Today I’m continuing my series on Little Rock, Ark.’s Mount Holly Cemetery. Let’s start with this monument to two wives. But their husband isn’t buried with them. That got me interested enough to do some research. Who was R.W. Dawson and where did he end up?
It turns out he might have known some of my family back in the day.
A British Photographer in America
Born in Lancashire, England in 1833, Robert Wolstenholme (R.W.) Dawson was the son of Henry and Alice Wolstenholme Dawson. Sometime before 1850, the family emigrated to America and settled in Connecticut. R.W. married Lucy Freeman in Vienna, Wisc. in 1860 and settled couple in the Elgin, Ill. area.
I was surprised to find that by 1870, the Dawsons had moved to Blair, Neb. Long-time readers of this blog may remember that one of my first “hops” was in small rural Blair where my ancestor, Rufus Claar, settled during the same time period. Rufus married, farmed, raised a family, and died in Blair. It’s likely that the Claars knew the Dawsons because R.W. worked as a photographer in Blair for several years.
R.W. and Lucy had four children together: Clara (1861), Alva (1862), Nelson (1865), and Charles (1866). By 1880, they had left Nebraska to settle in Little Rock where R.W. opened a photography studio. Later, the boys would work with their father in his studio. You can see some of his work here.
Lucy died on April 3, 1884 at age 43. Her obituary states she’d suffered from heart disease for some time. R.W. remarried on April 28, 1886 to Laura Eldridge Robinson Hamilton. Laura died on Jan. 31, 1888 giving birth to their daughter, Irene. Sadly, Irene died on Aug. 24, 1890. Robert’s daughter, Elva, who married local pressman Robert Butler, died on April 25, 1889 at age 26. She is buried in the Dawson plot beside her mother.
I noticed that Laura’s inscription is prominently displayed on the front while Lucy’s is on the side. I believe it was likely erected after Laura’s death and the inscriptions for both were made then.
R.W. eventually moved to California, perhaps wanting to escape the pain of the deaths of his two wives and two daughters behind him. He married widow Susan Kirk Neal in 1894. In 1905, R.W. fell while at his church and cut a nerve. Three years later, a stroke rendered him mostly paralyzed. R.W. died on May 18, 1910 at age 76. He and Susan are buried in Sunnyside Cemetery in Longbeach, Calif.
Wives of a Real Estate Baron
Then there are times I run into the next situation where the first wife is memorialized with a large, elaborate monument and wife #2… Well, let’s just say some may think she got the short end of the stick (or monument).
Born in Darlington, S.C. in 1846, Benjamin William Green was the son of Judge James Green and Sarah Ann Green. The family was living in Dalton, Ga. when Benjamin joined Company D of the First Georgia Infantry regiment on Nov. 1, 1863. By the time he enlisted, the regiment had become part of the forces fighting in the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Green rose to the rank of sergeant major. He and his five brothers all served in the Confederate Army.
In the 1870s, the Green family moved to Arkansas, settling in Hope where Green worked as county treasurer. He owned various real estate properties, and was part owner of Cummins plantation in the Pine Bluff area. Eventually, he settled in Little Rock where he worked in real estate.
On Oct. 5, 1875, Green married Anna Leroy Pope of Nashville. Tenn. I don’t believe the two ever had any children. She died on Oct. 26, 1880 at age 32. By that time, Benjamin had added “cotton mills superintendent” to his list of titles.
In the 1880s, Green headed a division of the U.S. Treasury, served as major general in the Arkansas National Guard, was president of the state Sons of the American Revolution, and served in various roles in the United Confederate Veterans.
Green married Miriam “Minnie” Dodge Green, a native of Vermont, in 1887. On Feb. 3, 1888, their daughter, Alice, was born in Washington, D.C. She married cotton sales agent Robert Warren in 1908. The couple were living with Benjamin and Minnie with their children in 1920, according to the U.S. Census.
Benjamin Green died on Jan. 15, 1924 after a brief illness. Minnie died on Jan. 6, 1927 at age 67. She and Benjamin share a small marker beside Anna’s towering monument.
While Minnie’s memorial is much smaller, she does get to share it with Benjamin. Considering she was married to him for 37 years compared to the five he had with Anna, it makes sense that they would have one together.
“The Sea of Glass”
Sometimes I don’t see interesting things until later when I’m going through my pictures. In this case, it took looking at someone else’s picture to see it because mine was so poor.
I was literally running through Mount Holly that day (playing Beat the Clock, or rather Beat the Gate Locker), snapping photos here and there. The late afternoon sun made some of those photos very dark. The next few are an example of that, so I apologize for the quality.
Minnie Dodge Green had several siblings and one of them was older brother George Eugene Dodge, born in 1845. Although the Dodges hailed from Vermont, they’d moved to Arkansas a few years before that. George attended law school in Albany, N.Y., graduating in 1867. He returned to Little Rock and formed a partnership in 1871 with Benjamin S. Johnson. They represented what was then known as the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railroad. The firm, now known as Friday, Eldredge & Clark LLP, still exists today.
George married Madalein “Mattie” Perdue Osborne sometime before 1868. They had several children. Their son, Osborn, was born on Sept. 6, 1868. Younger son Edward nearly died of scarlet fever but was nursed back to health. Sadly, Osborn caught the illness and did not survive. He died on Jan. 26, 1881 at age 12.
Only when I looked at another photo of Osborn’s handsome monument on Find a Grave.com did I see the epitaph written at the base that said, “He Walks with the Harpers by the Sea of Glass.” At first, I had no idea what that could be from but the words “sea of glass” made me think it was Biblical. I found I was right. It comes from Revelation 15:2: “And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps.”
Sadly, Edward was found dead in his hotel room in St. Louis, Mo. on Jan. 23, 1900 at age 23. He had overdosed on morphine. Edward had recently moved to that city to start a new bookkeeping job. He left behind two sealed letters, one for his father and the other for an unnamed young lady. Edward is buried beside his parents.
George Dodge died in 1904 in Cincinnati, Ohio at age 58 due to heart problems. Mattie died in 1921 at age 73.
A South Carolina Hunley Connection
While going through my Mount Holly photos, I made another discovery. I had photographed a cenotaph for Seaman Charles L. Sprague. A cenotaph is a memorial stone for a person who is buried elsewhere or whose body was never recovered. Charles was born in Little Rock on Feb. 6, 1842 to the Rev. Alden Sprague and Sophronia Eldridge Sprague. They both passed away when Charles was a boy.
According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, Charles enlisted in his cousin’s Confederate artillery battery after the Civil War broke out. Charles joined Captain John W. Eldridge’s Company of Light Artillery on May 20, 1862, at Corinth, Miss., which would become J. W. Mebane’s battery after Eldridge was removed from command during a reorganization. Sprague’s service records are divided into two groups, the first listing him as C. L. Sprague and ending with the notation “knows something about torpedoes.” That knowledge would seal his fate.
You can read more about it here, but Charles would become a member of the second crew that piloted the ill-fated Confederate submarine, the Hunley, under the command of Horace Hunley, its inventor. On the morning of Oct. 15, 1863, the vessel set out into Charleston Harbor.
Hunley apparently erred in regulating the amount of water in the forward ballast tank, causing the vessel’s bow to bury itself in the mud. The ship partially filled with water, and its crew, including Hunley and Sprague, either drowned or were asphyxiated. All of the crew were buried in Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, S.C., along with the dead of the earlier accident.
On Feb. 17, 1864, the Hunley attacked the USS Housatonic with an explosive device attached to a spar protruding from the submarine’s bow. The U.S. warship sank, and the Hunley and its third crew were also lost. The Hunley was located in 1995 and raised.
I have visited Magnolia Cemetery many times. It’s where all three Hunley crews are buried and I’ve photographed those graves. I was able to find the marker for Charles Sprague among the others in my pictures. When I took that picture (and I’m not sure when it was), I had no idea that one day I would photograph his cenotaph in Arkansas. His parents are buried near it.
Hungry for more tales from Mount Holly Cemetery? There are more coming soon.