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Smyrna restores historic cemetery where former slaves are buried


Smyrna city leaders are making it a priority to restore a historic black cemetery at Mount Zion Church on Hawthorne Avenue. The property is located in the Rose Garden community of Smyrna, which is the city’s historic Black neighborhood. 

The cemetery sat invisible for years, but the city took it over in 2019 and has pumped $100,000 into it to clear trees, build a fence and wall, improve the landscape, and restore headstones. Documents show that Mount Zion Church was founded after the Civil War.

“The congregation got started in 1877. These were formerly enslaved people,” said Smyrna museum manager Jennie Eldredge. She went on to say that the earliest known burial occurred in 1903.“This cemetery is a place on the landscape that tells part of the African American history of Smyrna. This is a testament to their lives, their struggles, and accomplishments,” Eldredge said.

Smyrna councilman Travis Lindley spoke about the cemetery and said, “It was in a complete state of disrepair. You wouldn’t even recognize it. This (cemetery) was covered in probably 8 to 10 feet of brush. There were some very large oak trees that died. One of them had fallen over.”

Through the years, neighbors tried to maintain it, but they got older, and the work got to be too much.

In speaking about the restoration, Lindley said, “We had to get this right.”

Smyrna will host a dedication on Feb. 20 from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.For more information about the history of Mount Zion Cemetery, CLICK HERE.


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