were displaced between 1929 and 1932, when the park opened. Traces of the historic community are discernible in Stones River National Battlefield, but the remaining historic buildings, structures, and sites associated with Cemetery community are located outside the national park.
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