Searching for the Past
Rutherford County's Archivist John
Lodl pushed through the underbrush on a warm winter's morning to
discover a long-lost gravestone staring back at him slightly
The stone is part of an equally long-lost cemetery hidden in a
cedar glade off Manchester Highway near the now defunct town of
Carlocksville, which is better known as the Big Spring
Lodl found himself in this distant part of southeastern
Rutherford County after Colleen Dwyer wandered into the
Rutherford County Archives about six months prior and told him
she may know the location of a black cemetery.
Lodl has been working for the last two years on the five-year
project to locate every black cemetery in the county with the
help of the Bradley Academy Museum and Cultural Center in
"There is a cemetery book for Rutherford County, but there are
very few black cemeteries in it," Lodl said.
The archivist is using historic records, African-American
churches and citizens to locate as many black cemeteries as
"We will then publish a book through the Rutherford County
HIstorical Society of these findings," he said.
Lodl may have just found another cemetery to help keep history
alive for the nearly forgotten of the community.
The single gravestone is likely associated with a much larger
cemetery that grew up with Carlocksville in the years after the
Settled originally in the late 1700s, Carlocksville was a stop
on the turnpike, which later became Manchester Highway, Margaret
M. Powell wrote in the Rutherford County Historical Society's
Winter 1984 publication.
"By 1878 the population was 1,163 of which 200 were blacks, who
came and quickly formed a community of their own," Powell wrote,
adding the black community was located west of the town between
the turnpike and coach road.
"A few homes were built ..." Powell wrote. "They had big
families – were strong and hard working and blessed with many
But as the years passed, the children of these big families
moved on and Carlocksville slowly returned to the cedar glade.
"Homes were deserted and fell into decay," Powell wrote. "The
school went as the students did and was torn down when the pike
was widened in 1936."
The people may have left but the cemetery stayed leaving one
solitary gravestone to mark its presence.
The overgrown cemetery was rediscovered by Dwyer, who lives
across the highway and rides horses with her husband John
through the forests along Manchester Highway.
She spent summers in her youth in this section of the county
visiting her aunt and playing on the family farm. During her
childhood, she heard stories about the black community that had
once thrived across the road from her family's farm.
When she stumbled across Lodl's project, she invited him out to
take a look.
So far he has documented about 150 black cemeteries in the
county, but there are countless more out there waiting in the
underbrush to be rediscovered and kept alive for the community.