Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
Mound Cemetery
Mound Cemetery

MOUND CEMETERY, ARKANSAS CITY, DESHA COUNTY

SUMMARY

The Mound Cemetery is located in the Arkansas City vicinity of Desha County, Arkansas.   With its burials dating back to the 1860s and containing the remains of some of the early settlers and prominent families of the Arkansas City area, the Mound Cemetery is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion A with local significance for its associations with the period of exploration and settlement in the Arkansas City area.  This cemetery is also being nominated under Criteria Consideration D: cemetery. 

ELABORATION

The history of the Mound Cemetery began with the Native Americans who lived in the area.  Mississippian Mound building has been recognized in the Central Mississippi Valley region which encompasses the alluvial plain of the Mississippi River.[1]  The mound fits the criteria for a Late Mississippian mound built somewhere between 1200 and 1600 AD.[2]

Mound construction usually occurred over several generations.  People would haul in dirt and build up the ground before placing a building of some importance on top, such as the chief’s house or a temple.  When the structure burned or when someone of importance died the building would be taken down.[3]  The ashes and debris possibly along with the body of the important person would be covered over with basket loads of dirt.[4]

The Mississippian Mound Builders built their mounds near rivers and other bodies of water.  The mound in the Mound Cemetery was built very near the location where the Arkansas River meets the Mississippi River in the Boeuf Basin.[5]  This location is key to its later use as a place of refuge and burial.

No systematic archeological study has been done of the mound, but it does have the potential to yield archeological information on the Mississippian culture, which is a key part of Arkansas’s past.  Of the nearly 1,100 mound sites which have been documented in Arkansas very few remain in good condition.  Most have been plowed under, used to level ground elsewhere, vandalized, or eroded away by the bodies of water they were located near.[6]  It is Mound Cemetery’s unique history in the past two centuries that has preserved it.

Desha County is made up of rich, flat, delta land so the mound itself would have been noticed as being out of place.  The conditions of the land in Desha County made it prime land for farming with only one problem, flooding.  The Mississippi, Arkansas, and White rivers converge in Desha County a few miles North of Arkansas City and the Mound Cemetery.

Somewhere between 1835 and 1836, Mr. and Mrs. John R Campbell and their sons moved to Desha County along with Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Bowles and their son William Wesley.  Mr. Campbell purchased the area surrounding the steamboat landing which later became Desha County for 25 cents an acre.[7]  J. R. Campbell established his plantation in the area that became Arkansas City on December 12, 1838.[8]

Oscar Bowles brought John R. Campbell’s slaves and took the job of overseer on Mr. Campbell’s plantation for the next 17 years.Mr. Bowles cleared the land and got the fist farm in the area up and running for Mr. Campbell.  After leaving the employment of John R. Campbell, Oscar Bowles and Charles Campbell set off and purchased land from a Mr. Johnson who had settled in the area previously.[9]  The mound, of Mound Cemetery, was located on this plantation.Oscar Bowles continued his pursuits in agriculture until the drowning in the flood of 1874.[10]

The Arkansas City area of Desha County has had a long history of flooding.Until the government came in and built levees in 1927, the flooding was so bad that one newspaper article claimed “There is not a thousand acres of dry soil left in Desha County.”[11]  It was the height of the mound on otherwise flat ground that attracted the settlers in the area to take refuge on top of the mound during flooding.  With the mound being the only area which remained dry during the floods it was the natural choice for burying the plantation owners and their slaves.[12]  The slaves were buried below and custom claims that Mr. Campbell was buried on top of the mound, although there are no remaining markers from this period.[13]  The oldest marked grave is that of Rachel Horton who died on March 15, 1866, followed by the before-mentioned Oscar Bowles who drowned during the 1874 flood.  After the disastrous 1927 flood, levees were built up to protect the nearby Arkansas City from flood waters.  The land surrounding the mound began to be used for cemetery purposes as well as the mound itself after the land became safe from flood waters.[14]

One such person that was buried here was Oscar’s son, William W. Bowles.[15]  Goodspeed records that William W. Bowles was the oldest man living in the area while Goodspeed was making his historical account of the region, which was published in 1890.  William W. Bowles served as a representative of Desha County.  William W. Bowles received a formal education at Washington College in Tennessee, which was a rarity in his time.  He served in the Confederate Army in 1861 as a private in Company G. Twenty-third Arkansas.  He was temporarily taken prisoner at the siege of Port Hudson, but was released after a few days.  He served as justice of the peace and constable for Desha and Chicot counties.[16]  William W. Bowles and his wife Elmira McMullan Bowles are both buried on top of the mound at the Mound Cemetery with a double marker inside the iron fence.[17]

Around 1850 Arkansas City sprang up just to the south of Mr. Campbell’s plantation.  Following several flooding disasters the county seat was moved to Arkansas City during its timber boom.  The Campbell family died off following the Civil War and they are said to be buried on top of the mound; however there are no markers that substantiate this.[18]  Since their deaths the Mound Cemetery has come to be used as the public cemetery for Arkansas City and this has protected the mound in a place where it might otherwise have been destroyed.

Since this time, many up standing members of the community have been buried in the Mound Cemetery such as a founder of the Masonic Lodge and Methodist Church in Arkansas City, Robert Walker Smith.  Born in Alabama in 1843, he served in the Confederate Army of Texas.  Following the war he moved to Arkansas City.  He and his wife and two daughters Hixie and Ina are all buried on the mound.

The cemetery itself is still in use today by the people of Arkansas City.With tombstones marking dates ranging from 1866 into the 1960s, the Mound Cemetery represents a century of Arkansas history.  The tombstones are marked by symbols of the Mosaic Templars, Knights and Daughters of Tabor, and Royal Circle of Friends.[19]  Also veterans of WWI and WWII are buried in this cemetery.  With tombstones claiming over 100 years of heritage and the Mound representing the long-gone Mississippian Mound Builders, Mound Cemetery is a place of both historic and pre-historic significance.



[1] Rolingson, Martha Ann, Prehistory of Central Mississippi Valley and Ozarks after 500 B.C., 534.

[2] Early, Ann, Email to Sydney Yeager Intern of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Registry, February 12, 2007.

[3] The Moundbuilders,” NPS Archeology Program: Ancient Architects of the Mississippi, <http://www.cr.nps.gov/archeology/feature/builder.htm> (March 7, 2007).

[4] Rolingson, Central Mississippi Valley, 541.

[5] Rolingson, Central Mississippi Valley, 536.

[6] The Moundbuilders,” and Early, Ann M., “Indian Mounds- Encyclopedia of Arkansas,” The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, (January 17, 2007), <http://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=573> (March 7, 2007).

[7] Bowden, Maude Trippe, “Arkansas City Methodist Church Goes and Grows,” Arkansas City, Nov 1960, 1.

[8] “Desha County,” County and Municipal Information & Services, <http://local.arkansas.gov/local.php?agency=Desha%20County> (March 7, 2007), and Chris Eatmon to Dr. Ann M. Early, September 25, 2006, Mound Cemetery Letters, Arkansas History Preservation Programs, Little Rock, AR.

[9] Goodspeed, “Desha County, Arkansas Biographies,” in Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Southern Arkansas, (Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1890; transcribed into HTML by Louis Reitzammer). Available online <http://www.rootsweb.com/~ardesha/goodspd.htm> (June 6, 2007).

[10]Desha County, Arkansas Cemetery Records, McGehee, Arkansas: Mrs. Joseph Hillard Stroud and Marion McKinney Stroud, 1983, 32 and Goodspeed, “Desha County, Arkansas Biographies,” <http://www.rootsweb.com/~ardesha/goodspd.htm> (June 6, 2007).

[11] “Flood Looses 1892,” (Transcribed by Becky Roberts) Available online: USGenNet, a Nonprofit Idaho Corporation, <http://www.usgennet.org/usa/ar/county/greene/arkansasdisaster1892.htm> (March 7, 2007).

[12] Desha County, Arkansas Cemetery Records, 31.

[13] Chris Eatmon to Dr. Ann M. Early, September 25, 2006.

[14] Desha County, Arkansas Cemetery Records, 31.

[15] Desha County, Arkansas Cemetery Records, 32.

[16] Goodspeed, “Desha County, Arkansas Biographies,” <http://www.rootsweb.com/~ardesha/goodspd.htm> (June 6, 2007).

[17] Desha County, Arkansas Cemetery Records, 32.

[18] Bowden, “Arkansas City Methodist Church Goes and Grows,” 1.

[19] Early, Ann. Email to Sydney Yeager Intern of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Registry. April 2, 2007

 

SIGNIFICANCE

The Mound Cemetery is located in the Arkansas City vicinity of Desha County, Arkansas.   With its burials dating back to the 1860s and containing the remains of some of the early settlers and prominent families of the Arkansas City area, the Mound Cemetery is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion A with local significance for its associations with the period of exploration and settlement in the Arkansas City area.  This cemetery is also being nominated under Criteria Consideration D: cemetery. 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Anderson, David G. and Robert C. Mainfort, Jr., ed. The Woodland Southeast. Tuscaloosa and London: The University of Alabama Press, 2002.

Arkansas City, AR – Google Maps.  (2007) <http://www.google.com/maps?q=Arkansas+City,+AR&sa=X&oi=map&ct=image> (March 19, 2007).

Bowden, Maude Trippe.  “Arkansas City Methodist Church Goes and Grows.”   Arkansas City. Nov 1960.  

Chris Eatmon to Dr. Ann M. Early.  September 25, 2006.  Mound Cemetery Letters, Arkansas History Preservation Programs, Little Rock, Ar. 

Desha County, Arkansas Cemetery Records. McGehee, Arkansas: Mrs. Joesph Hillard Sroud and Marion Mckinney Stroud, 1983.

“Desha County.” County and Municipal Information & Services. <http://local.arkansas.gov/local.php?agency=Desha%20County> (March 7, 2007).

Early, Ann. Email to Sydney Yeager Intern of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Registry. February 12, 2007.

Early, Ann. Email to Sydney Yeager Intern of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Registry. April 2, 2007

Early, Ann M. “Indian Mounds- Encyclopedia of Arkansas.” The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture. (January 17, 2007). <http://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=573> (March 7, 2007).

“Flood Looses 1892.” (Transcribed by Becky Roberts). Available online: USGenNet, a Nonprofit Idaho Corporation. <http://www.usgennet.org/usa/ar/county/greene/arkansasdisaster1892.htm>  (March 7, 2007). 

“The Flood: What it is doing to Chicot and Desha Counties.” Daily Arkansas Gazette.   29 March 1874. 

Goodspeed. “Desha County, Arkansas Biographies.” in Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Southern Arkansas. (Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1890; transcribed into HTML by Louis Reitzammer). Available online <http://www.rootsweb.com/~ardesha/goodspd.htm> (June 6, 2007).

“The Moundbuilders.” NPS Archeology Program: Ancient Architects of the Mississippi. <http://www.cr.nps.gov/archeology/feature/builder.htm> (March 7, 2007).

Reitzammer, Louis. “About Desha County.” Desha County, Arkansas Genealogy Projects.  <http://www.couchgenweb.com/arkansas/desha/#about> (March 7, 2007).

Roberts, Becky. “Arkansas Disaster 1892.” In “Flood Loses 1892,” 28 May, 1892.  Available online: (May 29, 2006) <http://www.usgennet.org/usa/ar/county/greene/arkansasdisaster1892.htm> (March 7, 2007).

Rolingson, Martha Ann. Prehistory of Central Mississippi Valley and Ozarks after 500 B.C

Schexnayder, Charlotte T., ed. Images from the Past; A Pictorial History of Desha County, Arkansas and Southeast Arkansas.  Marceline, MO: Heritage House Publishing Company, Inc., 1992. 

Smith, Bruce D., ed. The Mississippian Emergence.  Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990.

“Sufferings by Flood.” 16 May, 1874. Available online: USGenNet is a Nonprofit Idaho Corporation 2006. <http://www.usgennet.org/usa/ar/county/greene/sufferinbyflood1874.htm> (February 28, 2007).