SMYRNA, Tenn. - Rutherford County historians plan to use new technology to solve a big mystery: Whatever happened to the old cemeteries and family burial plots that once dotted the landscape across Rutherford County?
In the 1970s, Rutherford County historian Ernie Johns and others from the Historical Society of Rutherford County took pains to document nearly 800 cemeteries in the county, most of them plots on old family farms.
"He literally went door-to-door knocking and marking them on a map," Rutherford County Archivist John Lodl said of Johns' efforts decades ago.
Historians now want to use new technology to digitally map all the old cemeteries and family burial grounds in the county.
The digital map of the burial sites will be shared with local planning commissions so historic cemeteries won't be destroyed by future development, Lodl said.
"The county and developers will know exactly where cemeteries are and we can protect our heritage and our history," he said.
Until recently, Rutherford County has been rural and marked by the family farm. Much has changed as the families and the farms have left over the last 200 years and the county has grown in population. But the cemeteries and old family burial plots have remained much the same.
Just last week Lodl, a guide from the Tennessee National Guard base and historians and researchers located and marked the large Cannon Cemetery. The cemetery was larger than most family burial grounds that only contain a handful of graves.
Cannon Cemetery had more than 200 headstones marking the burial of some of the first families of Rutherford County, Smyrna historian Toby Francis said. The cemetery also contained the graves of at least three Revolutionary War veterans and even possibly the remains of Hugh Lawson White, A Whig party candidate for president of the U.S.