Guarding the “subterranean residents”—Memphis, TN

Old Raleigh Cemetery
4324 Old Raleigh-LaGrange Road
Memphis, Tennessee

The subterranean residents of Memphis’ Old Raleigh Cemetery have had their resting place battered for years. Vandals, trash-dumpers, and the elements have taken their toll here. The cemetery has attracted a handful of people over the years each with a wish to preserve and protect this most historic of cemeteries.

Old Raleigh Cemetery Memphis Tennessee
Two graves in the Old Raleigh Cemetery, 2013. Photo by Thomas R. Machnitzki, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The community of Raleigh was established on the Wolf River two years prior to the establishment of Memphis on the Mississippi. Raleigh was the county seat until Memphis’ growth led to it being moved to the much larger city after the Civil War. Raleigh Cumberland Presbyterian Church was one of the earliest churches in the community and established this cemetery. Throughout its history, many prominent persons have been laid here for their eternal rest including members of the Shelby family—the county was named for prominent patriot and politician Isaac Shelby—and the second mayor of Memphis, Isaac Rawlings.

The church has been gone for many years, though the cemetery remains. It has been neglected for quite some time and efforts through the years have attempted to clean it up. One of the first attempts to reclaim the cemetery took place in 2010 and was organized by a pair of paranormal investigators. An article in the Commercial Appeal noted that at the time the 7-acre cemetery was “a tangle of forest and underbrush.”

Old Raleigh Cemetery Memphis Tennessee
Old Raleigh Cemetery, 2013. Photo by Thomas R. Machnitzki, courtesy of Wikipedia.

While working there, one of the investigators heard a disembodied man’s voice say, “he’s my family.” Later, while cutting underbrush another voice urged him to “cut the trees.” These voices provided the first clues that the dead here may not rest easy. Over the years, several paranormal groups have explored the spot’s paranormal activity.

Back in April, it was announced that the cemetery has been deeded to Jack Brewer, a member of Memphis Ghost Hunters. He told local WREG News that he plans to raise money to reclaim the cemetery from nature and maintain it as well as hosting historical and paranormal tours to continue attracting interest in this hallowed spot.

Sources

  • Bradley, Barbara. “Raleigh Cemetery a hotbed of activity.” Commercial Appeal. 30 October 2010.
  • Goggans, Louis. “New life for Old Raleigh.” Memphis Flyer. 3 April 2014.
  • Moon, Melissa. “Memphis ghost hunter takes over county’s oldest cemetery to preserve history, conduct paranormal investigations.” 28 April 2021.
  • Williams, Edward F. III, “Shelby County.” Tennessee Encyclopedia. 8 October 2017.
  • Wright, Winnie. “Volunteers organize to repair vandalized historic Memphis cemetery.” FOX13 Memphis. 21 June 2020.
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