MT. OLIVET CEMETERY

MT. OLIVET CEMETERY

This information come from the web site  www.https://Tngenweb.org

This is just a bit of the history of Jackson that so many do not know. To get more information  check out the web site.  In  this Bicentennial year it is important we know all the facts. Mt.Olivet Cemetery is beautiful. It is full of historic information for all of us that like visiting, learning and respecting our past. I am going to repeat myself we can not change the past but we can learn from the past.

Mt. Olivet Cemetery is a ten-acre, African-American cemetery established in 1885 on East Forest Avenue in Jackson, Madison County, Tennessee. Located approximately halfway between two major north/south thoroughfares (Highland Avenue and North Royal Street), it is within 1½ miles north of the Madison County Courthouse (NR 395). East Forest Avenue also lies nearly at equal distances from the county’s two main east/west transportation routes, Interstate 40 and Highway 70/1.

Situated within a working-class and lower middle-class residential neighborhood of modest, frame houses, most of which were built after the establishment of the cemetery, Mt. Olivet Cemetery is shielded from the busy commercial traffic of Highland Avenue, two blocks to the west and North Royal Street, three blocks to the east. On the north side, a twenty-two acre undeveloped parcel separates the cemetery from the Briarcliff subdivision. In its quiet setting, the cemetery retains a visual identity consistent with an early twentieth century cemetery located outside city boundaries, and, if the tombstones were not present, the grounds could be mistaken for a park.

The entrance is on East Forest Avenue in the center of the cemetery’s southern road frontage, through chain link gates supported by brick pillars painted white. Inset into the left pillar is a concrete memorial plaque dated October 20, 1965 recognizing the cemetery association officers: Mrs. Capitolia Barham, President, Mrs. Vasoline Love, Vice President, Mrs. Maude Hunt, Secretary, Mrs. Carrie Diggs, Assistant Secretary, and Mr. Shellis Lane, Treasurer. A five foot high chain link fence, circa 1970, protects the cemetery along East Forest Avenue and extends north from each corner toward the north, wooded end of the cemetery. On the west side, the fence ends at a 1940s concrete block wall, over six feet high at the cemetery’s north end, which continues into the wooded area. (NC, since the majority of the resource is less than fifty years old.)

The cemetery gates open onto an original historic dirt and gravel driveway aligned on a north/south axis through the center of the parcel facing the wooded, overgrown north end of the cemetery. The main driveway forms a reverse “P” shaped loop with separate lung-shaped loops intersecting on the right and left sides. At the intersection of the two loops sits a small approximately 6′ x 6′ concrete block service building, built circa 1960 (NC, due to construction date), within the cemetery’s boundaries. All roads appear to date to the cemetery’s formation and contribute to the overall integrity of setting and landscape conveyed by the cemetery. Scattered hackberry, elm, sycamore, maple, and cedar trees dot the west and east fence lines and the “P” loop driveway. Large magnolia and cedar trees accent the east and west sides. Most trees have over fifty years growth, dating to within the period of significance. A five foot high chain link fence, circa 1970, protects the cemetery along East Forest Avenue and extends north from each corner toward the north, wooded end of the cemetery. On the west side, the fence ends at a 1940s concrete block wall, over six feet high at the cemetery’s north end, which continues into the wooded area. The wooded, uncleared portion of the cemetery, occupying approximately one-fifth of the site, contains some marked graves; however, according to oral history traditions, it is primarily a “potters field.”

Mt. Olivet is the largest, private African-American cemetery in the city and is still in use. Approximately 28 percent of the burials are post-1951. In March 1885 the Trustees of Mt. Olivet Cemetery (Wade Hampton, George Collier, Live Brown, C. H. Lea, J. C. Watson, H. N. Snow, C. Wells, Lawrence Ellison, and Jack Saunders) purchased 7.83 acres for the cemetery from A. C. White. The land was on the northeastern edge of town, just beyond the city limits at that time. In 1895 the city council added four acres to Mt. Olivet and closed Eastside (colored) Cemetery. Years later, when bodies were removed from Eastside in order to convert the land to Centennial Park (and eventually to a school campus), those deceased were likely re-interred at Mt. Olivet as it was “the principal burial ground for the black citizens of Jackson for many years.” It was especially popular with the growing upper middle class and professional segment of the local black community from 1890 to 1930. Prominent burials include doctors, ministers, businessmen, a lawyer, and many educators.Based on a 1995 survey of extant cemetery grave markers, the earliest marked burial is that of Ellen Hurt who died in 1885 at age fifty-three. Twenty-four marked burials were prior to 1890. Judia Bomar’s tombstone reflects a birth year of 1787 – the earliest of any marked grave in Mt. Olivet. 

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