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Oakland Cemetery, Atkins, Pope Co., AR

I wish we knew which Burris, Haralson, Matchett and Strickland they were. We have so many of each in the family tree with unknown burial places...
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There's a story behind this one.

It is a cenotaph.

But that's not because we don't know where he is buried.

My grandfather, George W Burris, Jr., always wanted to be buried in St Joe Cemetery in Pope County, AR. That was "back home" for him.

My grandmother, on the other hand, argued that they should be buried in Arkadelphia, in Clark County, where they had raised their family, and where they both still lived.

Granddaddy always told her she better hope he went first - otherwise she would be planted in the country in Pope County. Since he was 18 years her senior, it was a pretty safe bet where they would be buried.

They share a double gravestone in Rose Hill Cemetery in Arkadelphia. But last summer, my dad and step-mom decided to honor Granddaddy's wish and memorialize him in St Joe Cemetery, close to his beginnings near Isabelle Creek in Pope Co., AR.
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Probably next to gravestones for children, homemade stones touch me the most.

And when you combine the two. . .

Imagine the emotions running through you as you select the rock on which you will carve a name.

Click here to view. . . )
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It was there by itself.

A child's stone, which over time was wrapped in the shelter of the roots of a tree.

I couldn't find the grave of S A McGehee, his mother. His father's grave was several feet away.

Benjamin Scott McGehee, 25 Mar 1862-29 Apr 1862
Crooked Bayou Cemetery, McGehee, Desha County, AR
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There's a story here - I'm sure of it.

Jennie and T H Ayars...Taken at Oakland Cemetery, Russellville, Pope Co., AR
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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.

And then, there was that matter of the feud...they are serious stuff down here.  )

Because they have stories. And we are the story-tellers.
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Two years ago, my youngest sister asked me if I knew about the graves on the side of the road. She and her son had seen them as they drove down Arkansas Highway 5 to run errands in a growing town that has almost swallowed up the countryside.

I went to go check them out.  )
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Fay Latrell and his brother Ray Cornell Brannon.

They were born in 1943. Fay died first, on August 25. Ray followed three days later.

I try to imagine how their parents, John and Delila Brannon, must have felt. Delila was only 18 years old herself.


The babies share a stone in Tate Cemetery in Pope Co., AR.
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R B McBrayer, 1871-1905

He was the first husband of my g-g-grandmother, Julia Ann Callaway. They had 8 children together in the fourteen years they were married, including a set of twins, Madgie and Maggie. (Madgie and Maggie were the first of three sets of twins born to my g-g-grandmother.)

Robert was the son of Eli Wellington McBrayer and Hattie K Thornton. There are still "oldtimers" near the little community of DeGray, AR in Clark County who talk of Robert's reputation as a kind and gentle man, who died too soon of "kidney trouble."
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I took photos of 55 Confederate soldiers' gravestones while I was at the cemetery.

That is just a fraction of the more than 1,300 Confederate soldiers and veterans buried in the cemetery, with over 1,000 of those graves in the Fowler section of the cemetery known as Confederate Soldiers Rest.

Many of those graves remain without a military marker, but 945 do have a numbered concrete markers placed there by the Confederate Historical Association in 1886.

Included in this entry are the 55 photos I took, along with a brief transcription of the information on the stone, so that people searching for any of these soldiers might be able to find them when using Google or other search engines.

If your relative is among these 55 men, and you want the photo of the gravestone for your own personal genealogy or family records, I am expressly waiving copyright on the photos used for that purpose. Just right click and save the photo to your computer. I retain copyright for any photos that someone might want to use for a commercial purpose.

In other words, if you want to make money off the deal, we will have to get all formal with a written agreement about that.

While I was at Elmwood, I purchased a copy of John W Cothern's book, Confederates of Elmwood, which was carefully researched over a number of years. It has additional information about each of the soldiers, and I can do look-ups for anyone who thinks his or her Confederate soldier relative may be buried at Elmwood. Leave a comment with your request and I will reply to your comment here.

Click here for photos... )
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I wanted to go to Elmwood ever since I found out last summer that my g-g-g-grandfather, Nathaniel C Callaway, was buried there, in the section called Confederate Soldiers Rest.

This week, one of my newly found Callaway cousins and I had a Nike moment, and said let's just do it.

So we went today.

We found Nathaniel's grave, with the help of a map with tiny little plot numbers on it, and a very enthusiastic office staffer with a magnifying glass. We also found Levi Callaway's grave - he was a fourth cousin to Nathaniel.

Neither grave was marked, apart from the little concrete markers with the plot numbers, 652 and 140, on them. But now we know where they are, and we can order markers from the government, pay the cemetery to set the stones, and then get our photos.

Elmwood is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is huge, and tours are given by advance request for groups of ten or more. You can take an audio driving tour solo, but we just decided to meander on our own.


I took 202 photos. It was very hard for me to pare down the number to post.

Click here to see 30 more... )
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I'm on a quest, one begun as a result of my entry on Veteran's Day.

My dad called me up and asked me why I stated in that entry that Paul Pettit, my step-mom's dad, had been awarded a Bronze Star.

I said it was because his military gravstone said he did.


Paul Pettit was inducted into the Army on 23 Mar 1944 at Camp Robinson, in what is now North Little Rock, AR. By 25 Sep 1944, he was overseas in the European Theater as part of what was known as the Rhineland Campaign.

On 17 Nov 1944, his vmail letter was dispatched by the War and Navy Department to his wife, Audria, in Atkins, Pope Co., AR.


Audria got Paul's vmail on 19 Nov 1944. No one knew at the time the significance of that date.

Regret to inform you...

It had to be a horrible telegram to get. It arrived on 3 Dec 1944, sent to a 24 year old wife and 4 year old daughter.

For anyone receiving a telegram during World War knew before you tore the envelope open, didn't you?


Regret to inform you your husband was seriously wounded in action in France nineteen November until new address is received address mail for him quote private Paul Pettit serial number (hospitalized) central postal directory apo 640 care postmaster New York New York unquote you will be advised as reports of condition are received Witsell acting the Adjutant General

Audria had no way of knowing that on the day she got his vmail, Paul had been ambushed by a sniper as he jumped off the truck when his unit entered a small town in France. He was shot, multiple times, in the abdomen, resulting in surgery that was unable to repair his colon. From the field hospital, he was sent to another hospital, and spent a total of 225 days hospitalized before he was sent stateside, not to come home, but to guard prisoners of war in the United States.

During his hospitalization, the Army sent information about his condition.



His duty assignment took him to the Panama Canal Zone, where on board the ship, doctors had to treat an outbreak of gonorrhea. Finally, the doctor who examined Paul said, "You're going home."

Paul Pettit was honorably discharged from the United States Army on 8 Mar 1946 in New Hamilton, NY. He was awarded a 100% disability rating, as well as a Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman's Badge, World War II Victory Ribbon, EAME Theater Ribbon, and American Theater Ribbon.

He never said anything about a Bronze Star, and my step-mom does not have it with his other awards. He probably never knew he had gotten it.

President Roosevelt authorized the Bronze Star Medal by Executive Order 9419 dated 4 February 1944, retroactive to 7 December 1941. This authorization was announced in War Department Bulletin No. 3, dated 10 February 1944. The Executive Order was amended by President Kennedy, per Executive Order 11046 dated 24 August 1962, to expand the authorization to include those serving with friendly forces.

As a result of a study conducted in 1947, the policy was implemented that authorized the retroactive award of the Bronze Star Medal to soldiers who had received the Combat Infantryman Badge or the Combat Medical Badge during World War II. The basis for doing this was that the badges were awarded only to soldiers who had borne the hardships which resulted in General Marshall’s support of the Bronze Star Medal. Both badges required a recommendation by the commander and a citation in orders.

My favorite Congressman, Vic Snyder, has a hell-on-wheels staff member who handles constituent concerns related to US veterans. Devon Cockrell, a veteran and active duty member of the US Army, has assured me that there is no question that Paul Pettit's daughter will get her daddy's Bronze Star Medal. He's going to start the process for us.

And he says the Army does them up right...
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The old Callaway family cemetery in Clark Co., AR is now abandoned. The pine woods of Clark County have reclaimed it.

A few of the stones are still legible, including the one for Laura "Isibelle" (Holder) Callaway.


Isibelle was the daughter of Andrew Jackson and Elvira (Huckleberry) Holder, born on 6 Nov 1858, probably not far from where she was laid to rest on 6 Oct 1900.

She married Thomas Nathaniel Callaway on 13 Dec 1876 in Clark County. My great great granddad, Allen Mason Lowery Callaway, who was Thomas' older brother, signed the marriage license giving his underage brother permission to marry Isibelle.

Although she preceded Thomas in death by 33 years, they raised eleven children together, most of whom lived to adulthood, and who loved, married, and died in Clark County, too.
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This is one of my favorite monuments at Calvary, not just because of the incredible workmanship, but also the colorful history of the man who is memorialized by it.



Remember the old Southern manse featured in the opening credits of Designing Women? Angelo Marre built the Villa Marre in Little Rock in 1881 for his bride, Jennie, who had left her first husband (and uncle), James Brizzolara and her six year old son, to be with Angelo. Jennie never bothered with the formality of a divorce from Brizzolara, but managed to avoid being charged with bigamy by saying that her marriage to Angelo was not legal, because it had not been performed in a Catholic church.

For his part, Angelo got his start as a saloonkeeper in Little Rock after leaving the Memphis police force with the proceeds of an inheritance he had received from a Memphis madam - "in remembrance for my and his love for each other" according to her will. Angelo Marre died of blood poisoning in 1889, and Jennie lived in the home until her death in 1905.
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John Crockett Burris was the son of John and Cynthia Ann (Ashmore) Burris, who at the age of 1 year, made the journey with his parents, extended family and a multitude of neighbors from Lawrence Co., TN to Pope Co., AR in 1838 in an ox drawn wagon party.


John Crockett Burris, 4 Apr 1837-10 Jun 1880
Ford Cemetery, Pope Co., AR

John married Sarah Ann Harrelson, daughter of Claiborne C and Phebe Harrelson on 7 Apr 1859. John and Sarah had one child, James Mitchell Burris, before John joined Confederate troops at Dover on 20 Jun 1862. By 24 Aug 1863, he must have had enough of war, because the Confederate Army said he deserted, and gave a description of him in its records - Ht 5' 7", eyes gray, hair drk, complx lt, farmer, age 25, born in TN.

John and Sarah went on to have six more children, several of whom died before adulthood. Sarah is also buried at Ford Cemetery, as are children Phoebe Ann Burris (1866-1884), Mollie (1874 - 1879), Carrie Louella (1875-1884), and John Marion (1878-1879), born one week before his mother died on 8 Dec 1878.

Sarah Ann Harrelson Burris, 1838-1878

Carrie Louella Burris

John Marion Burris
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Probably next to gravestones for children, homemade stones touch me the most.

And when you combine the two. . .

Imagine the emotions running through you as you select the rock on which you will carve a name.

5 under the cut. . . )
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Crossroads Cemetery, Pope Co., AR

John James Burris was the son of William James and Mary Jane (Matthews) Burris. He was born 20 Jan 1855 in Pope Co., and died there on 1 Mar 1938. He outlived a wife and 12 of his 20 children.

The day that my dad and I went to Crossroads Cemetery, it was because I had a hunch we would find Burrises buried there. Crossroads is not far from where our Burrises settled after their 1838 journey from Lawrence County, TN., and was a very neatly tended cemetery, located - naturally - at a crossroad.

The first Burris stone we found was John James' because of its height. I already knew he had two wives, but did not realize that the first, Mary Ann Cole, was so young when she died. Mary Ann was the daughter of James and Rebecca Jane (Vinson) Cole, and was only 14 years old when she and John James Burris married on 17 Dec 1876. Their first child, Sarah F Burris, was not quite 2 when she died of flux, according to the 1880 federal mortality census.

Mary Ann died the day after giving birth to a stillborn son on 8 Dec 1878. Both of the children were buried at Crossroads.

Dad and I kept on moving, calling out to each other as we found graves. The next was the footstone for John's second wife, Sarah L Ann Burks, daughter of James Edward and Nancy Mildred (Patterson) Burks.

We quit talking as we kept moving...each child had his or her own stone, almost worn smooth by time and the elements, but still readable.

The children of John and Sarah Burris buried in Crossroads Cemetery were:
Infant Daughter Burris, born and died on 26 May 1880;
Infant Son Burris, born and died on 10 Jun 1881;
Evert L Burris, born on 18 Jul 1885 and died on 15 Aug 1885;
Infant Burris, born and died on 25 Oct 1889;
Minnie E Burris, born on 20 Jul 1891 and died on 25 Jul 1892;
Bevin O Burris, born on 10 Jun 1895 and died on 5 Jul 1895;
Twins Lear and Luther Burris, born on 10 Dec 1896 and died on 20 Dec 1896;
Infant Daughter Burris, born and died on 6 Dec 1898; and
Ira J Burris, born on 8 Dec 1900 and died on 24 Dec 1900.

Eight of John and Sarah's children survived to adulthood.

Dad and I talked about it in the truck on the way back to his house. The only thing we could come up with was maybe the significant number of stillbirths and early infant deaths in this family might be related to Rh incompatibility in mother and child.

We have a shot for that today.

Here is the findagrave memorial for John James Burris, with links to the other members of his family.
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I love talking to other genealogists. I prefer amateurs like myself.

But I always get irritated when the discussion takes a turn I simply cannot understand. I'm talking about a fairly widely held belief that when our ancestors' children died, they did not feel their grief as deeply as do parents today who lose a child.

I'm calling bullshit on that one.

Yes, I realize that generally speaking, our ancestors had many more children than we do these days, particularly before latex condoms became widely available in the 1920s in the United States. I am also aware that rural farming communities required child labor that is illegal today.

But I do not believe that our ancestors loved their children less, or differently, than we do. Losing a child was no less tragic for them - one child could not "replace" another.

Katharine Leah Williams, 18 Jul 1899 - 8 Dec 1904

Katharine was the fourth child of my great-grandparents, Jo Desha and Maxie Leah (Meek) Williams. I don't know the exact cause of her death, but I know it was illness rather than an accident.

And it hit her parents hard - very hard. The monument erected to her memory provides a glimpse of their grief.


The Williams family plot in Oakland Cemetery at Russellville was a living memorial to her - a rose garden where her parents could go and sit quietly to grieve.

Oakland Cemetery, circa 1910

By 1920, my great-grandfather's grocery business had gone belly-up, and the family moved to Little Rock. Their hearts must have broken all over again when they had to sell that family plot at Oakland, and leave their Katharine behind.


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Dee Burris Blakley

August 2017

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