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Sunday, November 28th, 2010 09:16 am
Last spring, my dad called me and said there was going to be a tour of the old McCarley family cemetery on Saturday, March 27. The cemetery is abandoned now - I think the last grave dug in there was before 1900. The first one I know of was in 1847, when Moses McCarley's wife, Elizabeth P Griffin, died. As the crow flies, the cemetery is less than 3 miles from Dad's house.

There are at least 50 (mostly unmarked) graves. Some of our ancestors who came to Arkansas from Lawrence County, TN in 1838 are buried there, including my g-g-g-grandfather. I've been bugging Dad for years to tell me how to get down there, but it would have meant getting mixed up in a family feud.

The land where the cemetery is located now belongs to a third cousin-in-law of mine, and he has most of it fenced. We have a healthy respect for the symbolism of fences in the south, and honorable people ask if they can cross to the other side.

In my cousin-in-law's case, that means asking to open (and close behind you) a lot of gates.

I'm still not sure what it's all about. But Louis (that's the cousin-in-law) was going to open all the gates on Saturday, in some unepected gesture of good will.

So that was cool. I told Dad I'd be there.

And while I was at it, I thought, I'd just go by three other little country cemeteries within 5 or so miles from my Dad's house. I'd make it a day.

Dad and I talked on Wednesday of that week about the change in weather forecast. Saturday was supposed to be dry and cloudy in the morning, and wet and stormy in the afternoon. Lather, rinse, repeat for Sunday.

Not a good day for graving. Bummer.

But a problem easily solved.

I took Friday off work, and went graving in glorious weather.

The McCarley cemetery was finally reached by traveling through 5 miles and 5 gates of 4 wheel drive hell.

After climbing (yes, climbing...this is a 3/4 ton standard cab truck) out of and back in to the truck 4 times, I was exasperated. What is up with all the gates? I asked.

The keep them in designated ranges.

Huh? We are butt-deep in brush on the side of a mountain, winding deeper and deeper into mixed hardwood and pine forest. I could hardly see the road in front of me.

What do cows find to eat back here? (Later, as I was driving home I thought about that some more. I guess they use the network of creeks for water, and the edge of a forest provides cover during "popcorn" showers that are so common in the warm months.)

But, man...

Some of the photos that follow will make you say, "Huh? What cemetery?"

Abandoned cemeteries look like this. That's why they call them abandoned. Many cemeteries that are inactive are still maintained.

Abandoned means inactive *and* no one is honoring it.

Here's what you see when you come up on it. Because that's what you do - come up on it.

Wide view

Louis had spent some out there the previous week, dragging tree litter aside to make paths off the road.

Rocks mark many graves...

Grave stones

Here are the graves of Andrew Sawyer and Elizabeth (McCarley) Ashmore, my g-g-g-grandparents. He died in 1853, and she, in 1875.

Andrew Sawyer Ashmore

(That's not their original stone. Family members put up a more durable marker over 50 years ago.)

Harriet Rebecca Nickles, wife of John Nickles, died in 1869, at the age of 33.

Harriet Rebecca Nickles

John W McCarley, 1833-1887

John W McCarley

At the top of his stone were the male and female entwined hands, symbolizing reunion in the afterlife. Although it was used mostly on Christian graves, I find a bit of "pagan" irony above, so below, and as below, so above.

entwined hands

In all, the trip to and time at McCarley ate up about a third of the six hours or so we had set aside to see 4 cemeteries. Bummer.

But it was a problem easily solved. We just decided to take whatever time we needed before it got dark.

Because they have stories. And we are the story-tellers.
[identity profile] (from
Sunday, November 28th, 2010 03:38 pm (UTC)
Fabulous pictures. Couldn't help but notice your ggg grandfather's middle name - Sawyer (guess I'm still trying to claim kin). Not that I could make a connection 'cause my Sawyer is the wall of all walls.
Sunday, November 28th, 2010 03:47 pm (UTC)
Cannot figure where the Sawyer came from. His mother's maiden name was Mary Henderson. Father was Joshua Bloomer Ashmore, Sr. (Bloomer was Joshua's great grandmother's maiden name.)

I just replied to your Thanksgiving post on your blog. I, too, had an ancestor who came over from England on the Ark and the Dove...John Ashmore.
[identity profile] (from
Sunday, November 28th, 2010 03:58 pm (UTC)
A link! The Marylanders are my husband's family. I don't believe there were any marriages between his clan (Calvert, Fenwick, Cole - and Fleete) and the Ashmores but they certainly rubbed shoulders.
Sunday, November 28th, 2010 04:30 pm (UTC)
The only one of those surnames in my tree (and it is intermarriage) is Cole. The earliest Cole I have is James Cole, 6 Dec 1826 (South Carolina) to 30 Dec 1869 (Pope Co., AR), married to Rebecca Jane Vinson, born 1834 in Georgia.

So on your DH's side, we were neighbors.

And there's just no telling about those Williamses...

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010 04:19 am (UTC)
Just a thought... you might want to check if any of the neighbors were named Sawyer around the time he was born. My husband has an ancestor whose middle name is the same as a neighbors and several of his brothers have the first and middle name of a neighbor. Obviously they were very good friends.