Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
Brearley Cemetery Historic Section
Brearley Cemetery Historic Section

BREARLEY CEMETERY HISTORIC SECTION, DARDANELLE, YELL COUNTY

SUMMARY

Brearley Cemetery Historic Section, located in Dardanelle, Yell County, Arkansas, reflects the lives and history of the citizens of Dardanelle and surrounding areas, and reflects the artistic sensibilities and religious beliefs of the people of Dardanelle during the time period of the latter half of the 19th century through to the first half of the 1950s. There have been many people of importance to this area who are buried in Brearley. Among the men, women, and children buried in Brearley Cemetery can be found mayors, attorneys, judges, state senators and representatives, sheriffs, and U.S. Congressmen. Leaders in banking and commerce are here, as well as artisans and the Czechoslovakian immigrants who came here in the 1870s to better their life. 

As such, the Brearley Cemetery Historic Section is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion A with local significance as being the final resting place of early Dardanelle settlers, movers and shakers, as well as for its association with the area’s Czechoslovakian heritage.  The cemetery is also eligible for inclusion under Criterion C as it is a showcase for many good examples of late-19th and early-20th century funerary art.  Lastly, the Brearley Cemetery Historic Section is eligible for nomination under Criteria Consideration D:  Cemeteries.  

ELABORATION

Town and County History

Yell County was established in December of 1840 from portions of Pope and Scott Counties. The county is named for Arkansas' first Congressman and second Governor, Archibald Yell. A temporary county seat was established for Yell County in the home of William Pevy until it was decided that the seat of power should be near the geographic center of the county. The Town of Danville was laid out and a courthouse was established. Due to the size of the county and the distribution of the population, an appeal was made for a second county seat to be established at Dardanelle in the northeast part of the county. The town of Dardanelle was laid out by Dr. Joseph Brearley in 1843 and was incorporated as a town on January 17th, 1855. Brearley was the son of Col. David Brearley, an Indian agent of the area and the grandson of David Brearley who signed the Constitution of the United States as a delegate from the state of New Jersey.

Col. David Brearley came into the Arkansas Territory in 1816 by special order of President Monroe as agent to the Cherokee. Nurtured by a background of gentle birth and privilege and backed by an impressive military career, the stalwart young man came well equipped for his task. He gave the name to the famous landmark, Dardanelle Rock, probably because the waters of the Arkansas River, which swirled below and around it, reminded him of the Turkish Straits of Dardanelle. He became the largest landowner in the territory and the owner of the Dardanelle Rock by buying a Spanish land grant from an old French trapper, Joe Perran, who lived near the outcropping.

However, it was not until after Col. Brearley’s death in 1837 that his son, Dr. Joseph H. Brearley, and his wife, Mary Ann, appeared before a local Justice of the Peace on May 25, 1851, and conveyed property for the town. Joseph H. Brearley, along with George Williams, laid off and platted the town in October of 1847. Both men donated vast properties to the city for schools, parks, and other beneficial uses.

Because of its geographic location on the Arkansas River, Dardanelle has always played a large roll in the history of Arkansas. Before Arkansas became a territory, various Native American tribes used this area as a central meeting place, and until 1890, Dardanelle had a reputation of doing a larger commercial business than any other town in the Arkansas River Valley between Little Rock and Fort Smith. This was because the transportation of that day was by water and most of the supplies for inland centers were transported here and deposited at the two large river docks to begin an overland haul to outlying counties. Among its many claims for notoriety, in 1891 Dardanelle opened the longest pontoon bridge in existence. It spanned the Arkansas River, and connected Yell and Pope Counties. It was in use until 1929, when it was replaced by the “free bridge.”

Czechoslovakian Immigrant History in Dardanelle and Yell County

THE STORY OF THE CZECH IMMIGRANTS
BY ANTONE NOVY

Written May 7, 1975
(Abridged by Betsy Harris, May 2, 2007)

"Several stories have been written about the people who immigrated from Bohemia to this country in the 1870’s and settled near Dardanelle, Arkansas. Some of these stories seem to be incorrect, especially to the descendants of these people.

"I, Antone Novy, a descendant of two families, have talked to and gathered information from descendants of several other families and we all thought that we should write the story as we heard it from our parents and grandparents. We feel that we know the story of our people better than anyone else because we lived with them, we could talk to them in their native language, we shared their good and bad fortunes, their joys and sorrows. And we are proud of them.

"First, we wish to state that Bohemia was a country of the Czechs, the Slovaks, and the Moravians, each living in a separate province, and each speaking a slightly different dialect. Our folks were Czechs. The Czech language is a mixture of the Slavic, Latin, German, and English language.

"Our folks were induced to come to this country by the Freed Brothers, Joseph, C.M., and Moritz, who were Dardanelle businessmen and land agents. The Freed Brothers were of Jewish ancestry but they could speak the Czech language. Perhaps they had lived in Bohemia at one time, some of the folks said that they had. We were told that one of the Freed brothers went to Bohemia to try to get people to come here and settle, and when he returned here, Joseph Vesely came with him to look the country over. Mr. Vesely then returned to Bohemia to bring his family and several other families that came together in a group, to the Dardanelle area. Another group of several families came about a year later, and it was said that a total of eleven families came in these two groups. We do not know for certain the exact date of their arrival, but we do know that the first group came in 1876 or 1877. They landed in Baltimore, Maryland, and it took four weeks to cross the Atlantic Ocean. They came direct to Russellville, Arkansas, by rail, and not by boat from Little Rock as some have thought they did. As none of them could speak English they carried identification papers with their destination written on them to show to the trainmen en route. The surnames of some of our folks were changed after they came here, perhaps to the way they thought they should be in the English language.

"We know of only one family of our folks that first came here that were farmers or landowners in Bohemia, but they all had a knowledge of intensive farming as it was practiced there as most of them had lived in villages out in the farmland and among the coal mines, but they all settled on farms when they came here, all within a radius of six miles of Dardanelle. They grew most of the foodstuff that they consumed and a lot of produce to sell to the stores and people in town. With a lot of determination and hard work they cleared the land and built up the soil to where it would produce a good crop and provide them with a comfortable living and a few dollars to put in the bank in case of an emergency.

"For many years after coming here, our folks tended to socialize among themselves, especially before they learned the English language and the customs here, but they tried to be friendly and neighborly to everyone and to make good citizens of their new country. We have no doubt that their customs and ways of working and living seemed strange to the other people living here, as it has been said. Their old country was heavily populated and the laboring class there had to work hard and live frugally to have the necessities of life. Everything had to count; nothing could be wasted. Luxuries were unknown to them.

"Our folks were lovers of music and enjoyed gathering at one of the homes to dance the waltzes and the polkas of their native country. Their favorite musical instrument was the accordion. A few years before the start of this century a brass band was organized. It was known as the Bohemian Brass Band and it stayed together for many years. When they gathered, food was always involved as our mothers and grandmothers were excellent cooks and they took pride in preparing and selling our native dishes at our Catholic Church fairs. The women also enjoyed doing fancy handwork, and they loved flowers. Each home had a flower garden and many pots of flowers around it. Today, some of our folks are now members of churches other than the Catholic Church.

"All of our folks that first came here and most of their daughters and sons are now deceased, but numerous descendants live in the Dardanelle area, some living on the old home places of their ancestors. Life in the settlement is now vastly different from what it was when our folks came here. These changes are good ones and make life better, but we can gather no more to dance the waltzes and the polkas. The band cannot be heard to play the “Prune Avenue Waltz” or “Stars and Stripes Forever.” These changes make us feel a bit sad, but we accept them as pleasant memories of the past. The descendants of our folks have for many years socialized and worked together with everyone living here in an effort to make this area a good place to live. This is the way we think it should be, and that is the way we want it to be. And that is just about all of the story of our folks, the Czech immigrants, as we know it.*
* Originally printed in the Dardanelle Post-Dispatch on May 7, 1975, and reprinted in Wayne Banks’ publication, History of Yell County, Arkansas, reprinted by the Yell County Historical Society, 1991-1992.
 
There are a handful of other towns in Arkansas with a Czechoslovakian immigrant presence:  Hazen, Prairie County; Pine Bluff, Jefferson County; Little Rock, Pulaski County; and Fort Smith, Sebastian County.*
*In descending order of Czech population figures.

Cemetery History

On May 25, 1851, Dr. Joseph H. Brearley and his wife, Mary Ann, legally conveyed property to form the City of Dardanelle. At that time, he also legally donated land to form the cemetery, although it had already been platted for that use in 1847, and at least two graves were already there. However, before its use as a cemetery, the Methodists constructed a one-room building called the Apple Meeting Place and School on the site. Parts of the old rock foundation are still visible among the graves.

This ground also played a roll in the Civil War. Because of its slight elevation and location overlooking the city, it was used as an artillery site and the setting of minor skirmishes during the Siege of Dardanelle. Later, in 1899, the Ladies Cemetery Association was formed, its main purpose being the overseeing of the grounds. These same ladies also commissioned an early platting and grave survey of the cemetery. Since that time,

Brearley Cemetery has been surveyed twice by the Yell County Historical and Genealogical Association, once in 1980, and again in 1994.

SELECTED BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF THOSE BURIED IN BREARLEY CEMETERY HISTORIC SECTION

Ina Mae Boles (no dates given)
She was a student at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville (Washington County) on April 5, 1895, when she and three other young ladies, and Dr. Charles Richardson, a Fayetteville dentist, decided to found a women’s social fraternity.  This organization has grown to be one of the largest women’s sororities in the U.S. At present, it has over 300,000 initiates, and 170 collegiate chapters. A Chi Omega Founder’s plaque marks her grave.

Judge Thomas Boles (1837 – 1905)
He was born in Clarksville, Arkansas, in 1837, and moved with his family to Yell County in 1842. He received but one year’s schooling, but studied at night when working on his father’s farm. When he was 21 years old, he served as Deputy Sheriff, and afterward as Deputy Clerk.

In 1861, being a Union man, he opposed the secession movement, both before the secession of the State, and afterwards, and in 1863, when the Federals occupied Little Rock and Ft. Smith, he raised a company of Union soldiers of which he was elected Captain, and the group joined the Third Arkansas Federal Cavalry. He was captured and imprisoned at Arkadelphia, Clark County, Arkansas, but upon release he resumed his command.

In 1865, he was elected Circuit Judge of the Fourth District under the Murphy Government, and in 1868, was elected to the U.S. Congress where he served until 1874. Afterwards, he settled in Dardanelle, where President Hayes appointed him receiver of the U.S. Land Office. In 1884, he was the Republican nominee for Governor, but he was defeated. He died in 1905.

Mary R. Cinger (1862 – 1939)
She was born in 1862, and known at the time as Marie Cingrova. She came to Dardanelle in the late 1870s along with her widowed mother, Ludmilla Cingrova, and her three siblings, Baruska, Josef, and Anna.  Marie, later known as Mary Cinger, was 16, and the oldest of the children. They came from Bohemia along with several other families from that region. She died in 1939.

Marcellus L. Davis (1848 - 1931)
He was born in 1848 and grew up in Dardanelle, living there until his death in 1931. He was a practicing attorney and served as State Adjutant General from 1902 – 1904.  He established The Western Immigrant, the forerunner to The Dardanelle Post Dispatch, in the late 1870s. Although his paper was just a small country journal, Davis’ writing skills were exceptional. Featured articles by him were reproduced weekly by national dailies of the East. Without his insightful observations, much of the history of the Arkansas River Valley would have been lost to time.

Captain Joseph Evins (1834 – 1917)
He was born in Kentucky in 1834, but lived in the vicinity of Dardanelle since boyhood. He was known far and wide as a prominent citizen, a government contractor, capitalist, speculator and the original owner of the popular summer resort now known as Mt. Nebo.  Evins came into ownership of Mt. Nebo by bartering with Chief Black Fox, a leader of the Cherokees.  In the early 1880s, a hotel of magnificent proportions, The Summit Park, was constructed there on a bluff abutting Sunset Point. Unfortunately, it was lost to fire during the 1920s, but in its heyday it was the summer home for many out-of-state guests and featured carriage rides, and dances accompanied by various out-of-town orchestras.

Evins’ history was quite varied and interesting. He was raised on a farm, and had little schooling. He worked as a store clerk, and then spent three years clerking on a large steamer on the Cumberland River, after which he was given command of a vessel and for many years served as a Captain of steamers on the Arkansas, Mississippi, Ohio, Cumberland, and Tennessee Rivers. During the Civil War he was appointed by the Confederate government to be in charge of transportation on the Arkansas River.

Major W.H. Gee (???? – 1900)
He was prominent in local politics, and was involved in banking and many other local enterprises. He fought for the South in the Civil War, and engaged in battle at Pea Ridge, the Siege of Vicksburg, and the Battle of Big Black. Neither his obituary nor his tombstone give his date and place of birth, but he died in Dardanelle in 1900.

William D. Jacoway (1835 – 1904)
He was born in 1835 in Tennessee, the son of B.J. and Margaret Wilkinson Jacoway, respectively of North Carolina and Tennessee. His parents were from prominent families and they came to Arkansas when William was a youngster. His father purchased a large tract of bottomland South of Dardanelle which he put under cultivation, and served his new community as a U.S. Marshall and twice a member of the Arkansas Legislature. B.J. Jacoway, 1806-1861, is also buried at Brearley Cemetery. William, his son, graduated from Lebanon Law School in Tennessee, and returned home to start a law partnership with his brother-in-law, which was known as Hollowell and Jacoway. From 1878 to 1882, he served as Circuit Judge of his district. Elizabeth D. Parks of Dardanelle, daughter of Walter D. Parks, became his wife and the couple had ten children. William died in 1904.

Annie Kimball (1864 – 1944)
Born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1864, she moved to Dardanelle in 1866 with her parents, George H. and Mary E. Kimball, when she was 18 months old. After arrival, her father opened a large mercantile business called Kimball and Perry. She was 19 years old when she left Dardanelle to attend Bellwood Seminary in Anchorage, Kentucky. It was a Presbyterian school for girls and while there, she joined the Presbyterian Church. When the new Presbyterian Church was built in Dardanelle in 1912, Kimball donated the lots for the construction and served as a member of the building committee. She was very active in all phases of church life. The First Presbyterian Church is NR listed (07/09/1987). Her lifelong home, a two-story, red brick Victorian structure, located at 715 North Front Street, was built in 1876, and is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places (Kimball House, 06/23/1982).

James K. Perry (1837 – 1910)
He was born in 1837, a native of Dardanelle, and the son of a prosperous man. He was a Confederate soldier, having served in an Arkansas regiment. Following the war, he returned home and started a successful construction company. He was also a partner with George H. Kimball in a large mercantile business, Kimball and Perry. Along with several other local men, Perry started the Dardanelle Bank and Trust, which was the first chartered bank in Yell County. Thomas A. Johnston, 1857-1932, the bank’s first president, is also buried in Brearley Cemetery.

Mary (Bonner) Starbuck Ploss (1846 – 1916)
She was born in Leicester, England, in 1846, and came with her parents to America when she was 18 years old. She married first, D.W. Starbuck, who was the first Mayor of Dardanelle. He died, and she was remarried to John D. Ploss. During the last 16 years of her life, she operated the Ploss Hotel, one of the best-known, and most popular hotels in this section of the State. She died in 1916.

Lucas Wieser (1837 – 1916)
He was born in Baden, Germany, in 1837, and came to America in 1872, locating in Pennsylvania. He moved to Dardanelle in 1876, and became prominently identified with the wine manufacturing business. He produced fine grape vineyards near Dardanelle, and was also known as an expert stone mason, having set the foundation for the massive Summit Park Hotel on Mt. Nebo. He and his wife Sophia, also from Germany, had five children. She died in 1914, and he followed in 1916.

George Williams (1819 – 1866)
He was born in 1819, and along with Dr. Joseph H. Brearley, he laid out and platted the City of Dardanelle in 1847. His first wife, Rhoda (Annis) Williams, who died in 1852, is one of the earliest burials in the Brearley Cemetery. He died in 1866.

SIGNIFICANCE

Brearley Cemetery Historic Section, located in Dardanelle, Yell County, Arkansas, reflects the lives and history of the citizens of Dardanelle and surrounding areas, and reflects the artistic sensibilities and religious beliefs of the people of Dardanelle during the time period of the latter half of the 19th century through to the first half of the 1950s. There have been many people of importance to this area who are buried in Brearley. Among the men, women, and children buried in Brearley Cemetery can be found mayors, attorneys, judges, state senators and representatives, sheriffs, and U.S. Congressmen. Leaders in banking and commerce are here, as well as artisans and the Czechoslovakian immigrants who came here in the 1870s to better their life. 

As such, the Brearley Cemetery Historic Section is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion A with local significance as being the final resting place of early Dardanelle settlers, movers and shakers, as well as for its association with the area’s Czechoslovakian heritage.  The cemetery is also eligible for inclusion under Criterion C as it is a showcase for many good examples of late-19th and early-20th century funerary art.  Lastly, the Brearley Cemetery Historic Section is eligible for nomination under Criteria Consideration D:  Cemeteries.  

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Banks, Wayne, History of Yell County, Arkansas  (1959).  Second edition published by the Yell County Historical Society, 1991-1992.  Dardanelle, Arkansas.

Daniels, Cornelia.  Email with the Editor.  June 20, 2007.

Lucie Haschkova, from http://bethg.shutdown.com/yell/ybrearleyintro.html

Miloslav Rechcigl, Jr., from http://members.aol.com/rechcigl/myhomepage/washingtondc.html  1999.

The Goodspeed Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Western Arkansas (1891;
reprint ed., Easley, S. C., 1978), 117.

Todd Ferguson.  “Yell County Courthouse, Dardanelle, Yell County.”  National Register of Historic Places Registration Form.  From the files of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas, 1992.

Yell County Historical and Genealogical Association, History of Yell County, Arkansas (1997).