Park Road (located directly off Highway 231) Murfreesboro Rutherford County Tennessee USA
Cemetery notes and/or description: For more information about the Benevolence Cemetery, call Allen Chapel AME Church, 893-7842.
It's been said that a person could pick his way through the scrubby field off Highway 231 and never know he was stepping on and over the remains of 320 souls. Johnson grass and other weeds obscure the stones marking hundreds of graves, mostly of African-Americans. Pushing aside the weeds, the names on some of the stones are difficult to read. Some date back 100 years to when the cemetery was new and its owners, the members of the Benevolent Lodge No. 11, were many and strong. The Benevolent Lodge was an African-American club in Murfreesboro made up of members who agreed to care for one another in illness and in mourning. Several people buried in the there apparently served in the Spanish-American War, in which the United States joined Cuban rebels in the island's fight for independence from Spain in 1898. Part of the lodge's legacy - the club itself is defunct - is its cemetery, which was deeded over to Allen Chapel AME Church by one of the lodge's oldest living members, Mary Goodman. The Rev. Melvin E. Hughes of Allen Chapel said his congregation periodically received checks from local funeral homes because they had buried someone in the Benevolent Cemetery. That helped pay for the upkeep, Hughes said. a few years ago, funeral homes stopped burying people in the cemetery, and the checks stopped coming. Since then, the weeds have grown tall, the graves have become obscured, and it has become easy to dismiss the cemetery as a field of weeds. The church is in the midst of a major building program and simply does not have the money to keep up the cemetery. It's hoped that interest in the cemetery's history and importance to the county's African-American community will spark donations to help pay for its upkeep. As for now, the church has only had offers from people wanting to purchase the land for business use.