By Jonathan K. T. Smith
Copyright, Jonathan K. T. Smith, 1992

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            By the close of the 1910s, patronage of the newer Hollywood Cemetery in Jackson, had taken from Riverside Cemetery its preeminence as the city's burial-ground, although persons and families with lots in Riverside continued to bury their dead there for many years and numerous lots were subdivided so that "newcomers" could be buried there. The historic significance of Riverside was enhanced with the passage of time.

            Riverside Cemetery was practically surrounded by industrial businesses, including the Illinois Central Railroad shops, and the chemicals spewed from their smokestacks and emitted from their shops gradually dissolved the beautiful tombstones and their inscriptions in the cemetery, completely effacing some of them. As lovely as the trees were, planted over and about the cemetery, the tannic acid had an equally, or almost equally nefarious effect upon these tombstones. Even yet, some people think that it was only industrial fumes and "acid rain" that rendered such devastating harm to the tombstones.

          Representatives from numerous families in Jackson deplored the sometimes unseemly appearance of the cemetery and the neglect that at times seemed apparent. Under the leadership of Mrs. Maud H. King, the Riverside Cemetery Improvement Association was organized on April 1, 1918. (Riverside Cemetery Improvement Association Minute Book, 1955, to 1976, pages 75, 124; which record is kept in the Riverside Cemetery files of the trust department of First American Bank in Jackson.) However, it was only years later, February 28, 1934, that the organization was chartered by the State of Tennessee; by then it had become necessary for the group to incorporate in order to function more business-like and to better handle finances of the group. (Mr. W. A. Caldwell, a leading banker in the community, served the association well as its treasurer for years.) The incorporators at that time: Mrs. Maud H. (Charles H.) King, Mrs. Jennie Lyon (John T.) Murdoch, Mrs. Jennie (Belton O.) Sullivan, Miss Anna Gates Butler and an attorney, William P. Moss. Their purpose was, as it had been since 1918, "to preserve, maintain, beautify and improve Riverside Cemetery in Jackson, Tennessee." (Madison County Charter Book 7, page 57)

            The city still assisted in nominal maintenance of the cemetery but for almost fifty years the association, through its officials and annual-dues paying members, financed the general upkeep of the grounds, repairs to stones and beautification of the grounds with plants trees and flowers. It was only in later years that perpetual care for lots was instigated in earnest.

            Mrs. Jennie Lyon Murdoch served as president of the association for a long time, but sometime before her death in the spring of 1962, her successor, Mrs. Sarah Thompson, had assumed the primary leadership role in the group. She asked Mr. W. Edward Terry, affiliated with First National Bank and eventually a board member of the association, to assist her in tending to the business of the group which he did, graciously and capably.


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            With several of its previously more active members either dead or in advanced age, the association decided to cease its activity, to place its assets in a perpetual fund for the benefit of the Riverside Cemetery. Its last meeting was held Feb. 18, 1976.

            Negotiation with the city government, through its appropriate commissioner, Mr. Ben Langford, lead to the mutual agreement that the city would assume complete responsibility for maintaining the cemetery from thenceforth, from the interest derived from the Riverside Cemetery account.

            At the regular meeting of the city board, June 25, 1976, "on the motion of Commissioner Langford, seconded by Mayor Robert Conger and unanimously carried, a resolution was adopted approving a trust agreement with the Riverside Cemetery Improvement Association for the city to assume full maintenance for the Riverside Cemetery. Commissioner Langford stated [that] many of the past leaders of the city and county are buried in this cemetery, that some of this property is owned by the city and has been partially maintained by the city in the past." As a result of a tentative agreement between the association and First National Bank, Jackson, the latter was to "act as trustee" for the funds set aside for the cemetery.

            Whereas the improvement association had existed "for the exclusive purpose of providing perpetual care and upkeep for cemetery lots in Riverside Cemetery, a cemetery owned by the City of Jackson . . .", the association now deemed "it in its best interest to terminate its activities and to turn over its assets to a successor trustee," First National Bank. The latter institution agreed to invest and manage these funds, with accrued interest being paid over to the City of Jackson for use "in defraying the cost and expenses in providing upkeep and maintenance on the grave sites and cemetery lots and common areas of Riverside Cemetery." (City Recorder's Minute Book II, pages 87-92) This agreement became effective June 30, 1976 and remains in effect.

            First National Bank, now a part of and known as First American Bank, continues as trustee for the cemetery account and has worked well and agreeably with the City of Jackson through its parks and recreation department to maintain Riverside Cemetery. Mrs. Marguerite L. Holder, Vice-President and Trust Officer, oversees the First American Bank trust account for Riverside. Mr. W. Ed. Terry continues as a volunteer to assist Mrs. Holder and other persons in locating graves of persons buried in Riverside and serves in other ways as a benefactor of the cemetery.



            The actual plat map drawn of Riverside Cemetery, prepared by E. R. Dike in 1937, a worn but valued document, is kept in a vault of the First American Bank, main branch, in Jackson. This map bears the numerous sub-dividing entries of the burial lots, in the handwriting of Miss Anna Gates Butler (April 16, 1881-July 17, 1973). Two notebooks, also in Miss Butler's penmanship, one for the corresponding secretary and the other for the recording secretary of the former RIVERSIDE CEMETERY


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IMPROVEMENT ASSOCIATION, are also kept in the bank Riverside Cemetery file. These contain the lot numbers and lot owners (by last name).

            An exact copy of this plat map, made from the bank copy, is on file in Mr. Paul Williams' office, Jackson Parks and Recreation Dept. and it is sometimes called the "original" plat map as it is the one from which other copies have been made and the one most accessible (other than the copy in the Tennessee Room collection, Jackson Public Library) to the public. Shown below are copies of pages from Miss Butler's recording secretary's notebook, in which she tells (August 1965) of her efforts for the cemetery and those of Mrs. Maud Holt King (Aug. 30, 1870-Feb. 2l, 1963):



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