I’m still lingering at Mount Holly Cemetery in Little Rock, Ark.
Mount Holly has a community mausoleum that was built in 1917 by architects Charles L. Thompson and Thomas Harding, Jr. It was locked up when I was there. But there’s a single mausoleum that caught my eye that I wanted to share with you.
The E.G. Thompson mausoleum is a handsome one. I’m not sure when it was built. But Edward Thompson’s obituary makes it clear that he was “considered one of the wealthiest men in Little Rock” and the mausoleum reflects that.
A Man of Means
Born in 1850 in Missouri, Edward Grady Thompson graduated from LaGrange College in Missouri in 1871. He joined his brother, William J. Thompson, in Augusta, Ark. The brothers married sisters. Edward married Frances “Fannie” Gregory in 1872 and William married her sister, Sarah Gregory.
Fannie, the younger of the two sisters, was born in 1853 at The Point, her parents William Nathan Gregory and Mary Bland Gregory’s plantation in Woodruff County, Ark. She and Edward had three daughters during their marriage: Leah (1873-1943), Helen (1883-1953), and Lottie (1857-1935).
In 1891, the Thompsons moved to Little Rock. Edward and William Thompson, with Rufus W. Martin, built the railroad from Brinkley to Newport, Ark., leasing it to the Rock Island system. Edward and William were also prominent bankers, planters, and merchants.
The death of Fannie on Feb. 23, 1908 was unexpected. She was staying with daughter Leah, who had become Mrs. Leah Rose. Leah had been suffering from a bad headache. When Leah awoke from a nap, she found her mother lying on the bed nearby breathing heavily. Fannie died soon after. She was only 54.
Edward remarried in 1910 to wealthy widow Erminie Waters Sager, who was 42 when they wed. Edward died on March 3, 1921 at age 70. Erminie died in 1958. She is buried at Roselawn Memorial Park in Little Rock. Edward, Fannie, and daughter Lottie Thompson Clise are all interred within the mausoleum.
The stained glass window inside the Thompson mausoleum is unlike any I have seen before. At the bottom are what appear to be a field of daffodils or lilies. Above them is a dove in flight, looking down. A crown of thorns with a star in the center, superimposed over a cross, completes the picture. A chunk of the glass is missing, unfortunately. But it is still lovely to see.
In the Prime of Life
Peculiar causes of death always intrigue me. It didn’t hurt that Sydney Jordan Johnson had a large monument with his face in profile on it.
Born in 1866 in Lincoln County, Ark., Sydney was the son of Richard Henry Johnson and Anna Newton Johnson. Richard was the Democratic nominee for governor in 1860. Sydney was very close with his brothers, Allen, James, and John. Sydney got his degree from Central University in Richmond, Ky. in 1885 and returned to Arkansas. He and his brother, Allen, formed S.J. Johnson & Co. in 1893 and prospered.
In 1892, Sydney married Wilson Norfleet, a Mississippi belle. He continued to do well in business, taking on the role of director of Little Rock’s Exchange National Bank.
In early February, Sydney took a break from his busy business schedule to go “coasting” on Rapley Hill with a party of friends. Amid the frivolity, he broke his leg and was confined to his home for five weeks. He seemed to be on the mend but his doctor warned that a heart ailment might pose a complication. With his brothers and wife by his side, Sydney took a turn for the worse and died on March 17, 1899 at age 33.
Sydney and Wilson had no children during their marriage. She remarried to Georgia attorney Thomas Brailsford Felder, Jr. in 1906. His first wife, Charlotte, died in 1904. Thomas died in 1926 and is buried in Northview Cemetery in Dublin, Ga., where he served as mayor. Wilson died in 1949 at age 79 and is buried with her parents in Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis, Tenn.
A Railroad Conductor’s Family
The monument to Ransom Sylvester (R.S.) Page grabbed my attention for the visual trick it plays on your eyes. It is a broken column, carved that way on purpose. A well-known railroad conductor in Little Rock, R.S. was active in many fraternal organizations, from the Masons to the Elks to the Knights of Pythias.
The broken column has significance to the Masons for a number of reasons. But in terms of cemetery symbolism it represents a life cut short. As I began to look into the lives of the Page family, this became a recurring theme.
A native of Ohio, R.S. first married Julia Dean in 1876 in Iowa. He left her in November 1882 and the marriage ended in divorce with no children. He married Louise “Lulu” Warren soon after and their daughter, also named Lulu, was born in 1882. The family settled in Little Rock. Son Ransom Jr. was born in 1885, son Harry in 1889, and daughter Opal in 1896.
Having worked for the railroad in different capacities since the age of 15, R.S. was well liked in the community and active in those earlier mentioned civic groups. But in 1898 his health began to falter and he contracted tuberculosis. He died on Dec. 23, 1899 and his funeral was held on Christmas Eve. He was 43. Several members of the local lodges he belonged to attended the funeral.
Sadly, tragedy visited the Page home again soon. Daughter Lulu died on March 6, 1900 due to the same disease that had claimed her father just three months before.
A Mother Tries to Move On
Mother Lulu was left with three children to raise. She was forced to hold an estate sale to raise funds. According to newspaper articles, she purchased property in 1903 and began to build a home for her family.
But it was not to be. Lulu died on April 23, 1904 at the home of her sister. No cause of death was stated. She is buried with R.S. and Lulu at Mount Holly. Son Harry died a few years later on April 21, 1906 at age 17. His grave at Mount Holly is unmarked.
Ransom Jr. moved to California for his health not long after his brother’s death. He married Elise Raymond in June 1909. He passed away in January 1911 at 28. Elsie remarried to Phillip Estes in 1914. I don’t know where Ransom is buried.
The only member of the family left was Opal. She married Mack Steel in 1914 but she filed for divorce in 1917 after Mack was arrested for embezzlement. Another woman had also moved into their home while Opal was gone on a trip.
Like her father and sister, Opal died of tuberculosis on Aug. 24, 1918. She was 22. Her death certificate says she is buried at Mount Holly but I did not get a photograph of her grave. Her death brought a painful end to the Page family.
There are more stories from Mount Holly Cemetery. Stay tuned for Part III.