New Graves Discovered at Memphis’ Oldest Cemetery

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(Memphis) Dozens of people got a tour of Memphis' oldest cemetery Saturday. A few years ago people couldn't even walk around Raleigh Cemetery because it was overgrown with weeds. For the last few years, volunteers have been cleaning-up the place and Saturday a group got to see what they accomplished.

Life is about discovery and it seems death can be the same way.

“It’s a beautiful stone,” said Cemetery Tour Guide, Dale Schafer.

Certainly, at the oldest cemetery in Memphis there's a lot to be uncovered.

“So many of these stones have been moved through the years,” said Schafer to the group.

More and more history is being revealed at the cemetery every day.

“Mr. Dale Schafer walks around with a rod and he's already found one this morning,” said Kevin Lee Brooks with the Raleigh Community Council.

Since 2010, the Raleigh Community Council and volunteers have uncovered about 150 graves hidden by earth, brush and vegetation.

“You couldn't even walk through here,” said Brooks.

They've been cleaning up the present and discovering a lot about the past. Memphis' second mayor Isaac Rawlings is even buried there.

“He did what he thought was right,” said Schafer to the tour group.

Even Martha Tibbs’ great, great-uncle is buried at the cemetery.

‘McFarland Coleman was the first mayor of Raleigh. The first and only mayor of Raleigh,” said Tibbs.

While many headstones have been covered with debris and dirt overtime, one headstone from 1897 is half covered by a tree that has literally grown around it.

The tour showed about 50 people how far the cemetery has come.

“I think this is tremendous work these volunteers of done,” said Bartlett Resident Susan Gore.

“We’ve been at it since 2010 and we're not stopping now,” said Brooks.

Those who started digging around here 3 years ago say there are many more stories of years past to uncover.

“The more I learn the more fascinated I become by it,” said Schafer.

If you would like to help upkeep the cemetery, contact the Raleigh Community Council. They are also accepting donations. Click here:


  • Get Real

    ……………..The Raleigh Cemetery dates back to the 1820’s. It was originally a small graveyard operated by the Raleigh Cumberland Church, and after the church burned down, burials became more public. According to a deed agreement, in 1937 the site was turned over to the old town of Raleigh. When Raleigh was incorporated into Memphis in 1973, the site became city property. This has, however, been highly disputed due to incomplete land records…………….


    ………………….Elmwood is a historic cemetery with available lots that provides a beautiful final resting place to families as it shares its history, art and nature with the community; this is our mission statement.

    Fifty Memphis gentlemen committed $500 each to purchase land and establish a new cemetery 2.5 miles from town in 1852. Originally consisting of 40 acres, it was expanded after the Civil War to 80 acres…………………..

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