Mounds Cemetery

Mounds CemeteryAddress Restricted - Hempstead
Address Restricted
Listed in National Register of Historic Places on 6/5/13

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Mounds Cemetery is being nominated to the National Register under Criterion A, Criteria Consideration D for the role of the people buried within in the settlement of Columbus and Hempstead County and the resultant development of important city centers through their political and economic impacts.


Town and County History

Hempstead County was organized in 1818, one year before the first burial took place at Mounds Cemetery; that of one year old Greenville Cheatham, Jr. (b. 1818, d. 1819). The Cheatham family were recorded as having arrived in Hempstead County in the 1830s so it is not known if this Cheatham child was part of that contingent who received a cenotaph later or if he came with an earlier group.

Prior to the entrance of white settlers the Caddo Indians hunted along the Red River in the area. Mounds such as those the cemetery was established on originated from the earlier Woodland culture and the Caddo, which became the dominant tribe from 1200 to1600 A.D. Early settlers to the county arrived via the Red River and the Southwest Trail by the time of its organization. One of the first settlements in the county was Mound Prairie (c. 1816), and business for the local cotton farmers was performed at Columbus. County court business was conducted at the home of John English, northeast of Washington until 1824 when it was moved to the home of Elijah Stuart at the future site of Washington. The Southwest Trail, which was laid through the townsite, was a busy thoroughfare that brought migrants to the county seat and

goods to the merchants. During Removal it was on the Trail of Tears, which also opened up opportunities for local businessmen.

By 1849 Washington was established as a growing and prosperous center. Cotton and timber were the principal crops in the county and integral to their survival; as the chief money makers were the transportation routes on the Red and Mississippi rivers and by the 1870s, the Cairo and Fulton railroad.

Small trading centers in the county were important to the functioning of Washington and the movement of agricultural products. Columbus was one of these satellites. It lay ten miles to the

west of Washington and had a post office by 1834 as well as a bank, five general stores, a grist mill, cotton gin, hotel (likely in the home of Dr. James H. Walker), blacksmith, church and a school. Some of the first recorded settlers in Columbus were the Johnsons and Stuarts arriving in Arkansas Territory in 1818, and Samuel Moren who came from Missouri at that time. Moren established a store and a horse mill at the site, which was originally known as Penhook. The growth of the community that eventually became Columbus stemmed from these early enterprises. The rich black soil of the area drew planters to Columbus and it was known as a prosperous development.

Construction of railroads through the county in the 1870s shifted the nexus of Hempstead�۪s economy away from Washington southeast to Hope and in 1938 it became the county seat. River travel dwindled and in the 1920s the status of supplemental trading centers in the county was further minimized as automobile transportation on improved roads commandeered shipping business. Cotton was no longer the king in the county after World War I. During World War II the Southwestern Proving Ground (NR 6/10/99) in Hope provided employment. After the war population and commerce continued to swing to Hope. The Columbus school was consolidated

with Hope school district in the 1940s and as Interstate 30 replaced the railroads in significance the community became a rural stop on State Highway 73. Today the business section and the square are gone. The town consists of several homes fronting the highway; a church and a post office mark the location of Columbus and Mounds Cemetery.

Edward Johnson, Sr.

Edward Johnson, Sr. moved to Missouri Territory from Virginia after serving in the Revolutionary War. He and his wife Deborah (b. 1766, d. 1848) came to the area with their four sons and six daughters to settle on land opened by the Louisiana Purchase. By 1818 he and Deborah had moved to the Columbus area with his son, Edward Jr. and purchased 480 acres of public land. Edward Johnson, Sr. (b. 1766-d. 1846) is buried on the part of the cemetery known as Big Mound in a box tomb composed of concrete blocks topped with a flat ledger. The blocks are likely a later alteration to collapsed brick. In 1954 the DAR placed a bronze marker commemorating his service in the Revolutionary War at the foot of the tomb. 

Edward Johnson, Jr.

Edward Johnson, Sr.�۪s son Edward, Jr. (also known as Ned), is considered the vanguard of the Johnson family in Arkansas. Ned (b. 1798, d. 1838) got a job surveying in Arkansas County, Missouri Territory. This exposed him to the rich land of the future Hempstead County and he persuaded his parents to move there. In 1818 Ned and his family built a log cabin along Plum Creek to the north of the present town of Columbus. Ned accumulated several thousand acres of land and married Lucetta Stuart (b. 1801, d. 1884) whose family had arrived in the Mound Prairie area adjacent to Columbus prior to the migration of the Johnsons.

In the 1830s Ned acquired a contract with the federal government to supply the Choctaw Indians with food and other provisions during Removal over the Southwest Trail. This added significantly to the family wealth. Ned was also a cotton planter and a merchant, operating a store out of his home.

Before his death in 1838 Ned made plans to build a larger home on top of the flat-topped Small Mound. It was not accomplished before his death and it was used as a cemetery for the family. Ned�۪s grave was the first to be placed on the Big Mound and he is buried in a box tomb

like his father�۪s. The box is built of brick and the ledger on top has coved edges. Lucetta�۪s box tomb of similar construction is adjacent to Ned�۪s.

Major William Johnson

Major William Johnson, the son of Ned, Jr. and Lucetta, married Sallie Hawkins (b. 1835, d. 1918) of Fayetteville after he and his brother John attended school there. He brought her back to the family land in Columbus but his new bride did not appreciate the log cabin they had been occupying so she implemented plans for a new home called Woodlawn modeled on a large two-story Greek Revival house she had seen in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Major had inherited a substantial amount of land from his father and his new stepfather was a wealthy man as well.

Family histories report that Major was not at the plantation immediately after the Civil War, nor is there a record that he served in the war. By the 1880s their fortunes had fallen and Sallie was the primary manager of the farm. Woodlawn stayed in the family and on the family land until 1990, when the Pioneer Washington Restoration Foundation arranged for the house to be moved to Historic Washington State Park in Washington.

Major Johnson was buried in the Small Mound upon his death in 1905. His grave is marked with a massive marble Gothic shouldered tablet-style monument on a rubbled base.

Sallie�۪s grave, also in Small Mound, is marked with a smaller Gothic shouldered tablet-style stone.

Ned Johnson, Jr. Family

The remaining four sons of early settler Ned Jr., including John (b. 1833, d. 1863), James Ford (b. 1821, d. 1855), Henry Augustus, (b. 1827, d. 1864) and Edward III (b. 1835, d. 1876), are also buried at Mounds Cemetery.

John engaged in farming on his inheritance in Columbus until he enrolled in the military and became 2nd lieutenant of Hempstead County infantry, Company B, falling at Vicksburg in 1863. John�۪s marker is the only obelisk in Big Mound.

James Ford moved to Sevier County and was engaged as a merchant after marrying into the Walker family of the Black Land Colony in Sevier County. James died at a young age in Sevier County but was buried with his family on Big Mound. His brick box tomb next to his father features chamfered edges on the ledger.

Edward III, the youngest son of Ned, Jr. and Lucetta was only three when his father died but he also received an inheritance of land. In 1862 Edward enrolled in Company B with his brothers

John and Augustus. He was discharged soon after enrolling and he returned to his wife Emma (b. 1839, d. 1919) and his farm in Columbus, which prospered. Edward III�۪s grave next to Emma�۪s in Small Mound is marked with a simple small obelisk.

Henry Augustus, fourth son of Ned, Jr. married Caroline Walker and they lived on a plantation in Hempstead County. In 1859 he sold the land and moved to Dallas County where he farmed. Henry enlisted in Company B with his brothers in 1862 and was discharged that same year after being wounded. Family records state that he returned with his family to Hempstead County but he was murdered in 1864 and died in Richmond, Sevier County. His body was buried in Big Mound. 

Ned Jr.�۪s daughters also inherited land after his death. His first daughter, Catherine (b. 1823, d. 1863) married Matthew Cheatham in 1839. The Cheathams came to Hempstead County to go into business with the Walker family. Catherine was well-to-do with the combined wealth of her inheritance and her husband�۪s business dealings. Once the Civil War started their resources declined and she died before the end of the war. Catherine is buried with her father in Big Mound. Two babies and a twelve year old with the name Cheatham are buried beside her.

Mary Jane Johnson (b. 1825, d. 1863) married Robert A. Brunson in Columbus in 1841. Robert was a farmer and doctor. By 1860 he had increased his real estate value to $21,200. They lived in a house called ���Brunson Mansion,�۝ which was moved to Washington Historic State Park

in 1987 to serve as a tour home. Mary Jane was buried at Big Mound behind her father�۪s box tomb.

The connected threads of the Johnson family radiate from Ned Sr. and Ned Jr. and provide the links to the people interred in Mounds Cemetery. From there the story of Columbus and Hempstead County continues.

Dr. James H. Walker

After the death of Ned, Jr. his widow Lucetta married Dr. James H. Walker (b. 1800, d. 1861). Dr. Walker�۪s family came to Arkansas with the Cheatham family in the early 1830s.

Walker was traveling down the Southwest Trail in Arkansas on his way to Texas but he recognized that the land in Hempstead County would be amenable to cotton growing. In 1834 he brought his family and that of his business partner to Columbus.

Soon after arriving, he and his son-in-law Matthew Cheatham formed the largest mercantile in town, Walker and Cheatham Store and Exchange. Out of this concern they also served as bankers, brokers, commission merchants, factors and general agents. From the 1840s into the 1850s Walker served as a Trustee of the Real Estate Bank of Arkansas.

Walker set up a medical practice in Columbus and is listed in ���Goodspeed�۪s for Southern Arkansas�۝ as a minister in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church but a family history states that he is not found in the church�۪s archives. He is; however, listed as a minister of the Gospel in the Hempstead County marriage records. With the blending of Lucetta and James�۪ children the Walkers had to enlarge their home in Columbus to 18 rooms. Often his expansive home served as a guest house for travelers. There were two schools in Columbus, the Male and Female Academies. Dr. Walker served as a director of the Male Academy.

Along with his commercial influence Dr. Walker represented Hempstead County in the 1835 General Assembly of Arkansas Territory. In 1836 he was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. He ran for a senate seat in 1836 ��� was defeated by General George Hill ��� but ran again in 1838 and was elected. In 1840 he was re-elected but resigned in that year to concentrate

on his businesses. At this point he had accumulated his neighbor Ned Johnson Jr.�۪s considerable landholdings through his marriage to Lucetta, as well as his mercantile and his own land. Dr.

Walker is buried next to Lucetta in Big Mound in a brick box tomb with ledger. His marker is very simple and features no iconography. 

Colonel James A. Williamson

Colonel James A. Williamson (b. 1829, d. 1906) married into the Johnson family in 1873, joining with Annie Pearsall Johnson (b. 1837, d. 1914). Williamson was one of the planter elite in Hempstead County. Prior to taking up farming in the county he had been a lawyer in South Carolina and had served in the Civil War as a first lieutenant, adjutant, captain and lieutenant-colonel. Williamson served one term in the Arkansas legislature in 1876. James and Annie are buried in Small Mound. 

Goodspeed, ���The Goodspeed Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Southern Arkansas,�۝ (Chicago, Nashville and St. Louis: The Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1890), 380; Marynell Turner, ���Hempstead County,�۝ The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, accessed 02/13/13; Dr. Ann Early, Arkansas Archeological Survey, Fayetteville, AR, interview with author, 2013.

Goodspeed, 384; Turner, ���Hempstead.�۝

Russell Baker, ���From Memdag to Norsk: A Historical Directory of Arkansas Post Offices, 1832-1971,�۝ (Hot Springs, AR: Arkansas Genealogical Society, 1988), 49; Sam Williams, ���Printer�۪s Devil: Memorabilia of Sam Williams,�۝ (Hope, AR: Etter Printing Company, 1979), 17; ���Goodspeeds�۝ lists the early Moren settler as being Abner, which could be Samuel�۪s son.

Turner, ���Hempstead.�۝

Dennis Glasgow, ���Old Neddy�۪s Sons,�۝ (Self-published, 2009), 1.

Ibid, 3.

���Columbus and Vicinity: Its Land and People,�۝ Journal of the Hempstead County Historical Society(1999), 31, 46.

Glasgow, 16, 18, 31, -52, 55, 57-61.

Ibid, 19, 25-27.

Ibid, 19, 67-69, 70, 73, 78; Goodspeed, 566.

Goodspeed, 449.


None of the stones in Mounds Cemetery exhibit high-style iconography or funerary architecture. There is no ornate lynch gate or sign designating the cemetery but it is the resting place of the influential Johnson family and their descendants through intermarriage. The community of Columbus and adjacent Mound Prairie were tied to the thread of the Southwest Trail through Washington and it was an important business center for the original settlers to the county. Their extensive landholdings buoyed the economy of the community and the early 19th century county seat in Washington before the Civil War. The Johnsons, Stuarts, Walkers and Cheathams entered the Territory and through their political and economic endeavors formed the character of the county and the fledgling state.

Mounds Cemetery is located on the original land of the earliest settlers. The area is agricultural as it would have been when the Johnsons and Stuarts formed their plantations. Subsequently, the early history of the Native Americans in southwest Arkansas has been preserved with the situation of the graves on the mounds. Although many of the historic homes

of the early families have been moved or destroyed, the feeling of a rural farming community endures. The Mounds Cemetery ensures that the story of Columbus and the roles of the people buried within in its settlement will continue.


Baker, Russell. ���From Memdag to Norsk: A Historical Director of Arkansas Post offices,

1832-1971.�۝ (Hot Springs, AR: Hot Springs Genealogical Society, 1988).

Early, Dr. Ann. Information provided to author, 2013.

Glasgow, Dennis. ���Old Neddy�۪s Sons: Edward Johnson Jr. (Ned), James Johnson, John S.

Johnson and Sinkler Johnson.�۝ (Self-published, 2009).

Goodspeed, ���The Goodspeed Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Southern Arkansas.�۝

(Chicago, Nashville, St. Louis: The Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1890).

Hempstead County Historical Society. ���Columbus and Vicinity: its Land and its People.�۝

Journal. (1999).

Turner, Marynell. ���Hempstead County.�۝ The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and

Culture. Online article, accessed 2/13/13.

Williams, Sam. ���Printer�۪s Devil: Memorabilia of Sam Williams.�۝ (Hope, AR: Etter Printing

Company, 1979).

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