Nashville City Cemetery

Further evidence of the strength of the connections between Ireland and Nashville is revealed by the inscriptions found in Nashville City Cemetery. Opened in 1822, the cemetery is the city’s most important place of interment. Located at 1001 Fourth Avenue South, at the corner of Fourth Avenue South and Oak Street, the cemetery has recently witnessed a major programme of restoration following many decades of neglect and vandalism.

The website of the Nashville City Cemetery Association is a superb resource for anyone wishing to explore the city’s early history (

Places of birth in Ireland

A significant number of headstones in the cemetery record the deaths of people who had been born in Ireland and not just in the counties of Ulster, but also in southern counties including Dublin, Longford and Mayo. Some of the memorials only indicate that the deceased was a native of Ireland. Other memorials providing the name of an Ulster county as a place of birth include those to James Irwin, born in County Tyrone, who died in 1833, and Peter McQuade, born in County Monaghan, who died in 1843.

Still others provide precise information on the place of origin. For example, the memorial to Thomas Gilliam (d. 1852) records that he was born in Cookstown on 24 June 1811 – a precision not commonly found on Irish gravestones – while his wife Jane (d. 1887) was born in Newry. Another native of Newry was Joseph Henning who died in 1862. The memorial to Henry Murray (d. 1872) states that he was born in Newcastle, County Down, in 1813.

Other stories

In addition to the place of birth, other information on the deceased can be found on memorials to the Irish in Nashville. The inscription on the tombstone to William Cochrane, who drowned in 1830, tells us that it was erected ‘As a Tribute to Departed, An Evidence of the Extent of Friends’.

The memorial to Robert Porter, whom died in 1830’ includes the lines, ‘He had no family but left A Name Without reproach and A Memory Dear to his relatives’. On his tombstone William Gibson, who died in 1828 aged 40, is described as having been ‘for many years a respectable merchant of Nashville’.

Of course, not every Irish emigrant prospered in America and there are many instances of premature deaths. For example, the handsome box tomb erected to the memory of David Jenkins, who died in May 1840 at the age of 24, records that he was a native of County Tyrone. His death was reported in the Belfast Newsletter on 22 May 1840, which stated that he was formerly of Strabane and had passed away following a very short illness. Possibly he was the son of Andrew Jenkins of Strabane whose name recurs in the pages of the Strabane Morning Post in the 1820s and 1830s.

Inscriptions in Ulster

Back in Ulster, we find in the graveyard adjoining Drumbo Presbyterian Church in County Down a headstone commemorating James Welsh who was buried at Nashville in 1866 aged just 20. In Grange graveyard, near Bready, in County Tyrone the inscription on a headstone records that it was erected by A. Hamilton of Nashville, Tennessee, in memory of his parents and other family members who lived at Woodend.