The largest cemetery in Trousdale County is the old Hartsville Cemetery on the old road to the river, now called Cemetery Road.
Its location is not due to any particular reason other than it was close to the home of James Hart, the founder of our town. As with other early residents of Middle Tennessee, Hart located his family graveyard within a short distance of his home.
Now long gone, Hart’s residence stood at the crest of the hill above town, right where today’s River Street and Church Street converge. If you look to the right, as you drive south, you will see a double row of ancient cedar trees. The trees once lined the driveway to Hart’s home, much like the cedar-tree-lined home of Andrew Jackson. Jackson and Hart were well acquainted with each other.
While rural folks had no trouble finding a suitable place to dig a grave, people in the newly-laid-out town of Hartsville weren’t so lucky.
So, in a short time, Hart began to offer his location to others in the town. It was referred to as the Hart family burying grounds in those early days … we are talking about the late 1700s and early 1800s.
The oldest grave in the cemetery is that of a Hart family member.
We might point out that Hart located his family cemetery on the hill, rather than behind his home, because the hill location wasn’t good for farming.
The stone for Hart’s daughter, Peggy Hart, is dated Feb. 16, 1789 — April 5, 1792, making it the oldest in the cemetery. James Hart and his wife, Sarah Hamilton Hart, had several children to die young.
A walk-through the old cemetery shows us that many families had children to die in their infancy. In the days before miracle drugs and vaccines, simple illnesses could be fatal.
We don’t realize than in the 1800s, an outbreak of measles or chicken pox could be fatal, not to mention, such diseases as small pox or typhoid.
Hart himself, who lived from 1756 to 1819, is buried close by his daughter Peggy, as is his wife Sarah, who lived from 1769 to 1822.
People have often suggested that we offer a graveyard tour during the fall season, to coincide with Halloween. Such a venture would indeed be of interest as we have our share of minor celebrities and people with interesting life stories. Perhaps, some individual reading this could get up such a tour and let any funds go to help maintain the old cemetery.
After the Civil War, the Hart family turned its cemetery over to the community, and as such, it has grown to be our largest graveyard in the county.
If you walk around and read some of the short epitaphs on the stones, you find some interesting lines.
The tombstone of Little Bell Webb reads, “Died at house of T.J. Harris. Age not known. 23 Sept. 1879”.
“He Died Fighting For His Country” is written on the stone of G.W. Hager, 1888-1918. Hager, died of sunstroke while pursuing bandits in the Dominican Republic.
It was common to just give the dates of birth and death on a tombstone, but families who could afford to have larger stones would often put a line of sentiment.
One person has this etched into their stone ... “I feel easy about the future — Christ died for my sins.”
A longer line stands out on the stone of Elizabeth Welch, who lived from 1839 until 1911. It reads, “They steered their barques to the same quiet shore not parted long, and now to part no more.”
Some stones are just a memorial due to the fact that the individual is buried elsewhere, as in the case of Walton Allen Broom, who lived from 1917 until 1945. A monument in the cemetery notes that his actual grave is “Interment Plot D, Row 8, Grave 193, Fort McKinley, U. S. Military Cemetery, Manila, Philippine Islands.” Broom died while fighting in World War II.
The tombstone of Elisha M. Gray, who lived from 1807 until 1829, notes, “Done By His Students.” Gray was a young teacher whose death was a shock to both the community and his students.
The grave of A.R. Dalton, who lived from 1865 until 1914, is similar to the graves about him, but it holds a secret. Dalton, who owned a store in downtown Hartsville, took special pride in his dog, an English Setter named High Price, as well as affection. It was so much so that the dog was buried beside him in the cemetery.
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