Friday, August 23, 2013

The Old Graves Upon Which Your New Baseball Stadium Will Be Built

Posted By on Fri, Aug 23, 2013 at 6:00 AM

I'm as excited as the next person about having baseball back in Sulphur Dell, but I noticed in The Tennessean article this tidbit:

The document includes an ambitious but tentative timeline that would see Metro Council approve the project in November so construction could begin next year. If things go according to the schedule, the ballpark would open months before Dean’s second term as mayor comes to an end.

That strikes me as the kind of timeline that may not be taking into account that that part of town is a giant graveyard, which, though mostly looted, may still contain bodies. I think most everyone knows that the old city cemetery on 4th Avenue South is actually the newer old city cemetery. The old, old city cemetery sat at roughly Jefferson and 4th Avenue North. Those bodies were supposed to have all been moved to the newer old city cemetery, but Nashville lore says that the Geist family kids remember playing among grave markers back behind the blacksmith shop.

And why was the old, old city cemetery placed there? Because it was already a massive burial ground.

Turn your attention to volume twenty-two of the Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge. We're interested in Article II, "Explorations of the Aboriginal Remains of Tennessee" by Joseph Jones, M.D. First Jones describes a mound "said to have been the mound upon which Monsieur Charleville had his store in 1714. [...] The mound is described as standing on the west side of the river, and on the north side of French Lick Creek, and about 70 yards from each [...] This mound also had been stockaded by the Cherokees between the years 1758 and 1769. Very large burying-grounds once lay between the mound and the river, extending thence westwardly to the creek." (p. 51-52)

The creek in question runs underground now, but the old Sanborn fire map from 1888 shows where it is—just south of Jackson. Which would seem to put the "very large burying-ground" right where the stadium complex is going.

Like I said, these graves, if there are still any, have been massively looted. I've read descriptions of Nashvillians picnicking near the mound in the 1800s in order to collect trinkets and skulls. And archaeologists, such as the aforementioned Dr. Jones, have been over that ground. Plus, parts of that area used to be a bustling business district.

Still, if I were making a timeline for a new stadium, I'd allow for the possibility of some old neighbors reappearing.

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