Okie Road Trip 2019: Discovering Helena, Ark.’s Maple Hill Cemetery, Part III

I’m going to wrap up my series on Maple Hill Cemetery with some bits and pieces that you might find interesting. One of them is the Confederate Cemetery located within the cemetery.

Note: I’m aware that many people have strong feelings about the Confederacy and its role in the Civil War. There are many valid reasons for that. At the same time, I think it would be remiss of me to ignore the fact that a few of its prominent leaders are buried at Maple Hill Cemetery. I’m not doing so in order to celebrate or support that history. But it does exists and I plan to share some of it in the latter half.

The Man from Maine

One of the tallest monuments in Maple Hill Cemetery belongs to Henry Pomeroy Coolidge, a native of Bangor, Maine. I found a detailed biography of him from Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Phillips County, Arkansas published by Goodspeed Publishing Company in 1890.

The Coolidge monument is the among the tallest in Maple Hill Cemetery.

Coolidge’s family moved to Ohio when H.P. was young. At 17, he moved to Louisiana where met his wife, Elizabeth Jacqueline Legier. Of French parentage, Elizabeth married Henry in 1832 In New Orleans. Their first three children were born there.

Sadly, of the many children the Coolidges had, only two lived to adulthood and only one to old age. Royal, born in 1833, only lived a year. Charles Royal, born in 1836, would outlive everyone in the family. Caroline, born in 1838, died in New Harmony, Ind. in 1841.

The Coolidges moved to Helena in 1842. H.P. became an active member of the community, serving as a probate and county judge. But his main business was owning and operating a prosperous dry goods store called H.P. Coolidge & Son. Charles helped him when he came of age.

An ad in the 1860 Southern Shield newspaper for H.P. Coolidge & Son’s store in Helena, Ark.

Suffer the Little Children

Over the years, Elizabeth and Henry watched as most of their children died. I cannot imagine the agony they experienced. Seven of them are inscribed on the Coolidge monument. Timothy lived only a few days in 1848. Emma lived almost a year, dying in 1850. Ellen lived from 1851 to 1855. H.P. Jr. lived three and a half years, passing away in late 1860.

At least six of H.P. and Elizabeth Coolidge’s children died in childhood. I suspect there may be at least one not listed here.

Evalina Coolidge, born in 1843, married Dr. Francis Noel Burke in November 1864. Irish-born Burke was a doctor in the Union Army and passed through Helena during the Civil War. Evalina gave birth to a daughter, Lizzie, on Dec. 27, 1865. Evalina died at age 23 on Jan. 27, 1867. I did not get a photo of her grave but she is buried at Maple Hill. Dr. Burke remained in Helena, raising his daughter. Sadly, Lizzie died of typhoid fever on Nov. 17, 1892. She was 26. Father and daughter share a marker at Maple Hill.

H.P. Coolidge did well in Helena, gaining friends and influence despite the fact his bio states he was a “staunch Union man” during the Civil War. He was active in the Masons and Odd Fellows. He died at age 60 on April 23, 1872.

Son Charles continued on in the family business. He purchased the monument for his father and siblings. One account says it was 29 feet, six inches tall. Another says 21 feet. Carved in Italy, the cost was an estimated $6,000 at the time. A life-size statue of H.P. tops it.

Elizabeth Coolidge died in 1886 at age 75. Oddly, her name is not on the Coolidge monument. I suspect that son Charles simply neglected to have it engraved.

H.P. Coolidge surveys Maple Hill Cemetery from a lofty height.

I couldn’t find a photo of H.P. but I did locate one of Charles R. Coolidge and his wife, Lizzie Ellis Coolidge, on Ancestry. They had several children and most of them lived long lives.

Undated photo of Charles Royal Coolidge (1836-1904) and his wife, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Ellis Coolidge (1844-1908) with two of their children. Photo source: Ancestry.com

Charles did as well as his father in carrying on the business. He died on Aug. 20, 1904 at age 67. Lizzie died on July 11, 1908. She and Charles are buried together beside their daughter, Eva, and their son, Henry.

Graves of Charles R. Coolidge and his wife, Lizzie Ellis Coolidge.

The Confederate Cemetery

Located up at the top of the hill from the Coolidge monument, the Confederate Cemetery was created in 1869 by the Phillips County Memorial Association when the bodies of 73 known and 29 unnamed Confederate soldiers were moved into a one-acre portion of Maple Hill. Most of these men died at the Battle of Helena on July 4, 1863, or from wounds shortly afterward. More bodies have been moved there over the years, so there are well over 100 soldiers buried in this cemetery.

These are some of the graves in the Confederate Cemetery at Maple Hill Cemetery.
More Confederate graves.

A monument to all of the Confederate soldiers buried at the cemetery was dedicated on Decoration Day in 1892. The inscriptions list battles in which Arkansas troops saw action. I was not surprised to learn that the monument was created by Muldoon & Co. of Louisville, Ky., a firm I have written about before and that still exists today.

At 37 feet tall, the Confederate Monument is taller than the nearby Coolidge monument.

“Stonewall of the West”

I’m featuring Confederate Major General Patrick Ronayne Cleburne because he played a prominent role in the Civil War and was a pre-war resident of Helena. Another reason is that oddly enough, he’d been buried in three different places over the years. Here’s a short account of his career.

A native of Ireland, Patrick Cleburne served in the 41st (Welch) Regiment of Foot of the British Army after failing to gain entrance into Trinity College of Medicine in Dublin in 1846. Three years after joining the Army, he emigrated to America. Cleburne settled in Helena and was readily accepted by his adopted town. At the start of the Civil War, Cleburne sided with the Confederacy. He progressed from being a private soldier in the local militia to a division commander.

Major General Patrick R. Cleburne was not the typical Confederate military leader. (Photo source: Wikipedia)

Cleburne participated in many military campaigns, including the Battle of Stones River, the Battle of Missionary Ridge, and the Battle of Ringgold Gap. He was also present at the Battle of Shiloh. Known as the “Stonewall of the West”, he was killed while leading his men at the Battle of Franklin (Tenn.) on Nov. 30, 1864.

Cleburne’s remains were first laid to rest at Rose Hill Cemetery in Columbia, Tenn. At the urging of Army Chaplain Bishop Quintard and Judge Leonard Mangum (staff officer to Cleburne and his law partner in Helena), Cleburne’s remains were moved to St. John’s Episcopal Church near Mount Pleasant, Tenn., where they stayed for six years.

Major General Patrick Cleburne finally came to rest in the Confederate Cemetery in Helena.

Final Burial

On April 27, 1870, Judge Mangum and Dr. Hector Grant (whom I wrote about last week) traveled to Tennessee to bring Cleburne to Helena for his final burial. A processional through Memphis was heavily attended by many former Confederates, including Jefferson Davis. After the procession ended, pallbearers removed Cleburne’s coffin from the hearse and placed it aboard the steamer George W. Cheek, docked in the Mississippi River. It then departed for the trip to Helena.

After laying in state at Helena’s St. John’s Church, Cleburne’s remains were brought to the Confederate Cemetery for final interment.

On one side of the monument is a homage to his roots, an Irish harp.

Cleburne’s monument has an Irish harp on it as a homage to his native land.

Major General Thomas C. Hindman

Two other major Confederate figures are buried at Maple Hill but they are not in the Confederate Cemetery. Major General Thomas C. Hindman, an attorney who lived in Helena before the Civil War and a close friend of Cleburne, had a somewhat controversial military career. You can read more about that here.

During the Atlanta campaign, he received a wound at Kennesaw Mountain, on June 27, 1864, that left him partially blinded. He left his command and joined his family in Texas, to where they had moved following the Union occupation of eastern Arkansas.

Portrait of Confederate Major General Thomas C. Hindman. (Photo Source: Portrait by Aurelius O. Revenaugh, Arkansas State Archives

In June 1866, unable to secure a pardon from President Andrew Johnson and indicted by a federal district court in Arkansas for his activities during the war, Hindman and his family moved to Mexico. They returned to Helena in 1868. He was unique among conservatives in encouraging acceptance of African-American suffrage and organization of black voters into support of the conservative cause.

On Sept. 28, 1868, an assassin fatally shot Hindman through a window at his home. Nobody was ever arrested for the act. He left behind his wife, Mary “Mollie” Watkins Briscoe Hindman, and four young children. He was 40 at the time of his death. Mollie died in 1876 of tuberculosis at age 38 and is buried with him at Maple Hill.

This is Hindman’s original marker, which is only three feet tall.

Major General Thomas C. Hindman’s original marker at Maple Hill.

I don’t know who funded it or when it was placed, but the 27-foot Hindman obelisk of unadorned granite came sometime later.

The Hindman obelisk is 27 feet tall.

Also buried at Maple Hill is Confederate Brigadier General James C. Tappan (1825-1906). I did not get a photo of his grave, but it is much smaller than the Hindman obelisk or the Cleburne monument. Like Cleburne and Hindman, Tappan lived in Helena before the Civil War.

At the start of the Civil War, Tappan was commissioned Colonel of the 13th Arkansas Infantry in May 1861. He commanded the 13th Arkansas at the battles of Shiloh, Richmond, and Perryville. In November 1862, he was promoted Brigadier General and was transferred to the Trans-Mississippi Department. He commanded his brigade at the Battle of Pleasant Hill, La. and in the Red River Campaign of 1864.

After the war, Tappan returned to Helena and opened a law practice, where he established himself as the dean of the Arkansas bar. He died at age 80 in 1906.

Onward to Little Rock

As usual, there are many more stories I could share about those buried at Maple Hill Cemetery. But it’s time to move on to Arkansas’ capital city of Little Rock and Mount Holly Cemetery. I hope you’ll join me there next time.

Eva Burke Coolidge, daughter of Charles R. Coolidge and Lizzie Ellis Coolidge, only lived to the age of three.

Okie Road Trip 2019: Discovering Helena, Ark.’s Maple Hill Cemetery, Part II

Welcome back to Maple Hill Cemetery! I’ve got more stories to share with you and an update on a child’s grave that I mentioned in last week’s post at the end.

While doing research for this week’s post, as is often the case, a common theme began to emerge. Among the many markers and monuments I photographed while I was there, I noticed that several belonged to physicians and their families. One of the most detailed was for Dr. Hector McNeill Grant.

You’ll notice that the Grant monument says “Children of Dr. H.M. and L.J. Grant” but two of them are with his first wife, Sarah Grant.

Born in 1823, Dr. Hector M. Grant was a native of Hopkinsville, Ky.

Physician and Senator

A native of Hopkinsville, Ky. born in 1823, Hector Grant came from a large family. He followed in his brother Joshua’s footsteps and became a doctor, studying at Louisville Medical College. In 1847, he married a young widow named Sarah Epps Griffin. She had one daughter, Eugenia, from her previous marriage. Eugenia would later marry Moses Berry Scaife in 1859.

Advertisement for Dr. H.M. Grant’s office in the Sept. 2, 1865 edition of the Western Clarion. He was elected to the Arkansas Senate the following year.

Sarah gave birth to a daughter, Mary, on Dec. 2, 1847, who died a few years later on Oct. 22, 1851. She has her own marker, which I did not photograph. But her name is on the Grant monument. Daughter Sarah was born in 1853, living into adulthood and marrying a cousin, H.P. Grant. Son Joshua was born in 1854. He became a druggist and eventually operated a drugstore in Helena.

Cleburne was born on Oct. 10, 1859 and died exactly eight months later on June 10, 1860. His name is on the monument with Mary. Sarah Grant died on June 15, 1863 at age 38, for unknown reasons.

Dr. Grant injured his arm shortly before the Civil War when his horse fell on him. However, according to his obituary, he “rendered good service” by acting as a surgeon during the conflict. He married Araminta J. Blaine in 1865, who was 20 years his junior. He continued practicing medicine in Helena until he was elected to the Arkansas Senate in 1866, where he served two terms. He would serve again in 1880, serving two more terms. He also served as mayor of Helena for a few terms.

Dr. Grant and second wife, Araminta, had two children who died at birth. Daughter Lillian, born in 1875, would survive and live a long life.

Dr. Grant and Araminta had two children. Alexander was born on Oct. 18, 1866 and died a few months later. Addy, born on Sept. 19, 1867, died the same day. Their third child, Lillian, was born on Oct. 27, 1875. She married Leonce Landry in 1896 and had two daughters, Lillian and Ruth. She died in 1942 and is buried in Oakridge Cemetery in Clarksdale, Miss.

Dr. Grant died on April 6, 1905 at age 82. He left most of his estate to Araminta and Lillian. Unfortunately, I’m couldn’t find out when Araminta died. I did not photograph two sides of the monument, which had more information. She has her own single marker with her name but it is halfway submerged into the ground so no date is visible.

Dr. Frierson H. Rice

I couldn’t find a great deal of information about Dr. Frierson Hopkins Rice until I made the connection that his daughter, Emma, was the wife of Edward Pillow. I wrote about them last week and that their names were on the pillars of Maple Hill’s gates that were donated in 1914 when Emma died. You will see the name Frierson again.

Margaret “Fannie” Rice’s monument is much grander than that of her husband, Dr. F.H. Rice.

Born in 1823 in Alabama, Dr. Rice married Margaret “Fannie” Cabber sometime around 1850. Emma was born in 1853, followed by Sue, Thomas (nicknamed “Hinchy”), and Ralph. Thomas is buried at Maple Hill but I’m not sure what happened to Ralph. There is an undated marker at Maple Hill for a Sue P. Rice.

Fannie died on September 28, 1870, I think she was about 42. I don’t know her cause of death.

Little is known about Margaret “Fannie” Cabber Rice.

Dr. Rice remarried to widow Mary Lambert on April 18, 1871. The wedding took place about a month after daughter Emma married Thomas Pillow on March 16, 1871. Dr. Rice died sometime in 1875 at about the age of 50. I could find no obituary for him and I don’t know when Mary died.

A Tale of Two Doctors

The last doctors I’m going to tell you about have been written about by many others over the years. If you want the fully documented story with references, I’m going to point you (again) to the wonderful blog of Cliff Dean. But I’ll give you the shorter version.

If you go up the hill toward the Confederate Cemetery, you’ll catch a glimpse of the Moore family monument and the smaller one beside it. The obelisk you see below is for John Petty Moore and his wife, Martha Ann Harris Moore. The marker topped with a dog to the right is for their murdered son, Dr. Emile Overton Moore.

The Moore monument dominates the family plot but Pedro is always waiting nearby.

John and Martha, who married in Mississippi in 1853, moved to Helena with son Overton. Son Frierson (sound familiar?) was born in 1856. Sallie arrived in 1860 and Lela was born in 1863. John operated a successful stable, along with other business interests in Helena. By the 1880 U.S. Census, Overton and Frierson (who both attended Kentucky University, which is now Transylvania University) were living with their parents but both practicing medicine in Helena. I believe they are connected in some way with the Rice family but I’m not sure how.

A Tragic Argument

Overton married Jenny Wright and started a family. But his marriage soured and his reputation began to tarnish in Helena. On Feb. 16, 1893 Captain Dan Peck, a well known builder, either had his arm or leg broken in an accident. Dr. Moore was sent for, but they couldn’t find him so a message was sent for Dr. Charles R. Shinault, who arrived soon after.

Dr. Shinault was treating Peck’s injury when Overton arrived. The two men argued. Moore summoned Shinault outside where he called him a “vile name.” Reaching into his coat and warning Dr. Shinault that he would “fix him”, Overton advanced. Shinault pulled out his .38 revolver and fired, killing him instantly. Dr. Shinault gave himself up to the sheriff and Overton’s body was removed to his father’s home.

The incident made headlines across the country. Some thought Dr. Shinault was jealous of Overton and had plotted his demise. But another newspaper stated that “Moore was a wild and reckless man and was the terror of Helena and had been in several scrapes.” Needless to say, John P. Moore defended his son’s reputation and blamed Overton’s death squarely on Dr. Shinault.

To add to the chaos was this story that made the rounds, that Overton had a premonition of his death two days before and shared it with his sister, Sallie. It was reported in the Daily Arkanas Gazette:

Did Dr. Overton Moore know he was going to die? From the Feb. 25, 1893 edition of the Daily Arkansas Gazette.

Courtroom Woes

Dr. Shinault was acquitted of Overton’s murder under the belief that he fired in self defense, a verdict that greatly upset the Moores. It didn’t help that Dr. Shinault’s success in Helena was little diminished by the incident. He married Josephine Pillow in 1894 and they later moved to Little Rock in 1904 where he was elected president of the Arkansas Medical Association. He was also president of the state board of examiners.

Matters got worse for the Moores when a battle errupted over Overton’s life insurance. While still married to his wife, Overton had become engaged to Helena school teacher Minnie Robertson. He made her the beneficiary of his insurance policy instead of his children.

The first trial awarded the policy to Robertson. Overton’s children appealed and the Arkansas Supreme Court of Arkansas ruled that no person should receive the insurance because Dr. Moore started the fight that led to his death.

I think there was also a break between John P. Moore and his son, Dr. Frierson Moore. I found a court case involving father again son in regard to Overton’s estate. I also noticed a number of social events reported in the Helena newspaper hosted by Frierson and his socialite wife, Annie, and Mrs. Shinault was often among the attendees. John P. Moore must have been furious.

A Doctor and His Dog

It is thought that not many attended Overton’s funeral but his dog, an Irish Setter named Pedro, would not leave his master’s grave. The story goes that people nearby would hear him howling in the cemetery at night over the next two years. They brought the dog food and snacks when they could.

Eventually, the howling stopped and neighbors went to check on Pedro. The dog, waiting for his master, had finally died. He was buried nearby. Along with John P. Moore, friends provided what they felt was a fitting monument to Overton and his dog.

Local lore has it that loyal dog Pedro waited for his master. Dr. Emile Overton Moore, to return and would not leave.

It would be an understatement to say that John P. Moore’s feelings were given free rein in the words chosen for his son’s monument. They are written on different sides but here it the total of them.

He is now beyond the reach of blame or praise.

And love with hope and faith

will trust that he has felt the joy

that is felt when there are no fears

and no grave.

His errors were the errors of a man

And they stand out in bold contrast

with the time serving, two faced hippocrites

who conspired to have him murdered.

He possessed marked individuality

He was incapable of dissimulation.

Let us remember

that after midnight cometh morn.

I don’t think John P. Moore ever got over the death of his son. He died on Sept. 11, 1913 at the age of 83. His wife, Martha, died on April 12, 1914.

John P. Moore and his wife, Martha, died less than a year apart.

Their monument is covered in words, which isn’t surprising knowing John Moore’s penchant for sharing his thoughts. But the words below his and Martha’s names were not his. They come from “Oration at a Child’s Grave” by Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899): “Every cradle asks us whence, and every coffin whither.”

Also on the monument is an inscription for the husband of daughter Sallie, who married Joseph H. Jackson in 1879. He died of apoplexy at the age of 30 on Dec. 15, 1890. He also has his own marker.

It’s not often I see a morning glory carved on a grave marker. But both Jackson and Sallie have one on theirs.

Sallie remarried to newspaperman Fred Kraft. Sadly, she died of lockjaw at age 38 on Aug. 31, 1898 at her home in East St. Louis, Mo. Her mother, Martha, was at her side. She was brought home for burial beside Jackson at Maple Hill.

Sallie Moore Jackson Kraft died at age 38 from lockjaw.

Dr. Frierson Moore died on May 26, 1917 of alcoholic paresis at the age of 60. He left behind his wife, Annie Laurie Graves Moore, his daughter, Virginia, and son Dr. Fontaine Moore.

Dr. Frierson Moore died at age 60 of alcoholic paresis.

Fontaine would die only three years later of pneumonia at age 34 on Nov. 27, 1920. He is buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis, Tenn. Wife Annie died at age 93 in 1960 and is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Long Beach, Calif.

Postscript

Here’s the promised postscript to this story. In reading the obituary for Sallie Bee Moore Jackson Kraft, I discovered that her sister Lela Moore had married F.G. Millette. That means she was the mother of little Evelyn Ray Millette, who I featured last week.

Lela died on Dec. 9, 1949 at age 86. In looking at my pictures, I realized that Evelyn was buried right beside her parents, close to the Moore monument. Dr. Overton Moore and Dr. Frierson Moore were little Evelyn’s uncles. It’s yet another example of the family connections you can make in a cemetery.

I’ll be back for Part III from Maple Hill Cemetery.

Jesse Jackson was the son of Joseph H. Jackson and Sarah Bee Moore Jackson Kraft. His birth and death dates are unknown.

Okie Road Trip 2019: Discovering Helena, Ark.’s Maple Hill Cemetery, Part I

Going from Magnolia Cemetery to Maple Hill Cemetery was a bit of a jolt. Located very close to Magnolia, Maple Hill is bigger, grander, and has a lot more markers. Maple Hill covers about 37 acres. Immediately adjacent to it is St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery, which I did not have time to visit. The Confederate Cemetery is on a hillside in the northwest corner of Maple Hill. I’ll talk about that in a later post.

The entrance to Maple Hill Cemetery. According to Wikipedia, the wrought iron archway’s posts were given in 1914, and the arch was given in 1975. You can see Sarah in the background.

In a previous post, I explained how Magnolia Cemetery was once part of Evergreen Cemetery. Maple Hill is the name Evergreen eventually took in 1898. Here’s what I found on Find a Grave.come about it:

Helena’s existing cemetery (called Graveyard Hill) was destroyed by the shells and gunfire of the Battle of Helena, on July 4, 1863. In the first years of the cemetery’s existence and when its newly drawn lots were being purchased, the remains of many were removed from the shattered cemetery and from places of burial in private yards and re-interred in the new cemetery. The earliest death date on a headstone is 1827 (Section 2-A), and this stone was probably moved from Graveyard Hill.

About 78 stones in the cemetery proper (excluding the Confederate Cemetery) have death dates prior to 1865; some are “moved” stones and some are stones set later with early dates. On part of the site of the new cemetery of approximately 35 acres, had been the home of the Davis Thompson family and even now articles turn up occasionally which are attributed to the materials of the house or outbuildings. Originally the cemetery was called Evergreen Cemetery and was enclosed by a fence of evergreens. In 1898, it was reorganized as Maple Hill Cemetery.

The Pillow Family

The posts to which the front entrance arch is attached got my attention. The names of the Pillow family (Thomas, Emma, Thomas Jr., William, and Camille) are engraved into it, so I suspect they donated the arches after Emma Pillow died in 1914.

Emma Rice Pillow has her own grave marker within the cemetery as well.

Born in 1846 in Tennessee, Thomas Pillow joined the Confederate Army as a teenager and reached the rank of captain. He married Emma Rice in 1871 and became a successful planter. When I looked up his memorial on Find a Grave, I was stunned to find that I had photographed the beautiful monument of his sister, Cynthia Saunders Pillow Bethell, at Fairmount Cemetery in Denver, Colo. back in 2017.

Thomas Pillow enlisted in the Confederate Army at age 15, attaining the rank of captain by the end of the Civil War. (The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.), Feb. 13, 1913)

Emma and Thomas had three children, William (1873), Edward Rice (1877) and Camille (1886). Edward died at the age of seven in 1884. William, who married Malinda Bridget in 1895 and served in the Spanish-American War, died in 1905 at age 32 after a fall from a porch. Camille married in 1910 to Robert Gordon and died in 1965. Hers was the last name engraved on the post. Like her parents, she has a marker in the cemetery. Edward Rice and William do not as far as I know but I surmise they are buried there.

Brothers William and Edward do not have markers in Maple Hill Cemetery but their names are engraved on the pillars of the front gates.

Edward (the father) died on Feb. 10, 1913 at age 66 and Emma died less than a year later on Dec. 10, 1914 at age 61.

The Barlow Angel

One of my favorite monuments at Maple Hill is the Barlow angel. It has its own steps leading to it. As I researched the family’s past, some tragic stories emerged.

Joseph Cantrill Barlow outlived both of his wives.

Born in 1836 in Kentucky, Joseph Cantrill Barlow moved to Helena around 1859. In April, 1861, he enlisted as a private in Gen. Patrick Cleburne’s command. I mention Gen. Cleburne because he’s buried in the nearby Confederate Cemetery. He then joined the 2nd Arkansas Battery and served under Maj. F. A. Shoupe until that officer was transferred to the Army of Tennessee. The battery was part of Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s command. Captain Barlow served with Gen. Forrest until within a few months of surrender.

Mary Harrell Grant Barlow died in 1897.

Barlow married Mary J. Porter in 1870 but she died in 1872. I don’t know where she is buried. He started as a clerk in a dry goods store but eventually acquired a hardware store of his own to operate. He married Mary E. Harrell Grant in 1876. They had three children together, Fannie (1877), Harrell (1879) and Joseph Jr. (1880).

Mary died on May 26, 1897 from congestion. She was only 50 at the time.

Harrell Barlow died under curious circumstances in 1904.

Harrell died in March 1904 at age 24. I found a rather cryptic newspaper article about how he died. Apparently, he attempted to ride his horse into a dry goods store in Trenton, Ark. where he lived and was shot by the owner, Ira Krow. He is referred to as “Harold” in the article.

(Photo source: The Osceola Times, April 9, 1904.)

I don’t know if Ira Krow was ever held accountable for his actions but I did find his name mentioned in a society article as visiting Helena with his sister, Bertha in January 1905. So I’m guessing he wasn’t. He died in 1951 and is buried at Helena’s Beth El Cemetery.

Joseph Barlow served as Helena’s mayor several times and eventually lived with daughter Frances and her family. He died on Sept. 17, 1920 at age 84. He is buried beside Mary and Harrell. Perhaps it was better that he was already dead when tragedy struck the Barlows again.

Joseph Jr. became sheriff of Phillips County. His death certificate tells a sad story. While searching for a still on Sept. 18, 1931, he passed out due to heat stroke. It affect his brain and he died on Sept. 30, 1931, leaving behind a wife and five children.

(Photo source: The Hope Star (Hope, Ark.), Sept. 30, 1931)

Frances, the oldest Barlow child, wed architect Andrew Pomeroy Coolidge in 1899. They had three children together. Andrew died in 1934 at age 58 and Frances died four years later on April 7, 1938 at age 60 due to a cerebral hemorrhage. She, Andrew, and one of their children, Mary, are buried with her parents and uncle.

The top row of stones is Harrell Barlow, Joseph Cantrill Barlow, Sr., and Mary Harrell Grant Barlow. The bottom row of stones is Andrew P. Coolidge, Frances Barlow Coolidge, and Mary Coolidge Miles.

Two Little Boys

Children’s graves always draw me in. I came across the grave of a little boy named Homer Chambers. Oddly, it was erected by his uncle and not his parents. He had no memorial on Find a Grave, so I created one for him.

According to the marker, Homer was born in Augusta, Ark. on April 16, 1900 and died on Feb., 22, 1910 in Helena. Homer was only nine when he died. Augusta is about 90 miles northwest of Helena.

This marker for Homer Chambers was erected by his uncle, J. Ross Chambers.

Homer was the son of Lutie E. Chambers, a carpenter and mill hand, and Louise Chambers. They had a younger son, William, who was two years younger than Homer. Louise died in 1939 of heart disease. Lutie remarried and died in 1962.

I have no idea what happened to Homer. I couldn’t find anything about him beyond a 1900 U.S. Census record of him living with his parents as an infant. No death record. No newspaper article. Nothing. Was he visiting family in Helena and died in an accident? Did he get sick? I wish I knew.

Homer must have been special to his Uncle J. Ross. I found J. Ross Chambers buried in Augusta Memorial Park Cemetery in Augusta, where Homer was from. J. Ross Chambers died on July 12, 1931 at age 51.

Turner C. Shelton died almost a year after Homer Chambers.

Next to Homer’s grave is the one for Turner Clark Shelton, who died at the age of 3 in Helena on Feb. 11, 1911. That’s almost a year after Homer died. I did find a small obituary in the Memphis newspaper noting that Turner was the youngest son of grocer Gentry and Ida Shelton of Memphis. Again, I was curious as to how the boy died but could find nothing. There is a W.H. Shelton buried at Maple Hill but I don’t know if they are related.

Turner had no Find a Grave memorial either. I made one for him as well. He is indeed “gone but not forgotten”.

“Little Evelyn Ray”

The last marker I’m going to mention is for Evelyn Ray Millette. Her exact date of birth is unknown. But she died on Aug. 30, 1892. I suspect she was the daughter of F.G. and Lela Millette, who are also buried at Maple Hill. Evelyn was only 21 months old when she died.

Evelyn Ray Millette did not live to see her second birthday.

The sweetness of Evelyn’s marker is undisputed. But I am featuring it for another reason. She was born in 1890 and died in 1892. Because most of the U.S. Census records for 1890 were destroyed in a fire, there is no record of Evelyn that I could find. She may have a birth certificate but it is not online. This is the only evidence left of her precious, short life. It makes her marker even more important.

Like Homer and Turner, little Evelyn Ray is also “gone but not forgotten”. Rest in peace, little one.

Next week, I’ll have more stories from Maple Hill Cemetery.

Beautiful ginkgo tree at Maple Hill Cemetery.

Okie Road Trip 2019: Visiting Helena, Ark.’s Magnolia Cemetery, Part III

I’ve got a bit more left to share with you about Magnolia Cemetery. I was able to learn a little bit more about why it looks the way it does.

This is all that’s left of what was once a handsome plot.

As you make the left turn into the cemetery, there’s an area to the left with grave markers in a half circle around a flagpole.

Several grave markers encircle half of this flagpole, including several veterans’ markers.

A plaque nearby (see photo below) helped explain why the arrangement of grave markers at Magnolia in several places seemed off kilter. It’s because several are displaced or missing.

One of the interpretive panels at the front gate also stated that “stream bank erosion and water moving under the soft soil exposed graves and caused headstones to topple. Stones were taken or damaged by thieves and vandals.” As a result, concerned Helena residents Para Conner and Cleo Dunnings formed the Magnolia Cemetery Association in 1989. Since then, work has been done to “remedy erosion, improve drainage, and repair damage.

A number of grave markers at Magnolia Cemetery are displaced or missing.

I didn’t go past the bend in the road in the cemetery where it disappears into the woods. I was a little uneasy about going into an area that I couldn’t see. That’s happened during a few of my other cemetery visits in rural areas. Some might consider that silly, but I always prioritize my personal safety above my curiosity when cemetery hopping.

There are five government-issued markers for World War I veterans near the flagpole. All of these men served in World War I in varying capacities. None had memorials on Find a Grave so I created them. One fellow emerged among them with a story I want to share with you.

The Pioneer Infantries of World War I

When America entered World War I in April 1917, many African-Americans rushed to enlist. On July 5, 1917, over 700,000 African-Americans had registered. They were placed mostly into service units, which meant being assigned different labor-intensive tasks. These units were not trained to fight. Sadly, some feared that if these men were trained and armed, they might challenge white supremacy. Several of these regiments were called Pioneer units and consisted of engineers and construction managers. They primarily built bridges and roads, while maintaining railroads right behind the front lines.

The son of Helena resident Patsie Gibbs, Anderson Rasberry (living in Rolling Fork, Miss.) reported to his local draft board and was sent to Camp Funston in Kansas in July 1918. A railroad worker, Anderson was about 30, and had a wife and son. He would join the 805th Pioneer Infantry, Supply Company.

If you want an in-depth history of the 805th and their service in France, you can read it all here in this publication, “Victory: History of the 805th Pioneer Infantry, American Expeditionary Forces” by Paul Southworth Bliss. Known as the Bearcats, the 805th landed in France in July 1918 and served in Europe until July 1919. The division saw 39 days of action.

The RMS Saxonia was a ship of the British Cunard Line before being turned into a troop ship to transport soldiers during World War I. After the war ended, the Saxonia returned to commercial service. This photo was taken around 1900. (Photo Source: Detroit Publishing Company)

After spending a few months at Camp Funston (some of the 805th left for France earlier), Anderson and his fellow Supply Company soldiers left in September 2018 from Quebec, Canada on the Saxonia, a former passenger ship of the British Cunard Line. I wonder what Anderson was thinking as the ship pulled into the ports of Liverpool and Southampton, England, before arriving in Le Havre, France. The soldiers were then sent to Clermont-en Argonne.

The Supply Company spent most of its time in and around the hill known as Butte Ste. Anne. It was their job to keep the soldiers supplied with everything from proper garments to food to equipment. I don’t know specifically what Anderson did or if he was treated well by the white officers in charge of the companies within the 805th. I did read that in general, American black soldiers were treated better by the French soldiers and locals than their white American military counterparts.

This is the best picture I could find of the 805th Supply Company. I don’t know where Anderson is located among the group.

(Photo Source: “Victory: History of the 805th Pioneer Infantry, American Expeditionary Forces” by Paul Southworth Bliss)

Return to America

The 805th began its journey home on June 17, 1919 on the USS Zeppelin, originally a German passenger liner that came into American military possession during World War I. I found an article from the July 9, 1919 edition of the Dispatch-Republican (Clay, Kansas) describing the warm welcome the 805th and 806th received from Kansas-based military officials when they arrived in New York City. White Naval aviators were also returning that day on the Zeppelin, the article points out, so the festivities were likely primarily for them.

The 805th and 806th soldiers were taken to Camp Upton in Long Island for a celebration. I am posting just a portion of the article here. The Bearcats jazz band, which had received glowing reviews while in France, performed to show their appreciation.

(Photo Source: The Dispatch- Republican (Clay, Kansas), July 9, 1919.)

Anderson returned to Mississippi and his family, getting a job in a cotton mill, according to the 1920 U.S. Census. I wonder if he often shared his war stories with family and friends over the next years.

The only other record I could find for Anderson was his death certificate. Anderson died on Dec. 26, 1940 in the hospital at Helena due to a ruptured peptic ulcer. He was 51 years old.

Anderson Rasberry died at age 51 in 1940 as a result of a ruptured peptic ulcer.

Supreme Royal Circle of Friends of the World

Several markers at Magnolia Cemetery bear the insignia of the Supreme Royal Circle of Friends of the World (RCF). Here’s one of them. Until I visited Magnolia, I had never seen one before.

James King died at age 60 of dysentery on Feb. 6, 1924.

According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, the Supreme Royal Circle of Friends of the World was an African-American fraternal organization founded in 1909 in Helena. Its purpose was to supply insurance to African-Americans, but the RCF was also dedicated to the moral, physical, social, and economic welfare of its members. Men and women were equal members. The RCF grew rapidly across the Southern states and spread across the nation.

The first recruitment meeting of the RCF was held in Helena September 1–3, 1909 with a joining fee of $2.50. Dues were $1 every quarter, and $300 was paid at the death of a member. Other benefits included sick pay from $1 to $5 a week. The RCF also supplied a distinctive headstone for members, featuring a lion sitting atop a triangle with the letters RCF in the points of the triangle.

RCF stones at Magnolia Cemetery.

In 1910, RCF founding president Dr. Richard A. Williams started a newspaper, the Royal Messenger, published twice a month. By 1911, there were 300 lodges, called circles, scattered throughout Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Oklahoma.

By 1918, the organization had outgrown its Helena facilities, and Dr. Williams moved operations to Chicago. There, the group built its Supreme Temple and expanded facilities. In 1921, the RCF opened two hospitals for African-Americans, one in Memphis, Tenn. and the other in Little Rock, Ark. Members received free care at the hospitals.

This is a group of female members of a Royal Circle of Friends (RCF) lodge who were visiting the Grand Lodge in Helena, Ark. in 1916. (Photo Source: Encyclopedia of Arkansas/Harold Gray.)

Dr. Williams died on Sept. 27, 1944. The Chicago Defender reported that the RCF had more than 100,000 members and over $500,000 in assets. This may not have been accurate because on Oct. 12, 1947, the RCF was in bankruptcy. The Supreme Temple was auctioned off as part of the liquidation of assets.

One Stone, One Life

As I did research on some of the RCF markers at Magnolia, I found very little information about the people whose names were on the stones. For some like Maria Moore and Arthur Whittaker (see photos below), there was no information at all.

It’s sobering to think that a single stone could be the only evidence remaining of a life lived. Yet here they are, some of them over 100 years later. By joining the RCF, they were guaranteed a marker. A little piece of history that for some, is all that is left to show they were here. But it means so much.

That’s just one reason why cemeteries are still so important and must be preserved.

I could find no information about Maria Moore beyond what is on her grave marker.
There was also no information available for Arthur Whitaker, another RCF member.

Next week, I’ll be exploring nearby Maple Hill Cemetery.

Okie Road Trip 2019: Visiting Helena, Ark.’s Magnolia Cemetery, Part II

I’m still at Magnolia Cemetery in Helena, Ark. You can find the graves of not one but two African-American legislators at Magnolia. Let’s take a look at their careers.

“Worthy of Emulation”

I sadly admit that my high school and college education didn’t cover much about Reconstruction (1865-1877). In researching William Henry Grey, I learned more about the era than I ever did in my younger days.

Here is Grey’s impressive monument at Magnolia. Just reading the list of his accomplishments on it is awe-inspiring. The Masonic symbolism represented here is also something you don’t see every day. I learned this week that the monument was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2019. There was nothing on or near it at the time of our visit to indicate that designation.

Senator William H. Grey’s monument is definitely one of a kind.

Grey was born in Washington, D.C. in 1829 to free parents. Despite having only a rudimentary formal education, Grey learned parliamentary procedure sometime before 1856 while he accompanied his employer, Virginia governor Henry A. Wise, to sessions of Congress.

In 1854, Grey wed Henrietta Winslow, who became the mother of his nine children. A member of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, he became an AME lay minister. The Grey family had moved to Helena by 1863 and operated a grocery/bakery business there.

Eloquent Speaker

In 1868, the first year that most of the African-American population could vote in Arkansas, Grey was among the eight African-American members elected to the second post-Civil War Constitutional Convention. He spoke eloquently on the convention floor more than 25 times, primarily on matters relating to African-American welfare.

Grey was admitted to the practice of law on July 6, 1869, but there is no indication he ever practiced as an attorney. Republican Governor Powell Clayton appointed Grey as clerk of the circuit court in Phillips County and ex-officio recorder of deeds for several counties in 1870.


William H. Grey was a delegate to the 1868 Arkansas Constitutional Convention. (Photo Source: Arkansas State Archives)

Grey was elected to the Arkansas General Assembly. In 1872, as a delegate to the Republican National Convention, he seconded the nomination of Ulysses S. Grant, becoming the first African-American to address a national presidential nominating convention. Grey also served as the commissioner of immigration and state lands from 1872 to 1874.

While Grey was in New York in 1873 to supervise arrangements for Arkansas’s exhibit to be shipped to the World’s Exposition in Vienna, Austria, he suffered a stroke, forcing him to return to Little Rock.

Senator Grey

In 1874, the Democratic Party regained the governorship and a legislative majority. The legislature immediately voted to hold a third post-war Constitutional Convention. When it was announced, Grey spoke out against it, anticipating that delegates would try to take away African-American citizenship rights. In 1875, he won a special election for a seat in the Arkansas Senate due to the passing of senator John Willis Williams.

By this time, the push for Jim Crow government was coming on strong. In September 1878, Grey suffered another stroke. In the 1880 U.S. Census, Grey is listed as paralyzed and he disappeared from politics after his state Senate service. He never recovered from his 1878 stroke, dying in Helena on Nov. 8, 1888.

Grey’s monument was erected seven years after he died on Aug. 13, 1895. I found a newspaper clipping announcing the unveiling at a meeting of the “colored Masonic Lodge” in Helena.

William H. Grey’s monument was unveiled in Helena on Aug. 13, 1895. (Photo Source: Daily Arkansas Gazette (Little Rock), Aug. 14, 1895)

You can read the many accomplishments Grey achieved on his monument. I am puzzled as to why his 1875 Senate service is not listed on it. His epitaph truly moved me:

Up all the various graded steps

From Life obscure to Fame

Thou’st studied toiled prayed and fought

To leave thy race a name —

A name in legislature hall,

And high official station,

The highest in the mystic craft,

Worthy of emulation.

Few can say they accomplished as much as William H. Grey did in his lifetime.

Masonic Involvement

Having joined the St. John Masonic Lodge in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1852, Grey was named first Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas when it was established in 1873 as a merger of three different lodges.

Topped with a Masonic “G”, the third tier of the monument exhibits a simple anchor, which is a Masonic symbol and a Christian symbol of hope.

Grey’s monument features a plethora of Masonic symbols.

The fourth tier is engraved with a number of Masonic symbols. Starting on the left is a bell, followed by a pillar, topped by the sun. Next is an open book with the Masonic square and compass engraved on its pages topped by an eye with rays of light (likely the All-Seeing Eye of Horus). Continuing right is a second pillar topped by a crescent moon and surrounding stars. The engraving is completed with a ladder on the far right. All of these are known to have Masonic significance. Below all those symbols is a checkerboard foreground, also known to have Masonic significance.

I’m not going to to into what it all means but I’m sure if you asked a Mason, they could tell you.

I don’t know where Grey’s wife, Henrietta, or any of his children are buried, or if any of them are buried at Magnolia Cemetery. Records indicate that Henrietta remarried in 1889 to a John Bryant and continued to live in Helena according to a 1910 U.S. Census record. She disappears after that.

Elected Four Times to Congress

In my last post, I mentioned Cliff Dean’s blog “My Delta World” and thanks to him, I found out a great deal about another African-American legislator buried at Magnolia.

Born in Tennessee in 1853, Jacob N. Donohoo was likely the child of slaves. He moved to Arkansas in the 1870s to live with an uncle. Elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives in 1877, Donohoo was its youngest African-American member. He was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives four times. In 1879, he married Mollie E. Owens in Helena. They had six children including two sons, Green and Jacob, and four daughters, Frankie, Laura, Fannie May, and Nina.

Picture of a young Jacob Donohoo, who became the youngest African-American member of the Arkansas House of Representatives in 1877. (Photo Source: Cliff Dean’s “My Delta World”)

In addition to being involved in farming, operating a mercantile store, and editing a newspaper, Donohoo managed to practice law and advocate for education. Jacob also served eight years as deputy internal revenue collector under President William McKinley and was appointed for a third term under President Theodore Roosevelt.

Like his fellow legislator William Grey, Donohoo was also an active Mason. He was a proud member of the M.W. Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Arkansas, which still exists today.

Jacob Donohoo died at age 63 on Nov. 11, 1914 in Helena.

Jacob Donohoo was an influential businessman in addition to being an Arkansas Congressman.

Mosaic Templars of America

You can barely make out the seal above Jacob’s name on his marker, my photo is not the best. It represents the fraternal organization known as the Mosaic Templars of America (MTA), a black fraternal order founded by John E. Bush and Chester W. Keatts, two former slaves, in Little Rock in 1883. The name of the organization, taken from the Biblical figure Moses who emancipated Hebrew slaves, elected the Templars’ ideals of love, charity, protection, and brotherhood.

The MTA originally provided illness, death, and burial insurance during an era when few basic services were available to African-Americans. Unlike most fraternal organizations of that time, the MTA had chapters for female members as well.

By 1905, the MTA had lodges across the state and thousands of members, several living in Helena. In the 1920s, it claimed chapters in 26 states and six foreign countries, making it one of the largest black organizations in the world. But by the 1930s, the MTA began feeling the effects of the Great Depression and ceased operations in America. One single chapter still exists in Barbados.

Here you can see the seal of the Mosaic Templars of America (MTA) seal on the top of Laura Blue’s marker.

I am sharing a photo of the grave marker of Laura Blue, also an MTA member, so you can get a better idea of what the seal looks like. She died in 1920 due to complications from Bright’s Disease, a kidney disorder.

Thanks to the blog “Kathleen Maca: Tales from Texas”, I found out a lot more about these markers. According her, the MTA operated a monument department as early as 1911 that provided grave markers for deceased members. Operations were managed by the state jurisdictions until 1914, when the MTA created a national monument department to centralize operations and cut costs. Members paid an annual tax to finance the department, and were promised a marble marker. This reminds me or the tree markers provided to policy holders who paid an extra fee by Woodmen of the World during this same era.

Interestingly, I photographed two MTA markers at a cemetery in nearby (to me) Lawrenceville, Ga. several years ago and had no idea what it represented. Now I do.

Sad Footnote

I found a sad footnote to Jacob Donohoo’s life. His oldest daughter with Mollie was Nina, born in 1879. Helena’s 1909 business directory lists her as working there as a music teacher. By 1914, she had moved to Chicago, Ill. This newspaper article details her death at age 35.

Newspaper article from the Jan. 21, 1914 edition of the Daily Arkansas Gazette (Little Rock).

There is a Find a Grave memorial for Nina as being buried at Magnolia but I did not see a marker for her when I was there. But I also didn’t look for it since I didn’t know about her when I visited. Regardless, I am sure Jacob and Mollie were devastated by the news.

Next week. I’m going to finish up with Part III by sharing the history of an African-American fraternal organization with roots in Helena, the Supreme Royal Circle of Friends.

Daniel Bland Marshall and his wife, Emma, were long-time educators in Phillips County, Ark.

Okie Road Trip 2019: Visiting Helena, Ark.’s Magnolia Cemetery, Part I

We crossed the Mississippi River (and the border between Mississippi and Arkansas), heading for Helena-West Helena, Ark. The two cities consolidated in 2006 into one. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll refer to it as Helena. It was founded in 1833 by Nicholas Rightor and is named after the daughter of Sylvanus Phillips, an early settler of Phillips County and the county’s name sake.

A major Civil War battle did take place here. In June 1863, Confederate Commander Theophilus Holmes planned and executed three failed attacks on the Union-held town. Confederates withdrew on July 4, 1863. There were 1,636 Confederate casualties and 205 Union casualties.

The Blues Highway

From 1906 to 1946, Helena was a terminal point on the former Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad. A thriving blues community developed there in the 1940s and 1950s, explaining why we saw the Blues Highway earlier that day at Barbee Cemetery.

In November 1941, a white businessman established the town’s first radio station, KFFA. A group of blues musicians were given a one-hour radio spot on the condition that they gain a sponsor. King Biscuit Flour agreed to do it. The King Biscuit Entertainers were sponsored, as well as the show King Biscuit Time, featuring blues musicians. It’s still going strong today.

A rare glimpse of Sarah and her car just inside the gates of Magnolia Cemetery. She brought a chair and a book to read while I explored.

Helena’s population of about 10,500 is about 75 percent African-American and has some historic cemeteries that I wanted to visit. Magnolia Cemetery has a story to tell and the community has been working hard in recent years on finding new ways of sharing it.

According to Find a Grave, Magnolia Cemetery has 90 memorials but I know there are many more unmarked graves and some newer ones yet to be recorded.

Some recently-created panels located outside the gates describe Magnolia Cemetery’s history. This is something I don’t often see at an African-American cemetery and I was happy to learn more.

I was impressed by the panels that explained Magnolia Cemetery’s history.

Magnolia Cemetery was originally part of segregated Evergreen Cemetery. The Evergreen Cemetery Company purchased land from three prominent Helena families to establish Evergreen in 1870. Unfortunately, 20 years later, both white and black sections of the cemetery were in poor condition. A group of African-American men formed the Magnolia Cemetery Association in 1899, purchasing the black section for $400.

If you’re standing inside the gates, you can see the area of Magnolia Cemetery’s more recent burials located up the hill. I went there last. The older burials are to the left and can be found on both sides of a long road.

There is no rhyme or reason to where people are buried at Magnolia Cemetery.

I observed that there is no order to where people are buried at Magnolia. That sounds like a criticism but it isn’t meant to be. African-American cemeteries were not easy to maintain for a number of reasons. Lack of funds and manpower were part of that. People took care of it as best they could when they could. It had been recently mowed, which is more than I can say for many cemeteries I visit.

A Homemade Tribute

The first grave I photographed was this homemade one for Nelma Lee Jackson. Born in 1923 to cotton farmer Frank Jackson and Nellie Lewis Jackson, Nelma was one of three children. According to the 1940 U.S. Census, Frank worked on a WPA (Works Progress Administration) road construction crew and Nellie was a cook in a restaurant. Nelba had completed at least sixth grade.

Nelba Lee Jackson only lived to the age of 20.

Unfortunately, Nelba contracted tuberculosis. Because of her race, it was likely difficult for her to get good medical treatment in rural Arkansas. She was working as a waitress at the Dreamland Cafe in nearby Watson, Ark. when she died on Oct. 15, 1943. Her marker says Oct. 14, 1943. Her marker stands by itself. If her parents are buried there, the graves are not marked.

Died in the Hospital

You can get a glimpse of the grave marker for Daisy Caradine Taylor behind Nelba’s. Born in Mississippi in 1910, Daisy Caradine’s parents were mill worker Mose Caradine and Carrie Braxton Caradine. The Cardines were “mulatto”, an antiquated term for a mixed race background. At some point, she married Herman Taylor. I don’t know if they had any children together as I could not find census records for them.

Daisy Taylor, 32, died during a procedure now usually done in an outpatient setting.

In January 1943, Daisy went to Baptist State Hospital (now known as Arkansas Baptist Hospital) in Little Rock to have an operation to remove several large fibroids from her uterus. This is a procedure that can be done with outpatient surgery today. Already suffering from anemia and hypertension, Daisy was put under anesthesia and went into shock. She died on January 15, 1943 at age 32.

The Proffitt Women

Behind these two graves is the Proffitt plot containing three grave markers, surrounded by a low block wall and a chain link gate. It reminded me of some of the plots at Laurel Grove South Cemetery, an African-American cemetery in Savannah, Ga.

There are three grave markers in the Proffitt plot but there may be some unmarked ones as well.

The plot contains the graves of Aria Wright Proffitt (1872-1960), her daughter Elizabeth (1910-1913), and Aria’s daughter-in-law Emma Dallas Proffitt (1907-1965). Born in Arkansas, Aria was the daughter of Thomas Wright and Annie Kennell Wright, one of seven children.

Aria’s husband, Moses “Mose” Proffitt has an interesting background. He enlisted with the 1st Regiment Infantry of the U.S. Colored Troops in 1863. I’m not sure when. It later became the 46th U.S. Colored Troops in 1864. When he returned to Helena, he resumed life as a farmer and married Mariah Jane Williamson in 1869 and they had at least three children together.

I’m not sure if Mariah died or they divorced. But Mose married Aria on March 13, 1893. Born in 1837, Mose was considerably older than Aria. He began receiving a pension for his military service in 1891. They had four children together, Moses Jr., Willie, Hosea, and Elizabeth. I think Willie died in childhood as I can find no record of him beyond the 1900 U.S. Census.

Elizabeth Proffitt’s birth and death dates puzzle me.

According to Elizabeth’s marker, she was born in 1910 and died in 1913. However, she appears in the 1910 U.S. Census as being four years old at the time. That is the only record I could find for her anywhere. I believe this marker came much later, in the 1960s when her mother and aunt passed away. According to the census, Mose was a minister by that time and Moses Jr. was working in a dry goods store in Helena.

I don’t have an exact date but because Aria began receiving a widow’s pension in 1924, I believe that’s the year Mose died. He had a will drawn up in May 1920, leaving behind his property to Aria, Moses Jr., and Hosea. It was probated in November 1924. I suspect he may be buried in the family plot with no marker, but I’m not sure.

Aria died in 1960. Ancestry has her death date as Sept. 12, 1960 but I can find no record of it. She was 87.

Aria Proffit was in her 80s when she died in 1860, outliving her husband by several decades.

Deadly Fire

Aria must have been proud of her sons. Moses Jr. received an accounting degree at Howard University and served in the U.S. Army during World War II. In the 60s, he helped organize Seaway National Bank in Chicago. He died in Chicago on Sept. 10, 1985 but I don’t know where he is buried.

Hosea also attended Howard University and went on to get a degree in dentistry. He returned to Helena and served the community in that capacity for 56 years. He married his wife, Emma Dallas, in the 1930s. Aria lived with them during the 1940s.

Only Dr. Hosea Proffitt survived the terrible fire that kills his wife, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law on Jan. 14, 1965. (Photo source: The Times (Shreveport, La.), Aug.

Emma’s death was sudden and tragic. At 3 a.m. on Jan. 14, 1965, the home she shared with Hosea in Helena caught on fire. Firemen managed to pull Hosea out of the home through a window and he survived. Emma, her mother, and her sister, were trapped inside and perished. Emma was only 57.

Emma Dallas Proffitt died in a house fire on Jan. 14, 1965.

Hosea later remarried and continued to serve Helena as a devoted dentist. He died 20 days after his older brother, Moses, on Sept. 29, 1985. I don’t know where he is buried either.

The Tailor’s Wife

The last grave I wanted to share is that of Mattie Garrett. She is in a shaded plot off to the side bordered by cement blocks .

Born in 1890 to Ed Lawrence and Rosie Richardson Lawrence, Mattie married James Garrett in 1910. He worked as a presser/tailor in a retail store, a skilled trade. According to the 1920 U.S. Census, they had four children. The youngest was only seven months old at the time the census was recorded.

Mattie Garrett left behind four children when she died in 1920.

Mattie died on Dec. 4, 1920. Her death certificate lists her cause of death as “pelvic peritonitis”, which I had never heard of before. It’s defined as inflammation involving the peritoneum surrounding the uterus and Fallopian tubes. Since she had given birth that year to a son, Richard, I wonder if it was related to that. Again, good medical care was likely hard to find for persons of color in rural Arkansas in the 1920s. Another young woman, gone in her prime like Daisy Taylor. Her father, Ed, would die a year later. He is buried near her.

Honoring Six Lives

I didn’t have a plan for how this blog post would unfold. I more or less followed the pictures. The African-American women of Helena lived hard lives, something I had suspected but saw proven as the research revealed it. Many like Daisy died young, while others like Aria managed to live a long life and raise sons who made their mark in the world. Like the graves scattered about the cemetery, there is no rhyme or reason to the hands they were dealt

It’s my honor to share their stories here in hopes they will not be forgotten.

Join me soon for Part II as I make my way further down the road into Magnolia Cemetery.

Okie Road Trip 2019: Stopping by Moon, Miss.’s Barbee Cemetery (Two Forrests and Five Wives)

Our next stop was Barbee Cemetery, located very close to the Mississippi/Arkansas border in the tiny town of Moon in Coahoma County. What earned it a spot on our itinerary was because it was alleged to have been established on an Indian mound.

Nearby is the Yazoo Pass, a small, winding stream that connects Moon Lake to the Coldwater River. Long ago, several large plantations were started near Moon Lake. Mound Place was a large plantation owned by James Lusk Alcorn, who established a post office by 1860. The Barbee family for whom the cemetery is named lived near Mount Place.

Barbee Cemetery is thought to be located on an Indian mound, but I’m not sure that’s true.

When we pulled up to the cemetery, which is off a busy thoroughfare called the Blues Highway, we did see what looked like a mound. Whether or not it is an authentic Indian mound, I don’t know. There is frustratingly little information about this cemetery. But because there are Indian mounds located in this area, it very well could be.

According to Find a Grave, there are nearly 500 burials recorded at Barbee Cemetery. The sign says it was established in 1850. The oldest marked grave belongs to Thomas Barbee, who died in 1865. There are 33 Barbees buried there.

Barbee Cemetery was established in 1850.

Meet the Barbees

There’s a historical marker near the road that talks about Hunt’s Mill, the site of a brief 1863 Civil War skirmish. William and Thomas Hunt owned and operated Hunt’s Mill, which Thomas Barbee and his relatives used.

Barbee Cemetery is located close to what was Hunt’s Mill, where a Civil War skirmish took place in 1863.

Thanks to Cliff Dean, who writes the blog My Delta World, I found a little information on Thomas Barbee. He was a local farmer who owned land near Hunt’s Mill, and his father and brother lived in the area. Dean explains that during the Civil War, Confederate partisans were common. These partisans were irregular cavalry units made up of men who would fight as regular soldiers and then return home as citizens. Thomas Barbee was a member of one of these partisan bands.

Dean’s blog post explains how Thomas got detained by Union forces in March 1863 not long after the Battle of Hunt’s Mill but returned home safely a few months later. In 1865, he crossed paths with Confederate Capt. William Forest, brother of noted Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest. Forrest was in the Mississippi Delta looking for horses and mules.  He and his men took some from Thomas and then traveled to nearby Friars Point.  Thomas went to get his property back, but was killed by Captain Forrest. Ironically, Forrest claimed he thought Barbee was a Union man.

An added touch of irony is that another Forrest brother, Capt. Aaron Forrest, was present at the Battle of Hunt’s Mill back in March 1863.

Thomas Barbee died at age 33, the exact day in 1865 in which he died is unknown. His wife, Susan Morgan Barbee, died in 1872 and is buried near him.

A Confederate partisan, Thomas Barbee was killed by Confederate Capt. William Forrest in 1865.

Ophelia Barbee Haynes Sanders

Thomas and Susan Barbee’s youngest child, Ophelia Annie Barbee, was born on Dec. 10, 1864. So she never knew her father, and her mother died when she was 8. She has one of the most unusual graves in the cemetery so I wanted to find out more about her.

Ophelia’s Find a Grave memorial states that she married Elisha Thomas Haynes on May 24, 1877, making her 13 years old at the time. Not unheard of in those days. She and Elisha had nine children together. Elisha died on April 13, 1899 at age 45.

Elisha’s monument is pretty interesting in itself. He must have been a member of Woodmen of the World because he has a nicely carved tree monument. I noticed there are a number of WOW graves at Barbee Cemetery. His surname is spelled out in the woodsy font WOW is known for. Not all tree monuments are WOW markers, but this one is. How can you tell? There are clues.

Elijah. T. Haynes has a handsome Woodmen of the World monument, with his surname in a woodsy-themed font at the base.

In the photo below, you can see the mallet and axe that were WOW symbols. Note that the bottom of the mallet is resting above the WOW motto (not easy to see through the lichen) “Dum Tacet Clamat,” which means “Though silent, he speaks.” You can also just make out a bird in the upper right corner, another WOW symbol.

The mallet, axe, and bird were three of the symbols of Woodmen of the World.

But that’s not the end. There was a sweet surprise hiding behind that tree! I don’t know which came first, the circle or the tree. But it definitely reminded me of the ones we had just seen at Oxford Memorial Cemetery and reinforced my theory that this type of grave marker was a regional favorite.

Elisha T. Haynes also has a grave circle to mark his final resting place. You can barely see his name at the foot of it.

Ophelia operated a boarding house in Denton (about 35 miles from Barbee Cemetery) after Elisha died, where she met her second husband, William Benjamin Sanders. He was a widower with children of his own. They wed in 1901. One of William Sanders’ daughters, Helen Josephine Sanders, would later marry Ophelia and E.T. Haynes’s son, Wendell Thomas Haynes, Sr.

Ophelia and her new family eventually moved to Memphis, where she worked as a housekeeper. She died there on Nov. 10, 1910 at age 45 due to complications from gallstones. She was brought home for burial beside Elijah. Let’s take a look at her grave.

The Old Rugged Cross

Ophelia is interred in an above ground brick vault, covered in what I believe to be some kind of plaster. It is fronted by a monument clearly stamped with the Supreme Forest of the Woodmen Circle. This was a women’s auxiliary to Woodmen of the World. The emblem for the SFWC is a shield with stars and stripes and crossed axes. One of its very attractive benefits was life insurance for women, a radical idea in its day. Since Elijah was a WOW member, it’s not surprising Ophelia was in the Woodmen Circle. It also carries the popular “Old Rugged Cross” theme frequently seen on monuments of that era.

Ophelia Barbee Haynes Sanders belonged to the Woodmen Circle, an auxiliary group for wives of Woodmen of the World members.
There are some lovely details in this carving, including the young woman’s hair and the heel of her delicate foot.

It would be wonderful if Ophelia’s vault were properly sealed and her monument cleaned. Here’s a side view.

Here’s a side view of Ophelia’s vault, which is in need of repair.

Leigh Haynes (1890-1895), one of the children of Ophelia and Elijah who died in childhood, is buried beside them. Amelia Barbee Haynes (1855-1883), Ophelia’s older sister who married Andrew Jackson Haynes, is buried nearby.

One Man, Five Wives

Ophelia and Amelia’s older brother, John Elijah Barbee (1848-1912), the eldest Barbee child, is also buried in Barbee Cemetery. He was married five times, with his last wife outliving him. I can’t say I’ve ever encountered such a situation. Three wives? Yes. Four wives? I think once or twice. But never five.

John Elijah Barbee shares a monument with his first two wives, Fannie and Mary.

Keeping track of John Barbee’s wives is no easy task but thanks to Ancestry, I think I’ve got them in proper order. There’s a note that says: “John married 5 times – his marker is in the Lula Cemetery (formerly the Barbee Cemetery). As each wife died, the previous wives were moved down the hill so that the 4th wife is buried closest to his tombstone. (The 5th wife outlived him by many years).” That’s not exactly true. His first three wives are buried at Barbee Cemetery, the fourth and fifth are buried elsewhere.

John Elijah Haynes had five wives over his lifetime. The last one outlived him. (Photo source: Ancestry.com)

John married Sinna Fannie Franklin in January 1874, they had two sons named Thomas (1874-1891) and Willie (1876). Both are buried at Barbee Cemetery. Oddly, Fannie’s side of the grave marker she shares with John and second wife, Mary, is inscribed with the death date Oct. 30, 1874. That would make it impossible for her to have given birth to Willie in 1876. I think this stone wasn’t carved until after John died in 1912 and an error was made. I believe she died on Oct. 20, 1876 or 1877. She would have been in her mid 20s.

Is Fannie Franklin Barbee’s death date incorrect?

John married Mary C. Bird on Dec. 5, 1878. They had three children, John (1879-1899), Letha (1882-1946), and Robert (1884-1912). Mary died on Oct. 20, 1884, about a month after giving birth to Robert.

Mary Bird Barbee died a month after giving birth to a son, Robert, in 1884.

Wife #3 was Viola Stovall, and this marriage was rather quick. She and John were married on Dec. 9, 1884, less than two months after Mary died. They had three children, Fannie (1886-1969), Walter (1888-1924), and Lester (1891-1959). Viola died on March 1, 1899 at age 32. She has her own monument further down the hill at Barbee Cemetery, I did not get a photo of it.

At some point later in 1899, John married widow Inez Hill Bridger. She had two daughters from her first marriage. I don’t believe they had any children together. She died on May 21, 1901 at age 30. She is buried at Rose Hill Cemetery in Sardis, Miss. with her first husband, William Henry Bridger.

John married a final time to Jennie Gordon in 1902. They had two daughters, Amelia (1904-1983) and Ophelia (1905-1995), named after John’s sisters. John died on Jan. 9, 1912 at age 63. Jennie did not remarry and died on Jan. 14, 1936 at age 71. She is buried at Blue Mountain Cemetery in Tippah County, Miss.

Burials are still taking place at Barbee Cemetery, the latest one recorded is January 2022. The newer graves are toward the back side of the cemetery away from the mound.

Burials are still taking place at Barbee Cemetery.

It was time to leave Mississippi to cross the border into Arkansas to visit two very different cemeteries in Helena. I hope you’ll join me there next time.

Heading into Arkansas for more adventures on the Okie Road Trip!

Okie Road Trip 2019: Visiting Mississippi’s Oxford Memorial Cemetery, Part III (Circles, a Winchester, and a Judge)

It’s time to wrap things up at Oxford Memorial Cemetery but I have a lot more to show you before I’m done.

When I looked at my photos from this cemetery, I noticed the profusion of oblong-shaped grave markers with open centers. Some of them are plain. Some of them are wood-themed, with little nubs on them. It’s not like I haven’t seen this style before. But not so many and not over such a long time span. If you look below, you can see an example of the West family plot. These are plain round circles. You can even see one that is smaller for a child.

Sometimes the family plots featured a larger surname marker with individual rings, the Falkner family has that kind of set up.

These circles did afford a family the opportunity to plant flowers inside the ring if they chose to. I have seen that done. But I didn’t see that happening here, probably because the graves are older and there’s nobody left to care for the flowers regularly.

The West family plot features plain oblong markers with an open grass center. In Linda Branham West’s case on the far right, you only get her age at the time of her death. No birth or death dates.

Segregation in the Cemetery

Like many cemeteries, Oxford Memorial Cemetery used to be segregated. I don’t know when that changed but there’s definitely an area for black graves. I use the term “black” and not “African-American” because in looking at the dates on some of those graves, the deceased were potentially native-born Africans who were enslaved part of their lives. I mentioned William Faulkner’s family servant, Callie Clark, in Part I of this series. She is buried in this area of the cemetery.

This is the grave for Anna Seward. I could find nothing about her beyond the fact she was thought to be 60 years old when she died on Sept. 15, 1893. That would have made her date of birth around 1833, so it’s possible she was born in Africa. While her marker rests on the ground, she does have a “woodsy” style circle around her grave but it is filled in and not open.

I’ve featured wood-themed and tree-shaped markers in many of my past blog posts. The 1890s were a prime time for this theme so it’s not a surprise you’d find it here at this time. Part of me wonders if it came sometime later. I suspect the marker was there first and the circle came later.

Little is known about Ann Steward.

Then you have the nearby grave of Tamar Patton, born at the end of the Civil War in 1865. Born in Tennessee, she was first married to a man with the last name of Orange. By 1900, she was widowed and in 1910, had remarried to Steven Patton. She spent the last three decades of her life in Lafayette County where Oxford is located.

Tamar Patton’s grave has the “woodsy” themed circle. Her will set aside funds for its purchase.

Tamar died in the later half of 1923 at age 58. She must have known her death was near because she prepared a will in March of that year. It was probated in June 1923. Her will tells us she had eight children and she bequeathed what funds she had (after paying for her grave, funeral, and debts) to those children. Two of those children, Joseph and and James, were minors when she died. Steven Patton is not mentioned at all but I suspect he may have been deceased already.

Tamar’s marker has the same wood-themed circle as Ann Steward, but she has a square with her name incorporated into it.

I also photographed the graves of William Hair and his wife, Nancy Jane Wheeler Hair, buried across the way. They were white. According to U.S. Census records, it looks like both William and Nancy were born in the 1850s in Mississippi. They wed in 1888 in Layette County. I don’t think they ever had any children but a nephew was living with them in 1910.

William and Nancy Hair died within seven years of each other.

William died at age 70 in 1927 and Nancy died in June 1934 at age 77. You can see that their grave circles are plain with the square at the base.

Accident With a Winchester Rifle

In some cases, I found a circle with an attached monument. This pair was made for Eugene Gaither Smith (1868-1901) and his wife, Annie Carter Smith (1873-1958). Annie outlived Eugene by 57 years. I knew there had to be a story there.

I apologize for the poor quality of this photo. The sun going down cast shadows and as you can see, that made an impact.

Eugene G. Smith died at age 32 in 1901 from an accidental gunshot wound. His grave marker features an anchor, a sunrise, and the three links of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF).

Born in Mississippi in 1868, Eugene married Annie Carter in Panola County, Miss. on Dec. 18, 1895. Their daughter, Gaither, was born on Oct. 27, 1898. The family moved to Memphis, Tenn. and Eugene got a job inspecting railroad cars for the Kansas City, Fort Scott & Memphis Railroad. They had a second daughter, Pauline, in 1900.

Sometime in May 1901, Eugene fell ill with malaria. He was out of work for several weeks but after recovering, returned to work on June 14, 1901. Later that morning, he was found dead from a gunshot wound from a Winchester rifle found nearby leaning up against a wall in the corner of the car inspector’s shed.

Partial article reporting Eugene Smith’s death in the June 15, 1901 Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.)

The above article detailed that while at first Eugene’s death was thought to be a suicide, this was later ruled out. Co-worker James Matthews owned the Winchester and kept it in the corner of the shed. Eugene had a habit of going into the shed every morning to borrow some tobacco out of the jacket Matthews kept with his rifle. The conclusion was drawn that Eugene continued his habit that day, but this time jostling the rifle and accidentally setting it off.

All the same, it was a terrible tragedy. Annie remained in Memphis with Gaither and Pauline, sharing her home with her half-brother, Nathan, who was a machinist, and a boarder. By 1920, Nathan had moved out. But Gaither and Pauline were both working as stenographers to support the household, along with a fellow stenographer who boarded with them. Gaither married James E. Rogers on Oct. 6, 1920.

Annie joined Eugene 57 years after he died in 1901 in Oxford Memorial Cemetery.

By 1930, Annie had moved to New Albany, Miss. with Gaither and her family, which included a grandson. Pauline married and remained in Memphis. Annie returned to Memphis at some point to live with Pauline and her family. She died at the age of 85 on July 19, 1958. Her body was sent home to Oxford for burial beside Eugene.

While it is difficult to see, Eugene’s marker has a number of symbols on it. An anchor signifying hope since he was never a sailor or worked in the maritime trade. A sunrise, which I’m not sure about in terms of what it means. There are also the three links of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF), signifying friendship, love, and truth. He was a member of that fraternal order.

So what can we conclude from all these grave circles? I can only guess that the major stone mason in the area from the 1880s to the 1920s offered these to his Oxford clients and they bought them. It may have simply been a regional trend because I found more at the next cemetery I visited down the road.

Oxford’s District Judge Robert A. Hill

Judge Robert Andrews Hill (1811-1900) has no grave circles of any kind in his plot, which he shares with his wife, daughter, son-in-law, and two grandchildren. But I was intrigued by his career and his family so I wanted to feature it.

Born in Iredell County, N.C. in 1811, Hill was the son of David Hill and Rhoda Andrews. The Hills moved to Tennessee when Robert was young. He wed Mary Andrews in 1833. They would later have two children, Robert (who died in childhood) and Marietta “Metta”.

Hill was elected a constable in 1834 and later became a justice of the peace. He resigned in 1844 to take up the practice of law, doing so in Waynesboro, Tenn., until 1847, when the legislature chose him as a state district attorney general. He held that position until his defeat in an 1855 popular election. That year, he moved to Tishomingo County, Miss. to form a law partnership with John F. Arnold. In 1858, he was elected probate judge of Tishomingo County, a post he held until 1865.

The monument for Judge Robert Andrews Hill and his wife, Mary.

A Whig before the war and a Republican after it, Hill favored the Lincoln-Johnson plans for constitutional measures for the restoration of the South. He served as a delegate to the 1865 Mississippi constitutional convention.

Robert Hill’s appointment to district judge is memorialized on the side of his monument.

In 1866, Pres. Andrew Johnson appointed Hill to the federal judiciary for the two districts that made up Mississippi. The court moved from Pontotoc to Oxford, where Judge Hill took up residence. In 1875, he publicly called on the voters of Mississippi “of both races and all parties” to peaceably register and vote in congressional elections and thereby show “to the world that, though composed of different races and entertaining different opinions, we are capable of self-government and can live in peace.”

I do think Judge Hill must have had a sense of humor. I found this anecdote about him in the newspaper.

From the Dec. 20, 1900 edition of the Democratic -Herald (Charleston, Miss.)

Hill was elected president of the Mississippi State Bar Association in January 1889 while a sitting federal judge. He retired from the federal bench in 1891 and continued to live in Oxford, where he served as a trustee of Ole Miss. His wife, Mary, passed away on Dec. 12, 1898. Judge Hill died at age 89 on July 2, 1900.

The epitaph on Judge Hill’s monument.

Judge Hill left the bulk of his estate to his daughter, Metta, who married George Hill. George also worked in the courts. They had two children, Myrtle and Robert Jr. Judge Hill’s will singles out Robert Jr., leaving him his gold watch, his gold-headed cane, and money for law books and law school tuition. He clearly thought much of him and his future.

A Sad Footnote

Sadly, Robert Jr. would die only three years after his grandfather. On Aug. 1, 1903, he married a young lady named Bessie Dismukes while “sitting in a buggy at Gallatin, Tenn.” according to his obituary. His parents were reportedly very displeased at this. Despondent over their reaction, Robert overdosed on morphine at the Maxwell House Hotel in Nashville, Tenn. five days later and died on Aug 6, 1903 at age 26.

Robert Jr., George, and Metta Hill are buried together in the Hill family plot. Myrtle’s small marker is in the back left corner.

Robert’s death took a toll on his parents. George Hill went into a decline and died in Biloxi, Miss. on July 17, 1907 at age 72. Metta died a few years later on Nov. 8, 1910 at age 67. The three of them are buried together. Myrtle, who never married, died in 1938 and is also buried with them, but her marker is much smaller and in the back corner behind them.

Later that night, Sarah and I went into downtown Oxford to have dinner and walk around. It has a beautiful town square with plenty of shops and restaurants for visitors and college students alike.

Next time, I’ll be at Barbee Cemetery near the Mississippi/Arkansas border.

Bem Price (1850-1903) was an Oxford, Miss. banker.

Okie Road Trip 2019: Visiting Mississippi’s Oxford Memorial Cemetery, Part II (Two Soldiers and a College President/Author)

Now that we’ve got the Faulkner/Falkner family sorted out, let’s move on to the other folks buried at Oxford Memorial Cemetery.

Just a sample of the wrought iron fencing at Oxford Memorial Cemetery.

A Transplanted Patriot

It wasn’t until this week that I realized I’d managed to photograph the grave of the only Revolutionary War veteran buried in the cemetery. This fellow has a Georgia connection.

Born on May 6, 1759 in Luenberg, Va., Daniel Green McKie was one of three sons born to Scottish immigrant Michael McKie. In 1778 at age 19, Daniel joined Hobson’s Virginia Regiment under the command of Gen. Nathanael Greene. Now that name rings a bell! You can read about Gen. Greene and how his remains were moved from Savannah, Ga.’s Colonial Cemetery to Johnson Square in 1901 in this blog post.

Portrait of General Nathanael Greene by Charles Wilson Peale in 1783, just a few years before he died.

McKie fought during the entire Revolutionary War and won praise for his actions at the Battles of Stone Mountain and Guilford Courthouse. He was rewarded with a promotion to the rank of Lieutenant.

On March 14, 1794, Lt. McKie wed Frances Herndon, a direct descendant of Sir Dudley Diggs, a Colonial governor of Virginia. They moved to Columbia, S.C. and raised six boys together. After experiencing financial difficulties in 1836, the lure of cheap land in Mississippi due to the Chickasaw Cession spurred McKie to move his family again. He died in Holly Springs, Miss. on Nov. 16, 1839 at age 80.

At the dedication of his grave at Oxford Memorial by the David Reese Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1927, McKie’s granddaughter is reported to have said, “He must have been a picturesque figure as he always wore full Colonial dress, exactly as we see in pictures of Washington and LaFayette.”

Lieut. Daniel McKie died about three years after moving to Mississippi.

The Oxford-based chapter of the Mississippi Society of the Sons of the American Revolution is named after Lieut. Daniel McKie.

A Little-Known War

There’s another soldier buried at Oxford Memorial, but he died at the start of a war we don’t often associate with Mississippi. That’s the Mexican-American War.

The Mexican-American War (1846-1848) marked the first U.S. armed conflict chiefly fought on foreign soil. It pitted a politically divided and militarily unprepared Mexico against the expansionist-minded administration of U.S. President James K. Polk, who believed the U.S. had a “manifest destiny” to spread across the continent to the Pacific Ocean.

Col. Jefferson Davis leading the First Mississippi at the Battle of Buena Vista, from a painting by Alexandra Alaux. (Photo Source: Mississippi Department of Archives and History.)

There was strong popular support for the war in many states. In Mississippi, the response to a call for 1,000 volunteers was so great that by June 1, 1846, an estimated 17,000 men were in Vicksburg wanting to enlist.

Among them was 25-year-old Thomas L. Jones, son of Georgia native and War of 1812 veteran John Peyton Jones and Tabitha Wheelwright Whatley Jones. He enlisted as a private and was assigned to Company K (the Tombigee Guards) of the First Mississippi, which became known as the Mississippi Rifles.

But it was not to be. While waiting with his fellow soldiers to head out, Thomas contracted congestive fever, which is sometimes thought to be malaria. He died on July 12, 1846 in Vicksburg.

Thomas Jones’ death notice appeared in the Paulding, Miss. True Democrat on July 22, 1846.

Thomas is buried to the right of his parents in the center of a circle of trees.

Thomas Jones is buried in this circle of trees with his parents. His sister and her husband are buried behind them.

There’s a heartfelt inscription on the back of his monument, which is a broken column. This indicates a life cut short.

The inscription on the back of Thomas Jones’ monument.

Uncle of a Confederate General

As we were exploring, I noticed a surname I was familiar with, one well known in Civil War history. Augustus Baldwin Longstreet (1790-1870) was the uncle of Confederate General James Longstreet. I wrote about him and his grave at Gainesville, Ga.’s Alta Vista Cemetery in 2017.

Born in Augusta, Ga. on Sept. 22, 1790 to Hannah Randolph and William Longstreet, Augustus Longstreet wore many hats during his lifetime. He graduated from Yale University in 1811 and was admitted to the Georgia bar in 1815. He met Frances Eliza Parke and they married in 1817. Of their eight children, only two — daughters Frances Eliza and Virginia Lafayette — lived to adulthood.

In 1821, Longstreet began a term in the Georgia General Assembly representing Greene County, a term cut short the following year when the assembly appointed him to serve for three years as the judge of the Superior Court of the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit. In 1824, Longstreet was campaigning for the U.S. Congress when the death of his first-born child, Alfred, prompted him to withdraw from the race. Longstreet’s grief led him to earnestly read the Bible and to pray, and soon he was “a thorough believer in Christianity.”

Augustus B. Longstreet greatly influenced the life of his nephew, Confederate Gen. James Longstreet.

After his judgeship ended, Longstreet and his family moved to Augusta. He joined the Methodist church in 1827 and felt called to preach the following year. In 1828, he was licensed to preach locally and his full-time ministerial career began in December 1838, when he became a traveling Methodist minister.

James Longstreet came to live with the his uncle’s family in Augusta to attend Richmond County Academy. When Augustus’ brother, also named James, died in 1833, he became even more of a father figure to his nephew.

Author, Minister, and College President

In 1835, Longstreet published “Georgia Scenes, Characters, Incidents, Etc, in the First Half Century of the Republic”, a book of humorous sketches which were based on life in the South. Poet Edgar Allan Poe gave it a rave review, and in 1840 the book was re-issued by Harper and Brothers. Longstreet’s goal was (in his words) “to supply a chasm in history which has always been overlooked — the manners, customs, amusements, wit, dialect as they appear in all grades of society to an ear and eye witness of them.”

Longstreet’s brief career as a full-time minister ended when he became president of Emory College in Oxford, Ga. in January 1840. Four years later, he resigned his post to serve briefly as president of Centenary College in Jackson, La. He was president of Ole Miss from 1849 to 1856. After briefly retiring, he was offered the presidency of South Carolina College (later the University of South Carolina) where he served until 1861 when the Civil War began.

Augustus Longstreet’s wife, Frances, preceded him in death in 1869.

Longstreet moved to Oxford, Miss., where his ill wife had been living with one of their daughters. In December 1862, Federal troops reached Oxford and burned his house. The Longstreets relocated to Oxford, Ga., and then to Columbus, Ga. After the war, the Longstreets lived in Oxford, Miss., where Frances died in 1869. Augustus Longstreet died on July 9, 1870 at age 79.

The inscription on the Longstreet family monument is not easy to read so I am thankful to the person who transcribed it for Augustus’ memorial on Find a Grave. Longstreet apparently wrote it not long before he died:

He sleeps by the side of his wife of whom he never thought himself worthy and who never thought herself worthy of her husband. In every innocent movement of his life, she went hand in hand and heart in heart with him for over Fifty-one years. Death was a kind visitor to them both.

Augustus Longstreet wrote his own epitaph shortly before he died in 1870.

A Lingering Mystery

There is a bit of a mysterious footnote that I’m still trying to solve and that is the fate of Augustus Longstreet’s grandson, Augustus Longstreet Branham. Born on Sept. 7, 1847, he was the son of Longstreet’s daughter Frances Eliza Longstreet Branham and Dr. Henry Branham. Augustus Branham died on Sept. 17, 1867 according to the family monument. But how and where did he die?

How did Augustus Longstreet Branham die?

I truly Googled my heart out on this one but to little avail. Ancestry yielded little beyond census records of his living with his family in Oxford in 1850 and 1860. But he vanishes after that. However, I did find a curious paragraph in the church history of England’s Nutfield Parish Church, the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, located south of London. It says:

Opposite, on the North wall, is a fascinating alcove behind a brass memorial plate, the ‘ghost cupboard’!  Was it the Easter sepulchre, or simply a cupboard, in the days before vestries were thought of?  The poignant memorial is to a young American lad, Augustus Longstreet Branham, who died on his way home to New York after a visit to this country. There is a Hall of Residence named after him in Oxford, Miss.

This was puzzling indeed because I could find no Branham Hall listed on the Ole Miss web site. What is the New York connection? Did Branham spend time in England? If anyone reading this knows, please contact me as I’d love to know what happened to him.

More to come next time in Part III!

Monument to Belle Murray Sullivan (1837-1895), wife of U.S. Congressman and Senator William Van Amberg Sullivan.

Okie Road Trip 2019: Visiting Mississippi’s Oxford Memorial Cemetery (Faulkner Family), Part I

We made it into Mississippi and headed for Oxford, home of the University of Mississippi. It’s better known as Old Miss. Sunset was fast approaching and I hoped to get to Oxford Memorial Cemetery before I ran out of light.

Just a logistical note. The city of Oxford owns Old Oxford, St. Peter’s, and Oxford Memorial Cemetery. I’m going to refer to it as Oxford Memorial Cemetery for clarity. There are no true dividing lines between the sections other than perhaps the age of some of the tombstones, The entire cemetery is technically owned by the city under the umbrella of Oxford Memorial Cemetery. Find a Grave has about 5,600 recorded memorials online.

The first person I went looking for is buried very close to the road on a hillside under some lovely shade. His name is so woven into Mississippi’s history that there was no way I was missing a stop at his grave, located in the St. Peter’s section.

The graves of William Faulkner and his wife, Estelle, are located in the St. Peter’s section of Oxford Memorial Cemetery.

A Nobel Laureate’s Grave

Confession time. I’m not a fan of William Faulkner’s writing. I offer my humble apologies to those of you who may be from Mississippi and/or are huge fans of his. I was assigned to read the novel Absalom, Absalom! in college and barely made it through. He’s just not my cup of tea. But I know he is beloved by many and his work is greatly treasured in literary circles. People travel from afar to Oxford just to visit his grave for good reason.

A native New Albany, Miss., Faulkner’s family moved to Oxford when he was young. When World War I began, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force but did not serve in combat. Returning to Oxford, he attended Ole Miss for three semesters before dropping out. He moved to New Orleans, where he wrote his first novel Soldiers’ Pay in 1925. Returning to Oxford, he wrote Sartoris in 1927, his first work set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County.

In 1929, Faulkner married Estelle Oldham, who brought with her two children from her previous marriage. Faulkner and Estelle later had a daughter, Jill, in 1933. In 1929, he published The Sound and the Fury and the following year, wrote As I Lay Dying. Hoping for greater economic success, he went to Hollywood to work as a screenwriter.

A Nobel Prize laureate, Faulkner is one of the most celebrated writers of American literature.

Faulkner’s fame reached its peak upon publication of Malcolm Cowley’s The Portable Faulkner and his being awarded the 1949 Nobel Prize in literature. He is the only Mississippi-born Nobel laureate. Two of his works, A Fable (1954) and his last novel The Reivers (1962), won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Faulkner’s economic success enabled him to purchase Rowan Oak, an estate in Oxford. He died from a heart attack on July 6, 1962, following a fall from his horse the prior month. Estelle and their daughter, Jill, lived at Rowan Oak until Estelle’s death in 1972.

William Faulkner died after having a heart attack on July 6, 1962. His wife, Estelle, died 10 years later.

One of Estelle’s children from her first marriage to Cornell Franklin, Malcolm Argyle Franklin (1923-1977), is buried in the plot with them.

Ole Miss literature students have a tradition of gathering at Faulkner’s grave to toast the Deep South’s foremost author. But no empty whiskey bottles were littering his grave on the day we stopped by.

“Her White Children Bless Her”

Further into the cemetery, I found the grave of Caroline “Callie” Barr Clark (1840-1940). Born into slavery, Callie started working for William Faulkner’s mother, Maud, in 1902. In later years, Callie lived in a cottage behind William Faulkner’s home in Oxford. She died there at the age of 100 in 1940. Both Faulkner and his brother, John, wrote affectionately of her.

Callie Clark worked for the Faulkner family for 38 years.

Callie’s relationship with the Faulkner family might be viewed by many today as paternalistic, but I don’t doubt that their love for her was real. Over the years, Callie shared stories of pre-Civil War and Reconstruction times from her own memories with the Faulkner children. William conducted her funeral in Rowan Oak’s living room, and arranged for her burial and grave marker.

Callie is thought to be the inspiration for the character of Dilsey Gibson in The Sound and the Fury, Cal’line Nelson in Soldier’s Pay, and Molly Beauchamp in Go Down, Moses.

Callie Clark inspired a number of characters in Faulkner’s books.

Faulkner dedicated Go Down, Moses to Callie in 1942, saying:

“To MAMMY Mississippi [1840-1940] who was born in slavery and gave to my family fidelity without stint or calculation of recompense and to my childhood an immeasurable devotion and love.”

A Rose By Any Other Name

Not far from Callie’s grave you can see the large Falkner family plot dominated by a large obelisk. You’ll notice the slightly different spelling of the name. There’s a rather complicated story there.

I’ve read that the family actually spelled it “Faulkner” many years before but Faulkner’s great-grandfather dropped the “u” so it became “Falkner”. William started spelling his last name “Faulkner” sometime after 1924. His brother John changed his last name to Faulkner when he published his own first novel “Men Working”. Brother Murry kept his as “Falkner” and brother Dean (who died in a 1936 plane crash) has the last name “Falkner” on his grave marker.

The Falkner family plot is dominated by a large obelisk.

The obelisk in the center of the plot is for William Faulkner’s grandparents, John Wesley Thompson Falkner (1848-1922) and Sallie McAlpine Murry Falkner (1850-1906). It’s quite something to see up close, with images of John and Sallie’s profiles carved into it.

John Wesley Thompson Falkner was the first president of the First National Bank of Oxford (now FNB Oxford-Tupelo).
William Faulkner’s grandmother, Sallie, was the daughter of Dr. John Young Murry and Emily Virginia Holcombe Murry of Ripley, Miss.

I didn’t find much about John and Sallie because apparently great-grandfather Col. William Clark Falkner was a much more colorful character who grabs the spotlight. But because he’s buried in Ripley Cemetery elsewhere in Mississippi, I’m not going to go into his background. I do know that John Falkner is thought to be the model for Bayard Sartoris in the Yoknapatawpha novels.

John Falkner was also the first president of the First National Bank of Oxford, now known as FNB Oxford-Tupelo. According to a 2020 Facebook post from the bank, John Falkner’s desk was located in the middle of the lobby so he could observe all business being conducted. William Faulkner learned of his great-grandfather’s many exploits from his grandfather over the years.

Faulkner’s parents are also buried in the Falkner plot. That’s his father, Murry, on the far right.

Murry Cuthbert Falkner, William Faulkner’s father, is buried in the grave on the far right.

William Faulkner’s parents were Murry Cuthbert Falkner (1870-1932) and Maud Butler Falkner (1871-1960). Murry worked for the family-owned railroad of which the president had been his grandfather, Col. Falkner. It was when Murry and Maud were living in New Albany in 1897 that William was born. Shortly after, the family moved back to Ripley, where sons John and Murry were born. When the railroad was sold, Murry and his family moved to Oxford, where fourth son, Dean, was born. In Oxford, Murry Falkner (the father) was at one time the business manager of Ole Miss.

Alabama Faulkner

There’s one Faulkner that I wanted to mention that I didn’t even know about until I started working on this post this week.

William and Estelle Faulkner had their first child on Jan. 11, 1931 and named her Alabama. Born two months premature, the baby couldn’t consume any type of milk available in that day, including breast milk, cow’s milk, goat’s milk, or powdered milk. Formula didn’t exist then.

While incubators were a brand new feature at Memphis, Tenn. hospitals, they weren’t available at Oxford hospitals. William and his brother, Dean, raced to Memphis to obtain an incubator for Alabama, but returned home that evening to see her continue to fade. Little Alabama passed died the following day on January 20, 1931.

Alabama is buried in the Falkner plot. I wish I had a better picture of her grave but this is all I have. Her grave, which does not bear her name, rests in the shadow of her great-grandparents’ obelisk.

Alabama Faulkner is buried with her parents and great-grandparents.

I’ll have more stories from Oxford Memorial Cemetery next time in Part II.