Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
Camp White Sulphur Springs Confederate Cemetery
Camp White Sulphur Springs Confederate Cemetery

CAMP WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS CONFEDERATE CEMETERY, SULPHUR SPRINGS, JEFFERSON COUNTY

SUMMARY

The Camp White Sulphur Springs Confederate Cemetery is associated with the historic context “Something So Dim It Must Be Holy”: Civil War Commemorative Sculpture in Arkansas, 1886-1934” as a commemorative cemetery associated with the efforts of ancestral organizations in Arkansas. As such, it is eligible under Criterion A with statewide significance for its association with the efforts of the David O. Dodd Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy to reflect members’ perception of the noble character and valor of their veterans and their cause. Thus, it also meets the eligibility requirements of Criteria Considerations C (Cemeteries) and F (Commemorative Properties).

ELABORATION

History of Sulphur Springs

In 1844, the Mississippi and Arkansas Rivers flooded the Delta area east of Pine Bluff.  Water covered all of Southeast Arkansas except for a very few of the highest points.  Up until that time the Area west of Pine Bluff all the way to the Saline River and beyond was a wilderness and only a few had settled there.  This area was made up of low hills and small streams and did not flood.  Shortly after the flood, the George Brummitt family moved from Desha County to what became White Sulphur Springs.  He was the first to own the property where the springs are located and the property where Camp White Sulphur Springs Confederate Cemetery was to be located.  He bought this 40 acres from the Federal Government with a War of 1812 Land Bounty and then patented another 360 acres surrounding the spring property.

Brummitt was soon followed by Brushrod Lee, who settled about a mile west of the spring property.  His land was also surrounded by several springs and his plantation there became known as Lee Springs.  William Poole came to the area about the same time and bought a portion of the spring property from Brummitt, and built a large log hotel on the hillside overlooking the springs.  Both Lee and Poole moved here from Arkansas County in the Arkansas River Delta.

Lee, a doctor, set up a medical practice, at his “Lee Springs Plantation” where he had a large home which was elaborately furnished. With Poole at Sulphur Springs and Lee at Lee Springs, the community was soon established as a popular resort.  People came from all over the state to drink and bathe in the waters from the two sets of springs.  Summer homes were built by residents from Pine Bluff and other nearby communities.  It was said that there were no mosquitoes in the area, making it a much healthier climate than Pine Bluff, which was surrounded by swamps.

The 1850s saw a great influx of immigrants moving into this area mostly from other southern states to the east of Arkansas.  It was at about this time Zachariah Wells moved to the area, he was the publisher of the Jefferson Enterprise, an early newspaper in Pine Bluff. He and his wife Mary Elizabeth German, made their home in the Sulphur Springs Community, and are one of the few civilians who have marked graves in the cemetery.  Wells was elected to the office of County Judge, in 1858, and served one term in that office, but was elected again in 1862.  He is the only County Judge to serve two separate terms in that office.  It was during his second term in office that the county records were moved to Marshall, Texas, when the Union army occupied Pine Bluff.  He and his family lived in Tyler, Texas, during the Civil War and returned to Sulphur Springs in 1866. 

The Sulphur Springs Methodist Church was organized in 1853, and an application was made in 1855 for a post office.  The application asked that the post office be called Sulphur Springs, but it was learned that there was already a town by that name in northwest Arkansas, so White Sulphur Springs was chosen for its name.  The White Sulphur Masonic Lodge was established in 1858, and by 1860, the little village had became a social center in the area between Pine Bluff and the Saline River.  The community had five physicians in 1860, five Methodist ministers, two machinists, two mechanics, one blacksmith, two teachers and one tutorist. There was a merchant, a miller, a ditcher, a painter and a seamstress.  The number one occupation was farming. 

The War Between the States started in April of 1861 and most of the young white men in the community joined the Confederate Army and were shipped east.  White Sulphur Springs became a staging and training area for troops who came into Pine Bluff to be organized into units.  In late July 1861, the 9th Arkansas Infantry was organized and trained at White Sulphur Springs and remained there for about a month before being shipped out to Tennessee.  A few months later the Fagan’s Guard, which later became the 2nd Arkansas Infantry Battalion, camped and trained near the springs before going on to Virginia.

By the spring of 1862, the war had reached Arkansas and the Battle of Pea Ridge, in the north part of the state, was fought. It had become evident that the Union Army had come to stay and would attempt to take the state by marching on Little Rock.  However, most of the Confederate Army was ordered to leave the state and go across the Mississippi River to help defend against the Union invasion of Mississippi.  This left Arkansas almost totally defenseless.  Protests were made to the Confederate government, and the governor of the state started raising another army.  He had troops from Texas, who were passing through the state going east to the war, stopped and many of them were sent to White Sulphur Springs for their training and to be used in Arkansas.  The Confederate Hospital was moved to White Sulphur Springs from Pine Bluff, and was set-up in the Poole Hotel, the Female High School and the Methodist Church.

Troops that arrived at White Sulphur Springs from Texas and Oklahoma brought a measles epidemic with them and many of them died from the disease before even seeing a battlefield.  Those who died were either buried in the Camp White Sulphur Springs Confederate Cemetery, which was near the Poole Hotel hospital, or where their camps were located throughout the community.  A few of the soldiers had smallpox and they were carried to a private home to separate them from the other soldiers.  While nursing those soldiers, Mrs. Elisa Currie, caught the disease and died.  She, her young son, and three of the soldiers were buried in her back yard.

By late 1862, the troops were being transferred out of the camps at White Sulphur Springs, many of whom were captured at the Battle of Arkansas Post. Others were sent to Louisiana to take part in the Vicksburg Campaign.  In September 1863 the Union Army occupied Little Rock and, shortly thereafter, Pine Bluff.  The remainder of the soldiers who had been left in the hospitals at White Sulphur Springs were captured and the building housing the hospitals were burned to the ground.

White Sulphur Springs was totally devastated when the war was over.  A new world greeted the returning veterans: unrest, change, loss, hardship and disbelief prevailed.  Many area citizens sold their land, packed their belongings into their wagons and started out in search of new land and new surroundings. Very few who lived at White Sulphur Springs in 1860 were still living there in 1870, according to the census records.

The 1870s brought other immigrants to Sulphur Springs.  One was Rev. Benjamin Watson, who had been a Methodist minister since 1832 and had started Methodist-sponsored private schools at Batesville, and Tulip, Arkansas.  He also organized the Pleasant Ridge Academy, at Toledo near Rison, Arkansas.

Sometime after arriving at Sulphur Springs, Watson converted to the Presbyterian faith and became the pastor of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.  After the church was organized Watson started a school.  The church and the school were given the name of Watson’s Chapel.  It was located in the forks of Highway 79 (Camden Road) and Highway 54 ( Sulphur Springs Road).  On April 5, 1880 the Watson Chapel School District was formed and the school was still being held in Rev. Watson’s church.  A separate school was built in 1898.

After the war, the title of ownership of the spring’s property was in question and it changed hands several times.  This retarded the rebuilding of the community back into a resort area.  It was some 25 years after the war before White Sulphur Springs regained much of its antebellum popularity.  In 1889, with the land out of litigation, development began in earnest when Edward Houston, a white man, and Wiley Jones, a black man, both successful Pine Bluff businessmen, bought half interest in the land.  They filed a plat for a town to be called White Sulphur Springs and once again applied for a post office in that name.

In the early morning hours of September 29, 1891, the old hotel caught fire and burned to the ground.  There were no guests there at the time.  Houston and Jones soon announced that the building would be replaced with a new 20-room hotel, which was ready for visitors for the 1892 summer season.  By the summer’s end an addition of 13 more bedrooms and a new dining room, which would seat more than 100 guests, was in the planning for the 1893 season.  With this addition complete, fire destroyed the hotel again on August 28, 1893.  The fire found 30 guests and the Houston family occupying the building, but all escaped without injury.

The hotel was rebuilt once again and was ready to receive guests by the summer of 1894.  Also, 20 or more summer cottages built by some of the leading citizens of Pine Bluff were being occupied during the summer months.  There was nothing left undone by the management to make White Sulphur Springs a place of recreation and amusement.  There was two churches at which divine services were held each week.  There also were a dance pavilion, bowling alley, a billiard hall, a swimming pool and bath rooms.  The management did not sell whiskey of other intoxicating liquors on the grounds and they regarded professional courtship a sin.  They avoided even the appearance of evil thus adding to this already famous resort’s assured permanency and desirability as a place of residence.

The hotel was sold to a Henry Hanf, on October 10, 1912.  He announced big plans for making White Sulphur Springs a major resort with a railway from Pine Bluff and many other improvements.  Another post office was applied for under the name of Brookside this time. However, World War I stopped this development and Hanf was unable to raise the necessary funds to make improvements.  People continued to visit White Sulphur Springs after the war for picnics and dances, but it never regained its former popularity.

The hotel was finally converted into a dwelling house and burned in the mid-1940s and was never replaced.  Today the community is known as Sulphur Springs.

UDC and SCV Involvement with Camp White Sulphur Springs Confederate Cemetery

After the War Between the States, civilians continued to bury their dead in Camp White Sulphur Springs Confederate Cemetery, with only a few of the grave sites being marked.  Mrs. Winnie Watson Devine, who could remember back to the early years of the twentieth century, told that when she was a child several hundred graves were marked with white wooden crosses and that between 150 and 175 of them were associated with Confederate soldiers. Between the Civil War and 1912 there is no recorded history of the cemetery. 

The David O. Dodd Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy was chartered in 1898, and the ladies soon became interested in placing a memorial in the cemetery in honor of the soldiers.  On Tuesday, May 14, 1912, they met with Mrs. Mollie Van Valkenburg at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Felix Smart. A discussion, led by Mrs. Frank Tomlinson, was held in which the ladies decided to place a boulder marker at Sulphur Springs in memory of the Confederate Soldiers who died there during the war.  Again, at the June 1912 meeting, a discussion of the boulder to be placed at Sulphur Springs was held.  Mrs. Benton, Chapter president, appointed Mrs. Frank Tomlinson, Mrs. S. C. Alexander and Mrs. W. O. Taggart, as a committee to see to the boulder and instructed them to investigate the land titles, etc. and if possible to have the monument placed before the Arkansas Division Convention in October.

By the meeting held September 10, 1912, Mrs. Tomlinson reported on the boulder at Sulphur Springs, and stated that it would be ready by September 14.  Its dimensions would be five feet high, two feet thick, and four feet across, and the costs were $165. A committee was appointed to arrange for the unveiling of the boulder to be held before the Convention met on October 22.  The committee was to be the same as the boulder committee.

The committee appointed to investigate the land titles reported that the David O. Dodd Chapter No. 212, United Daughters of the Confederacy acquired the Confederate Cemetery in Sulphur Springs in 1912 by Quit-claim deed.

The boulder was dedicated on Sunday, October 11, 1912, and on Monday the 12th the Pine Bluff Daily Commercial reported: “In the presence of a large number of people from Pine Bluff and Jefferson County, including Confederate Veterans, sons of veterans and members of the U.D.C., of this city, a handsome granite boulder was unveiled Sunday afternoon at 3:30 o’clock at Sulphur Springs, to mark the graves of a large number of Confederate soldiers who died at Sulphur Springs while a Confederate command was camped there.  These graves have been unmarked for nearly fifty years and the names of only a few of them have been secured by the ladies of David O. Dodd Chapter, U.D.C., under whose auspices the boulder was erected and unveiled.”

Reverend Dr. Joseph I. Norris, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, conducted the exercises, and Margaret Walker Benton and Mrs. Tomlinson unveiled the boulder.  The boulder was placed on an ideal spot, a beautiful knoll covered with trees that stand like sentinels guarding the last sleep of those who gave their lives in the defense of the homes and county they loved so well.  After repeated efforts on the part of the committee in charge of the work, the names of three of the unknown were secured from relatives and inscribed on the boulder.

Mr. T. G. Parham, a Pine Bluff attorney, delivered an eloquent address at the ceremony and described the need for the preservation of the Camp White Sulphur Springs Confederate Cemetery. Parham said: “We are assembled here to unveil and to dedicate a monument to the memory of certain Confederate Soldiers who died and whose bodies lie buried upon this spot.  This monument has been erected by the ladies of the David O. Dodd Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.  …  Too long have they lain here, nameless in nameless graves, neglected and seemingly forgotten by those who really never can forget. … There is something peculiarly sad in the cases of these men.  For death came to them, not as soldiers pray that it shall come to them if come it must, where drum beat and trumpets blow the charge and cannon’s roar, but upon lonely beds of sickness.  And God willed that they should bear to their graves with them the scars of smallpox and measles, those, then, two dread diseases, and not the scars of battle.  But we know, who stand beside their graves, that they as surely died for the flag they loved as if their bodies had been riddled by a thousand bullets or torn asunder at the cannon’s mouth.”

Parham’s speech, the aforementioned Pine Bluff Daily Commercial article, and strong local oral traditions are the bases of the belief that many of the disease victims of the Confederate camp at Sulphur Springs are buried at the site of the cemetery. A 1992 report of the Arkansas Archeological Survey, which in turn summarizes an oral report by archeologist Burney McClurken of a ca. 1976 investigation of the cemetery site, states that no evidence of burials was found on the site.

The cemetery then passed through many years of alternating between neglect and attention.  In 1983, additional land was given to the David O. Dodd Chapter by Mr. Harry Gaunt and his wife, Helen.  The property contained six more lots of 60x120 each.  The cemetery had grown up in trees,  underbrush, briars, vines and Johnson grass with only a small path to the U.D.C. Boulder Marker and a few civilian graves.

The Maj. Gen. Patrick R. Cleburne Camp, #1433, Sons of Confederate Veterans, of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, received its charter in January of 1985 and by 1986 had agreed with the ladies of the Dodd Chapter to start restoring the cemetery.   James Ginnett began searching for the names of the soldiers who died in the hospitals at Sulphur Springs.  He met another researcher, who was doing research on Masonic Lodges for the sesquicentennial of the State of Arkansas celebration, and he told him about some of the soldiers joining the White Sulphur Masonic Lodge at Sulphur Springs.  He told him that one was a Col. Hiram Grinstead.  This was the clue that Ginnett needed to start finding the names of the soldiers who died at Camp White Sulphur Springs since he knew Grinstead was the commander of the 33rd Arkansas and he began searching their records. Ginnett soon had the name of almost 100 soldiers that died at Camp White Sulphur Springs and had ordered over 50 memorial markers for the cemetery.

Before any of the markers were placed in the cemetery a dispute arose between the two groups and work stopped.  In 1994, Doyle Taylor, who is a SCV member, purchased two lots that join the lot where the boulder marker is and in front of it on the east side.  Then through an agreement with Taylor the SCV begin placing markers on his property.

In 1996 a real milestone was reached in the history of the cemetery.  The David O. Dodd Chapter No. 212, United Daughters of the Confederacy, and the Gen. Patrick Cleburne Camp, #1433, Sons of Confederate Veterans, reached an agreement wherein the two groups could work together for the benefit of the cemetery. Many improvements have been made as a result, fencing gates and flag poles have been installed as well as interpretative signs both at the Cemetery and on Sulphur Springs Road leading into the cemetery.

In 1997, the two organizations sponsored a re-burial of an unknown soldier who had been unearthed during a murder investigation in 1977.  The remains had been in the care of the Jefferson County coroner for 20 years. More than 300 people were in attendance.  Since that service, the two groups have held an annual living history and memorial service in honor of the soldiers buried there.  The event is held the second weekend in October and is normally well attended. 

In 2002 the two groups organized the Sulphur Springs Historical Preservation Association, which has regular meetings every two months so that both groups, and other interested organization and individuals, might meet together and plan events and the upkeep of the cemetery and other sites. 

The Camp White Sulphur Springs Confederate Cemetery is associated with the historic context “Something So Dim It Must Be Holy”: Civil War Commemorative Sculpture in Arkansas, 1886-1934” as a commemorative cemetery associated with the efforts of ancestral organizations in Arkansas. As such, it is eligible under Criterion A with statewide significance for its association with the efforts of the David O. Dodd Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy to reflect members’ perception of the noble character and valor of their veterans and their cause. Thus, it also meets the eligibility requirements of Criteria Considerations C (Cemeteries) and F (Commemorative Properties).
 

SIGNIFICANCE

The Camp White Sulphur Springs Confederate Cemetery is associated with the historic context “Something So Dim It Must Be Holy”: Civil War Commemorative Sculpture in Arkansas, 1886-1934” as a commemorative cemetery associated with the efforts of ancestral organizations in Arkansas. As such, it is eligible under Criterion A with statewide significance for its association with the efforts of the David O. Dodd Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy to reflect members’ perception of the noble character and valor of their veterans and their cause. Thus, it also meets the eligibility requirements of Criteria Considerations C (Cemeteries) and F (Commemorative Properties).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Leslie, James W., “Land of Cypress and Pine” “Some Southeast Arkansas History” Rose Publishing Company, Little Rock Arkansas, 1976.

Leslie, James W., “Saracen’s Country” “Some Southeast Arkansas History,” Rose Publishing Company, Little Rock, Arkansas, 1974.

Leslie, James W., “Pine Bluff and Jefferson County, A Pictorial History” The Downing Company/Publishers, Norfolk, Virginia, 1981.

Jefferson County Quorum Court Records, 1858-1863, Book ‘F’, Unpublished.

David O. Dodd Chapter #212, United Daughters of the Confederacy, Minute Books, Unpublished.

1860, Federal Census, Spring Township, Jefferson County, Arkansas, Microfilm.

Alexander Papers, Copybook of Telegrams, Army of the Southwest, Trans-Mississippi Department, Microfilm, Cornell University Library.

White Sulphur Masonic Lodge, #122, Minute Book, Unpublished.

Allen, Desmond Walls and McLane, Bobbie Jones, “Arkansas Land Patents: Jefferson County” Arkansas Research, Conway, Arkansas, 1991.

Arkansas Archeological Survey Report on Site 3JE348, Sulphur Springs Civil War Cemetery, October 1992.

Individual Military Records, Muster Rolls, Microfilm.

State of Arkansas, County of Jefferson, Certificate of recording deed, Deed Record Book No. 76, Page 232.

Pine Bluff Daily Commercial; Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Monday October 7, 1912, issue, Page one and ten.

State of Arkansas, County of Jefferson, Certificate of recording deed, Deed Record Book No. 528 on page 167.

Jerry V. Lawrence, correspondence with AHPP.