Arch Boleyjack: Reliving the Legacy

The legacy of Arch Boleyjack, a man known for his resilience and unflinching determination, is once again revived in the town. The commemorative plaque was recently unveiled on the site of the new fire department to celebrate the powerful story of an African American Pioneer from The Anti-Slavery War.

Arch was born in 1840 in Old Virginia. He was brought to Nolensville by a slave trader. As a young man, being taken away from his mother was the most sorrowful turning point in his life. With heartache and unforgettable pain, Arch started living the life of an enslaved person in the new place. He was determined never to let this happen to his children.

“My grandmother said he didn’t want to talk about his life when enslaved. He would say bad memories are meant to stay in the past. After slavery was over and he was free, he continued living in Nolensville,” shared Ovie Elaine Boleyjack Bell, Arch’s great-granddaughter. 

“My great-grandfather was a man that didn’t want to be defined by his life during his enslavement. It meant more to him to be known as a man who could recover rapidly from difficult situations. Living in the past would only steal his joy, and he didn’t want that for himself or his family.”

After marriage, Arch bought a property in the late 1800s at 2618 Sanford Rd., where he built a home for his family. Elaine’s father would say the land had apple, pear, and peach trees. Elaine’s parents also lived on this land with their children. 

“We were always told that he was a hard worker and took good care of his family. He also taught them never to give up when they desired to achieve something because, with hard work, you can do anything you want,” Elaine said. 

Arch turned his pain into power. He lived his life with pride and inspired his offspring to live with the dignity of hard work. Elaine purchased the land from her father and carried forward the family pride. 

“I felt that joy, knowing the people that had walked this land. I was now following in their footsteps. As an African American, our history is seldom told through the stories of our ancestors. I’m proud to share my great-grandfather’s journey,” she said. 

Land ownership was Arch’s first step to pursue the dream of voting, as he needed to own land and pay poll taxes to live a citizen’s life. He achieved that goal in 1891. 

“I found his voter registration card. That little piece of paper must have meant so much to him because when I found it, a feeling of everlasting joy filled my soul,” Elaine said. 

“Voting has always been something that my family has consistently participated in. Knowing that we could choose the people that represent us in our country. Arch was vigilantly guiding us through this process as a family. We can never say we don’t have time or that it is not important to exercise our right to vote. He shed blood, sweat, and tears to get us to this point. We don’t have any excuses. I’m so proud to share the blood with my great-grandfather. I have never seen him, yet his memory is embedded in my soul.”

Elaine lives in Arrington and has four children and seven grandchildren. She’s traveled worldwide and has seen the best places. However, she says there’s no place like home here in Tennessee.

Arch loved his family and friends with all his heart. He pleaded with them to always stay together and be there for each other in good and bad times. Six generations of Arch’s offspring have lived on the property he purchased long ago. 

Arch died in 1909, and he was buried in the family cemetery on the property.  

Last year, Nolensville Fire and Rescue Department contacted Elaine’s family, as the office was looking for land to acquire for a future fire station. 

“I had never thought about selling my great-grandfather’s property, as the history of the land meant so much to me. I received a call from Chief David Windrow, and we set up a meeting for the next week,” she said. 

The Bell-Boleyjack family was concerned about maintaining the care of the cemetery. The county addressed the concerns and also decided to honor Arch Boleyjack with a plaque. 

“We all agreed to move forward with the contract. The property has always been a safe haven for our family, and now it will be a haven for the Nolensville community,” Elaine said. “When the fire department makes this property their home. I know now that they will take care of this land that I have entrusted them with and grow to love it as much as I do.” 

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