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Gone to the GraveBurial Customs of the Arkansas Ozarks, 1850-1950$

Abby Burnett

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781628461114

Published to University Press of Mississippi: May 2015

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781628461114.001.0001

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Disenfranchised Death

Disenfranchised Death

(p.212) Chapter Eleven Disenfranchised Death
Gone to the Grave

Abby Burnett

University Press of Mississippi

Abstract and Keywords

Burial traditions were uniform across the Arkansas Ozarks, except under unusual circumstances. The term “disenfranchised death,” usually denoting deaths society does not acknowledge (such as miscarriage), is used here to define deaths during epidemics, at poor farms and pest houses, from lynching, and in wartime when traditions were altered or abandoned. This chapter examines deaths during the Civil War and both World Wars, when families had no body to bury or, in the case of World War I’s Gold Star Mothers, ones that were officially acknowledged many years later. Also discussed is how executions paralleled conventional death customs in unusual ways.

Keywords:   Disenfranchised Death, Poor Farms, Lynching, Executions, Gold Star Mothers

  • Grieve not for him who dieth
  • for his struggling soul is free
  • & the world from which it flieth
  • is a world of misery.
  • He died to live, he sank to rise
  • He left this wretched mortal shore
  • But brighter suns & bluer skyes
  • shall shine on him forevermore.

—William Rosson, 1832–1894

Rankin Cemetery (Franklin County)

In 1867 the Arkansas State Penitentiary, adopting a practice common across the South, began leasing convicts to various industries. The owners of plantations, railroads, and coalmines housed the men and paid the state generously for their labor. There was little oversight, and not until the “Coal Hill Horrors” came to light (Johnson County, 1888) did it become known that many of these prisoners had been worked, beaten, and starved to death.1 By the time the penitentiary’s commissioners investigated the camp, sixty to seventy convicts had died, their bodies “taken about a half-mile from the stockade and buried in a marshy place in graves sixteen inches deep, in pine boxes, with a piece of blanket for a shroud and without any ceremony whatever.” The Arkansas Gazette likened this graveyard to “a rooting place for hogs.”2 It is unlikely that the men’s relatives ever learned what became of them.

This is an example of disenfranchised death, a term usually applied to ones society does not formally acknowledge, such as miscarriages and stillbirths. In this chapter, however, it is used to define deaths that, for a variety of (p.213) reasons, were not mourned in the conventional manner, if mourned at all. It does not, however, refer to suicides. Unless a body was found in a deteriorated condition, or when a suicide note made a specific request (“Bury me as I am”), even these deaths were accorded the full funeral ritual.

Poor Farm and Pest House Deaths

The cliché “Death loves a shining mark” appears often in obituaries but of course death isn’t choosy. It comes for the minister, the mayor, and the senator as well as criminals, the elderly poor, infants, and the insane. Long before there were welfare programs, those living on the fringes of society relied on local charity, and when they died they were buried at town expense. In Eureka Springs (Carroll County, 1886–1896) it fell to the ladies to provide aid to indigent health seekers who flocked there and, it was suspected, to others sent there by surrounding communities wishing to unburden themselves. The Ladies United Relief Association was formed to provide assistance, including burials. After ten years of doing what the county could or would not do, the ladies attempted to get the Carroll County poor farm to “do its duty toward the indigent.”3 After all, this was what a poor farm was designed to do: house the poor, elderly, sick, lame, blind, insane, and orphaned, and anyone else without means.

Arkansas’s poor farms (also called poorhouses or county farms) were modeled on those created during England’s Industrial Revolution in the late 1700s. An act passed by the Arkansas legislature in 1851 authorized each county to buy land, erect buildings, and accept the lowest bid submitted for the feeding, clothing, and medical care of any paupers.4 The law was modified over the years; in 1875 an act allowed these indigents to work for the county, with any “protesting pauper” to be examined by a doctor to ensure that he was physically capable of working.5 In 1889 an act decreed that paupers “able to perform manual labor shall be worked on said [poor] farms,” the county selling any surplus crops that were produced there.6

Prior to the establishment of poor farms, paupers were housed with whomever charged the least amount for their care. In addition to being paid, this low bidder could use the pauper’s labor for one year.7 This is seen in one county’s general fund accounting: payment to G. M. Drain for $3.15 for housing a pauper and, not coincidentally, $7.50 to Drain for hauling rocks (Madison County, 1911).8 Eventually most counties created a poorhouse or farm, but a few continued to place paupers with individual families well into the 1900s,9 usually when the farm was overcrowded. Some, like Cleburne County (until (p.214) 1903), used both systems simultaneously.10 With the establishment of the Social Security Act of 1935, inmate populations began to dwindle; eventually the farms were closed, though in the early 1950s some counties returned to the bidding system of pauper care. The Poor House Act of 1851 was repealed in 1977.

Living conditions were often bad because, despite the construction of the Arkansas State Lunatic Asylum in Little Rock (Pulaski County, 1882), the insane were incarcerated on these farms whenever the asylum was overcrowded, which was often.11 In 1907 all eleven of the residents of Carroll County’s farm were insane, which a reporter thought helped explain why the place was so unclean,12 but in fairness, county judges sometimes solved their own overcrowding problems by declaring elderly paupers “insane” and bundling them off to the state asylum.13 For this reason some poor farms had actual jail cells, complete with shackles used to restrain the insane, as well as the occasional violent criminal housed there. Mildred Stansell Jenkins, whose parents bought an abandoned county poor farm (Madison County, 1946), witnessed her father’s attempts to dismantle a small outbuilding that sat by itself in a pasture. After his team of horses could not dislodge the six-by-eight-foot structure, Stansell’s father discovered that it was anchored deep in the ground with iron straps, evidence that it was intended to be escape proof.14

These farms were the dumping grounds for counties’ other problems as well. Mount Comfort’s farm (Washington County, late 1800s to early 1900) housed both prostitutes and children with epilepsy;15 fifteen-year-old John Richmond, an African American orphan, died in the poorhouse after accidentally shooting himself (Crawford County, 1872).16 A Mrs. R. P. Hall died after giving birth to an illegitimate baby (Washington County, 1905), and the doctor who delivered the child threatened to send it to the poorhouse unless someone—anyone—took it, which a local family finally did.17 Orphans were routinely housed at these farms. One payment found in court records (Pope County, 1927) speaks volumes: “Dr. W. L. Mason, $25, syphilis serum and treatment for Whitehead children (orphans).”18 Sometimes families used the farm as a dumping ground. Jeff Watts, a child when his father served as overseer on a farm (Lawrence County, 1933–1940), noted that during the Depression, “People who could no longer support their mothers or fathers would bring them here and drop them off. We had as many as 40 people.”19

Paupers made desperate efforts to keep from being sent to the poor farm, or to escape once there. One elderly man, jailed for vagrancy (Benton County, 1899), refused to divulge his name or place of origin for fear of being returned to a poor farm in Kansas,20 while William Britton, aged sixty-eight, hanged himself when illness rendered him unable to work and he feared he would (p.215) be sent to the same farm whose insane inmates had rendered it so unsanitary (Carroll County, 1903).21 Any death was preferable to dying on these farms. Counties appropriated money for burials, which were substandard. In Washington County the inmates assembled plain wooden burial boxes without lids (date unknown),22 while in another account these inmates’ bodies were merely wrapped in blankets and buried without a funeral.23 The poor farm cemetery was society’s final dumping ground, also used to dispose of unidentified bodies and county prisoners. Inmates were buried without tombstones other than field rocks and the locations of many of these cemeteries are now lost.

A similar fate awaited anyone stricken during smallpox epidemics. It would be hard to overstate the fear people had of this infectious disease that could disfigure, blind, or kill its victims. Vaccination, and prudently avoiding those who had the disease, provided the greatest protection. To facilitate the latter, hospitals posted the word “smallpox” on their buildings and wagons, and the state board of health, in 1899, threatened to prosecute anyone who did not post a yellow flag on his dwelling when there was a smallpox patient within.24 Some towns quarantined themselves by forbidding trains to stop there.

Diarist Mary Adelia Byers (Independence County, 1864) wrote that friends “shun the house like a smallpox hospital” when a disagreeable relative visited,25 but such a fear worked to one woman’s advantage during the Civil War (Washington County). Union scavengers, stealing meat, saw her and her smallpox scabs through a window and threatened to shoot her. But, “I saw how afraid they were of me and I could not resist the temptation to open the door. The squad of Feds ran and I had saved a few hams left in our smokehouse.”26

Once the disease was manifest, people went to extraordinary lengths to eradicate contagion. As a young child, Mary Price and her entire family had smallpox, and everyone but Mary died inside the home (Searcy County, 1840s). When neighbors realized the girl was still alive, they left food for her on the windowsill but came no closer. Eventually, “when she was able to walk outside, the neighbors built a fire under the wash pot in the yard, filled it with water and soap and called to Mary to strip off her clothes, leave them in the house and come bathe in the pot and put on clean clothing that they had left lying nearby.” Even then they made her live alone in another small house until she was fully recovered, during which time they burned down the Price home.27 Decades later houses were still being torched if a smallpox victim had died within. During Fort Smith’s cholera epidemic (Sebastian County, 1866), authorities wanted to burn down the home of two former slaves, whose bodies had been inside for two days. Physicians refused to allow it, saying, “it would not do.”28 (p.216)

In its early stages, smallpox, which killed 35 percent of its victims,29 was hard to diagnose and doctors sometimes mistook it for chicken pox or measles. Fluid-filled blisters appear about twelve days after exposure to infection, so anyone who visited or nursed the sick person during that period had to be quarantined as well. These blisters, later drying into scabs, could cause deep scarring. One man, after visiting a recovering friend (Pope County, 1899), issued the reassuring news that “he has peeled off as slick as an onion and [is] almost free from blemishes.”30

Though the wealthy were allowed to convalesce in their own homes, those without means were isolated in a pest house, located well outside of town. This term, used in England in the 1600s, originally referred to a place housing victims of the plague. In the Ozarks, however, the pest house was where smallpox victims were kept under quarantine—sometimes under guard. Though these places housed both whites and blacks, African Americans were more likely to be mentioned in connection with them.

Two crews, one black and one white, worked at opposite ends of the Frisco Railroad line and tunnel construction project near Winslow (Washington County, 1882). A doctor was sent to vaccinate the laborers in January, and it seems all too likely that he vaccinated only the white crew against smallpox,31 as by March the disease was “raging.”32 W. A. Burgess, whose father was an employee of the project’s construction company, described seeing “a great number of small cubicle-style rough-lumber shacks” up on the hillside and was told that each one housed a smallpox sufferer.33 So many deaths resulted that four separate burial locations were needed to hold the bodies. One witness recalled seeing as many as fifteen bodies, wrapped in the blankets in which they had died, thrown into trenches and covered with dirt,34 while another estimate put the death toll at around one hundred, only five of them white.35

Though vaccination provided protection, it could be risky. The sexton of Van Buren’s Fairview Cemetery (Crawford County, 1850) recorded the cause of death for J. M. Ward, age twenty-two, as “spurious vaccination,” adding the note that Ward’s “arm swelled enormously and mortified.”36 At the very least these inoculations caused “fearful sore arms”37 and even sickness, and inoculations that didn’t “take” had to be redone. Still, during one epidemic (Boone and Marion counties, 1882), the five patients who had been vaccinated recovered, while sixteen of the thirty unvaccinated patients died from smallpox.38 Doctors were slow to take their own medicine, and three of four doctors who treated these patients died, the sole surviving doctor having been vaccinated.39

Early doctors took scabs from smallpox patients and scratched or jabbed matter from a scab into the arm of a healthy person to cause immunity to develop. Even after vaccines became available, some doctors kept scabs on (p.217) hand. As recently as 2000 an exhibit in a county museum contained a jar of these scabs, each attached to a small square of wood, donated to the museum along with a local doctor’s medical equipment. Arkansas became the first state in the nation, in 1916, to make smallpox vaccinations mandatory for all schoolchildren and enforced the law. Still, there were outbreaks as late as 1922, and the disease was not declared eradicated worldwide until 1978.40


Men about to be executed by the state were accorded almost all burial traditions: new clothing, proper coffins, the witnessing of last words and requests, a funeral oration. The difference was that the condemned received these things before dying, not after. All of the conventional elements were there, but occurred out of sequence.

This is illustrated by the events of one hot June morning, as an immense crowd converged on Clarksville (Johnson County, 1883). Some arrived on a special railroad coach that brought dignitaries to town, but most were on foot, on horseback, or traveling by wagon. All were in a hurry, hoping to get close to the platform where they could best witness the spectacle to come. In a nearby room, as the noon hour approached, four men ate a hearty dinner, bathed, shaved, donned new, lightweight summer suits, and pinned boutonnieres of white roses and geranium leaves to their lapels. Finally these men, whom an estimated five thousand people had come to see hang, made their appearance. These were the infamous “Mulberry train robbers.” The youngest of the four, seventeen-year-old Jim Johnson, had most likely done the shooting that killed a railroad conductor, but all four were condemned to hang for the crime.41

Men who were about to be hanged (only one Arkansas woman was executed between 1820 and 2000, Lavinia Burnett in 1845) were always given new clothing to wear—in a way, it could be said they laid themselves out, as their bodies would be placed directly into coffins after they died. Clothing was paid for out of the sheriff’s budget and not, as is popularly believed, by the hangman. Unlike those who died of natural causes, these men would see their coffins ahead of time and many would ride to the execution seated upon them. Lastly, these living men actively participated in the religious ceremonies marking their approaching deaths. These occasions also paralleled conventional death in that the condemned met with their ministers, said farewells to family and friends, and died surrounded by throngs of people.

An execution was an occasion for pageantry, both religious and otherwise. With the exception of the Fort Smith federal court’s permanent gallows, (p.218) on which multiple prisoners could be hanged simultaneously (Sebastian County, 1875–1896), scaffolds were erected for the occasion and dismantled afterward. Crowds assessed the condemned’s demeanor, interested in whether he appeared frightened or confident, and called out to him as he arrived. Cornelius Hammon (Benton County, 1876) good-naturedly reminded the crowd, “There’s no use to be in a hurry, for nothing’s going to happen until I get there.”42

Ministers held full church services once all participants had assembled. At Jerdon Grinder’s execution (Crawford County, 1871) his spiritual advisor “had a season of prayer and exhortation at the jail yard” lasting about an hour, then, at the gallows, read from Psalms 139 (“O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my down-sitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off”), prayed, and led the singing of two hymns. The choice of one of these seems harsh, given Grinder’s belief that he had sinned too deeply for God’s forgiveness:

  • That awful day will surely come,
  • Th’appointed hour makes haste,
  • When I must stand before my Judge,
  • And pass the solemn test.43

At some point in the proceedings the condemned man was allowed to make a last statement to the crowd, and most seized the opportunity—one man talked for an hour and a half. The condemned almost always used their time in precisely the same way dying people used their last breaths: to beg loved ones to meet them in heaven. A few protested their innocence, sang a hymn, or corrected a newspaper account of their crime; others offered their lives as cautionary examples to the young men in the audience. Lee Mills (Van Buren County, 1898) delivered both a lengthy mea culpa and sang a song he’d written for the occasion, in which he urged the “rowdy boys” in the audience to mend their ways.44

Finally, the condemned’s hands and feet would be tied and a black hood placed over his head to hide his features. Deputies—or a wooden plank— supported any prisoner who fainted or could not stand. After reading aloud the charges and the sentence, which often concluded with the theatrical pronouncement that the prisoner was to be “hanged by the neck until dead, dead, dead!” the sheriff placed the noose around the prisoner’s neck, cried, “May God have mercy on your soul,” and released the trapdoor beneath the man’s feet.

Newspaper writers liked to say that the condemned was launched into eternity, which sounds like a speedy if acrobatic death. When done properly (p.219) the person’s neck was cleanly broken by the fall, with a total elapsed time upward of five minutes before death was declared. Still, the body was usually left to hang for fifteen to twenty minutes, with doctors and even reporters checking at intervals for a pulse. Done incorrectly, the condemned man would slowly, noisily, and sometimes bloodily strangle to death at the end of the rope or, worse, be decapitated by the process. Three of the four Mulberry train robbers took several minutes to die, but James “Gove” Johnson suffered the longest. Just before the trap was sprung, “his muffled voice was heard calling out, ‘That rope is caught on my chin; pull it down.” This misplacement of the noose’s functional slipknot caused him to strangle at the end of the rope, “dying very hard,”45 a process that reportedly took nearly half an hour.46

Despite the solemnity of the occasion, hawkers moved through the crowd selling lemonade and photos of the murderers and their victims; in the case of the four men above, pamphlets were sold titled “History of the Train Robbers,” containing biographies of the participants.47 In later years spectators took Kodak photos at hangings. Another souvenir was the rope itself, though tossing pieces to the crowd has been found in only one account (Boone County, 1913). More often the rope, cap, and straps used in hangings were borrowed from the state and had to be returned afterward to Little Rock. George Maladon, one of several men who hanged prisoners sentenced by Fort Smith’s Judge Isaac Parker (serving Parker in this capacity from about 1878 to 1891),48 reused his ropes and made money exhibiting them. He might have made even more money by selling them. english folklore credits a hanging rope with the power to cure headaches, malarial chills, and fits,49 while blacks living in Little Rock sought such rope as a cure for epilepsy.50

Finally, all that remained was disposing of the body. Though parents visited their condemned sons in prison, few stayed to witness the executions, instead asking adult children or friends to bring the body home for burial. Some did more than that; the sister of murderer Owen D. Hill stayed on the platform while her brother was hanged (Fort Smith, 1888), then “arranged his hands and closed his eyes after the body was placed in the coffin.”51

The Business of Executions

Some witnesses claimed they were sickened by the event, but executions were a popular entertainment, one that even small children attended. Newspaper accounts usually estimated the crowd as numbering in the thousands, despite the fact that in 1887 the Arkansas General Assembly had passed an act limiting the number of witnesses to twenty-five. (The U.S. marshals who carried (p.220)

Disenfranchised Death

Figure 11.1 Odus Davidson addresses those who had come to witness his hanging for murder in Harrison (Boone County), 1913. Davidson proclaimed his innocence to a crowd that contained men, women, children, and even babies.

Courtesy Boone County Library.

out Judge Parker’s death sentences started using a board fence and restricting audience numbers in 1878.) In the event that no jail yard or private location was available, the sheriff was instructed to have an enclosure built for the occasion.52 These twenty-five witnesses were in addition to law enforcement, doctors, clergy, and members of the press, and entrance tickets were avidly sought after. In 1901 the law was amended to allow executions for the crime of rape to be carried out without a fence hiding the proceedings.53 According to an online index that lists 478 executions between 1820 and 1964 (an incomplete record), prior to 1950 Charles Hammons (Conway County, 1910) was the only white man hanged for rape.

According to this index, of the 464 executions for which the date is known, 370 (nearly 80 percent) took place on a Friday. Though Saturday was the day when people normally came to town, according to superstition Friday was a day of bad luck, as well as having been the day of Jesus’s crucifixion. In Ozarks folklore it is an inauspicious day to start any new projects or to begin a journey. Traditionally, Friday the 13th is especially unlucky, though four hangings and six electrocutions took place on that day.

In all respects the hanging of African Americans followed the same rituals, with blacks being just as anxious as whites to view the proceedings. Still, (p.221) accounts of these executions are all found outside the Ozarks, such as that of Charles Anderson (Pulaski County, 1901), which was witnessed by an estimated ten thousand people—over half of them black.54

Prior to 1913 all of the state’s legal executions were by hanging, with the exception of four guerillas executed before a firing squad during the Civil War.55 In 1913 the state legislature established a death chamber at the state penitentiary at Little Rock and appropriated $1,500 to build an electric chair. They also forbade newspapers from describing these events or writing anything beyond the fact that they had taken place, though few complied.56

The state’s electric chair was built in Fayetteville by W. N. Gladson, dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Arkansas, at a cost of $750, which included travel expenses to visit states that had such chairs57 and (perhaps apocryphally) for the cow on which the device was first tested.58 Housed at the penitentiary in Little Rock, the chair’s inaugural use was the execution of Lee Simms, a black man convicted of rape in 1913. Following this there were three more hangings around the state, alternating with electrocutions, before the full transition to the electric chair was complete in 1914. Capital punishment was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1972 but was eventually reinstated, and since 1983 Arkansas has given lethal injections to those sentenced to death.59


Both officially sanctioned executions and lynchings were public spectacles, but beyond that the two have little in common. Lynching is usually described as a mob of whites hanging a black man accused of raping a white woman. While it is true that 231 of the 318 documented lynchings in Arkansas were those of blacks (1860s–1930s), only 51 of these cases were for an alleged rape.60 The word actually derives from “Lynch’s law” (1818) and originally referred to an unauthorized whipping, administered upon suspicion of guilt61 and not resulting in death. It has also been used to define any assault against any marginalized group, such as Jews, Catholics, homosexuals, and criminals. In more recent times, however, newspapers referred to “Judge Lynch,” and the word has come to be associated with the murder of African Americans, often at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan.

In legal hangings the condemned fell through an opening in the gallows floor, the five-foot drop designed to break the person’s neck in a swift and supposedly humane way. In a lynching, however, a noose was used to haul a man (p.222) upward so that the weight of his body caused him to slowly strangle. Mobs also shot and burned these bodies as they hung.

Lynching took many forms, with blacks, whites, and women killed in this way. One such event involved Cal Emory, an African American sentenced to hang for murder, and for whom a scaffold had been built when the governor commuted his sentence to twenty-one years in prison (Pope County, 1881). “They tried to get the man out and they couldn’t, so they killed him in jail and drug him to the gallows and hanged him on the one that was made for him,” said J. T. Odom, possibly an eyewitness to the event. Following this, Emory’s body was left hanging from the gallows all night.62

There had been several acts of mob violence, including at least one lynching, in Pope County by the time G. L. Parker, editor of the Chronicle (about 1896), wrote a parody that almost surely paralleled human events. According to Parker, “a band of lawless men hurled two beings into eternity, totally unprepared for their awful fate.” The piece contains all of the elements of an actual account of lynching, as “Jake and Tom,” accused of being thieves, were strung up by a “howling, shrieking, gore-hungry mob” as their sobbing mother looked on. “After accomplishing the terrible deed, the mob silently dispersed … the victims presented a gruesome sight in the light of the early Sabbath morn and kind hands cut them down and prepared them for burial.” This parody concluded: “The deceased were two young billy goats,” adding the phrase often found at the end of actual news stories: “Northern papers please copy.”63

It is difficult to document what became of victims’ bodies following such killings. Given the violence involved, it’s unlikely family members could have safely come forward to claim a body, nor was there always much left to retrieve. Certainly there was no squeamishness on the part of onlookers as, following the lynching and burning of Will Norman’s body in Hot Springs (Garland County, 1913), the Newspaper coyly hinted, “Souvenir hunters ripped the remains of the situation to riddles”64 and, the following day, reported that the coroner would not hold an inquest, as “there was nothing to hold an inquest over.”65

(p.223) Wartime Deaths

  • Rest soldiers rest, thy warfare o’er,
  • Sleep the sleep that knows no breaking,
  • Dream of battle fields no more,
  • Days of danger, nights of waking.

—Thomas Loftin, 1822–Sept. 16, 1863

Alfred Loftin, 1814–Sept. 16, 1863

Auman Cemetery (Boone County)

Before discussing Civil War deaths, the subject of burial customs of blacks under slavery ought to be addressed, but this is problematic. Of the seventeen counties making up the Arkansas Ozarks in 1850, half of the region’s 6,402 slaves, or 8.5 percent of the region’s total population, resided in just four counties: Washington, Independence, Johnson, and Crawford. Contrast this with the rest of the state: 40,698 slaves owned outside the Ozarks, or 30.2 percent of the total population.66 By the 1860 census, although the total population had increased, there was no significant change in these percentages. As before, four counties (now Washington, Independence, Johnson, and Pope) owned roughly half the slaves in the Arkansas Ozarks, and these slaves made up just 7 percent of the total population, while slaves in counties outside the Ozarks accounted for 33.6 percent of that total population.

The suggestion that “slaves who lived on the small farms of Arkansas may well have functioned much like hired hands”67 likely applies to the Ozarks. The only first-person accounts of life under slavery are found in interviews conducted by the WPA’s Federal Writers’ Project (1936–1939). Subjects were not asked about death customs, and almost all of those who volunteered such information came from the Little Rock area (Pulaski County). As far as can be determined, none was describing life in the Ozarks, nor were accounts consistent, as practices on the various plantations were dictated by the slave owners.

Some subjects asserted that slaves’ bodies were simply put into the ground without any funeral service, while others described simple funerals and wooden coffins. Slaves conducted their own services. Though slaves could join a church, and “Many masters encouraged religion among their slaves, sometimes for benevolent reasons but at times because they believed it would make their property more docile,”68 by one estimate less than 20 percent of all slaves had any religious affiliation.69 Several of those interviewed said slaves did not attend church, nor were preachers on hand very often for the community at (p.224) large. If whites had to delay funerals until a minister could be present, it is little wonder blacks had no church-sanctioned ceremonies at all.

On rare occasions whites handed down stories of their ancestors’ burial of slaves. One such account, recorded by Silas Turnbo, tells how the John Jones family (Marion County, 1864 or 1865) buried the body of a “small negro boy” wrapped in a quilt.70 Turnbo recorded other Civil War–era stories of whites being buried in the same manner, so this may have been done out of necessity. An account from the Morgan Magness family (Independence County) states that each slave was given a “proper burial” during the war and that many years later son William D. Magness “himself oversaw the burial of the last one of the Col.’s slaves.”71

Civilian Civil War Burials (1861–1865)

With the Civil War fully under way, whites living in the Ozark Mountains were often forced to bury their dead in a hurried, haphazard manner, work done by women, children, and the elderly because men were away at war or in hiding. Burying bodies killed by troops, marauding bands of raiders known as bushwhackers (Confederate guerillas), or Jayhawkers (Union guerillas) was a difficult, dangerous job for civilians. Those responsible for the killing were likely to still be in the vicinity, while in some instances witnesses were ordered to leave bodies unburied, to dishonor the dead and intimidate the populace.

Civilians sometimes had to redo military burials. E. M. Bailey (Randolph County, born 1851) recalled how a passing company of Union soldiers buried the body of one of their men in loose creek gravel. “Some women passed and saw his toes sticking out of the grave,” he told a WPA interviewer in 1941. “Old man John Barrett and some women and several boys took him up, put him in a box, and buried him on the hill near where the church now stands.”72 Such labor required physical strength that undernourished women scarcely had. In some accounts elderly men did the digging, but were afraid to help further. Lavinia Holmes had no help when two neighbors were killed by robbers (Boone County, then part of Carroll, some time during the Civil War). She borrowed a yoke of oxen, hauled the bodies to Holmes Cemetery, and buried the men. “This task was all hers and at the same time all her quilts, feather beds and pillows went with the raiders.”73

It was often impossible to observe traditions of respect. When six-monthold Jasper Faught died (Newton County, 1864), Mr. Davis, a neighbor, volunteered to take the infant’s coffined body to the nearest cemetery. “Mrs. Faught, (p.225) though a deeply grieving mother, allowed sensibility to reign over emotion. She told Mr. Davis that if he perchance might encounter and be pursued by the dreaded bushwhackers, to drop the coffin (‘the child is dead and you can’t hurt it,’ she said) and to save himself.”74 Davis succeeded in his mission and buried the baby; according to one version of events, he disguised himself in a woman’s dress and bonnet while making the trip.

In the first years of the Civil War, especially in more affluent communities, bodies were buried in conventional coffins. As the war progressed, however, materials became increasingly scarce. Families were forced to make do by wrapping bodies in fabric or, lacking even that, by placing a piece of fabric over the corpse’s face to protect it from dirt. When containers are mentioned, they often involve unconventional elements, such as planks from a wagon bed (Newton County, 1866)75 or a split, hollow log.

Families went to extraordinary lengths to retrieve bodies killed in battle, but Mollie Williams’s efforts were heroic. Her husband, Henry, was murdered as he waited to take an oath of allegiance releasing him from the Confederate army, and his body was thrown into the Arkansas River and presumed lost. Mollie made the eighty-mile trip from her home in the Boston Mountains (Searcy County, 1865) to the site of the killing (Dardanelle, Yell County) to find out what she could about his murder, returned home to relieve her anxious mother-in-law, then returned to the Arkansas River to search for his body. This time Williams had the good fortune to meet a man who had been present when a body was buried in the sandbar where it had been found, and he told her that one of the grave diggers had removed a silver ring from the corpse. A description of the ring convinced Williams that it had, indeed, been taken from her husband’s hand.

“I at once started home to make the needed preparations to bring him home and have him buried in the country graveyard near where he had been born and raised,” she wrote many years later. Williams borrowed a wagon and a pair of oxen, had a rough coffin built and waterproofed inside with tar, and returned to the river. There, Williams was informed that her earlier inquiries had convinced “certain parties” that the corpse had money on it. While she was gone they had dug up the body, searched it, and thrown it back into the river. She put the coffin in the attic of an abandoned house, and again made the long trip home—her sixth over the Boston Mountains—having spent a total of forty-two days in her search.

Our sad and wearisome task was done. My husband’s body rested somewhere enshrouded in the ever shifting sands of the Arkansas River, and his soul drifted out into the great unknown to meet such destiny as inexorable Fate might (p.226) dictate, and I was left alone to renew the fearful struggle of life under the most discouraging difficulties.76

Military Civil War Burials: “That terrible carnival of death”77

Soldiers died far from their families, and this weighed on the mind of Rev. William Baxter as he witnessed wounded Union soldiers being brought to a makeshift hospital in Fayetteville, following the Battle of Prairie Grove (Washington County, 1862). Watching as the injured “in every form of mutilation and disfigurement” were carried in, the minister expressed special pity for the injured who were “hundreds of miles from home, among strangers and even enemies, no kind voice to console, no soft hand to soothe; the lip parched, the wound burning; or the life-blood, from wounds that skill cannot stanch, ebbing slowly away.”78

At least these Union dead received decent burials, complete with funeral services; Confederate bodies were buried by their enemies. Retreating Confederate soldiers had stripped the dead of valuables, clothing, and shoes, and robbed the wounded lying exposed in the extreme cold. This angered Union soldiers responsible for burying the huge piles of bodies left behind, and they retaliated by throwing Confederate corpses into trenches, “with but little ceremony.”79 Another member of this burial party added a chilling detail: “I noticed in one slaughter pen [burial trench] 38 rebels, one of whom was still alive. He would follow us with his eyes.”80

Families had to move quickly if they wanted to retrieve their relatives’ bodies. Children in Fayetteville saw “a grim, white haired man on horseback, holding a gray blanketed figure in the saddle in front of him, its two stark legs protruding on either side.” A parent explained, “Someone was taking a loved one home.”81 At least this man had been able to find his son. The military did not issue identification tags, though men could purchase an engraved “Soldier’s pin” via mail order, or from peddlers who sold goods to the troops.82 Some soldiers, hoping to make subsequent identification easier, made their own badges or wrote their names and military units on pieces of paper, attaching them to their clothing. They did this, that is, if they had access to paper and ink, but not all did. Mollie Williams, mentioned above, received a letter from her soldier lover written in his own blood, “a habit many of the confederate soldiers had to resort to in the early history of the war.”83

Members of the Ladies Southern Memorial Association (Washington County, 1872) oversaw the exhumation of bodies of men killed in battles around northwest Arkansas, and had them reburied in the Confederate (p.227)

Disenfranchised Death

Figure 11.2 The Confederate Cemetery, Fayetteville (Washington County), founded by the Southern Memorial Association in 1872, and containing the dead from numerous Civil War battles in northwest Arkansas. The war memorial in the center was dedicated in 1897.

Photo by Abby Burnett.

Cemetery they established in Fayetteville. Though it had been nearly a decade since these bodies were first interred, the women searched the corpses’ clothing, looking for names. Instead, “We found in their decayed and mouldering pockets acorns, and the dust of parched corn,” Lizzie Pollard said in a speech given a quarter-century later. She admonished the young people in the audience, “You … cannot comprehend the hunger and heroism that represents.”84

World War I (1914–1918)

Though a heartbreaking and gruesome task, it was at least possible for some families to retrieve bodies following Civil War battles. This could not be said of the two World Wars, fought on foreign soil. Still, bodies of all soldiers killed in the Spanish-American War (1898), the Philippine-American War (1899–1902), and the Boxer Rebellion in China (1899–1901) had been returned to this country as a matter of policy, and the government expected to do so again at the close of World War I.85

In 1918 the plane piloted by Lt. Quentin Roosevelt, the son of Theodore Roosevelt, was shot down over France. On behalf of all bereaved parents (p.228) Roosevelt protested the military’s plan to return his son’s body to this country. “Where the tree falls, let it lie,” Roosevelt wrote,86 a sentiment later endorsed by other American parents. Quentin’s body was later moved to Normandy American Cemetery, established after World War II at Colville-sur-Mer, France, and buried next to his brother, Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr., who died 1944.

During wartime, families were in limbo once they received the military’s telegram, announcing their son’s death overseas. Having neither a body to bury nor the emotional closure of a funeral, some families held memorial services. As was the norm during conventional funerals, local businesses closed out of respect. (Bodies of soldiers who died while still in training, during the influenza epidemic, were returned to their families immediately.) Once again there was the added sadness of the deaths having taken place away from loved ones. As expressed by a Masonic resolution of respect for three of its members (Searcy County, 1919): “To die in one’s own homeland … adds a solemn sweetness to the last sad rites of memory and honor; but to die on foreign soil, mangled and torn, buried in a grave disturbed by the flash and roar of the war cannon, wrings the heart with unspeakable sorrow.”87

The military telegram that announced a death contained little information, and some families needed to know more. To this end, the parents of Martin Lynn Shelton (Washington County, 1918) contacted four men known to have been present on the battlefield when their son died. “He was instantly killed by a piece of shell penetrating the skull and brain,”William Petrie wrote them (Ohio, 1919). “His body was not in the least mangled, nor did it lie around any length of time.” Paul Lutz, writing from a convalescent hospital (Arizona, 1919), also did his best to reassure the Sheltons. “Comparatively speaking, Martin is a whole lot better off resting in a quiet grave in the blood-drenched soil of France, than many of us who are struggling hard to try to regain what little health we may, having gone through the living hell of gas, shell, shrapnel and all of those other modern modes of wholesale destruction.”88

According to a report by the Army Quartermaster Corps, “a growing sentiment among relatives in the United States to let the dead remain where they fell in battle”89 prompted the War Department to let each soldier’s next of kin decide the disposition of the body. Of the 116,516 members of the army, navy, and marines who died in this war (53,402 of them in battle),90 about 77,000 were buried in 2,400 battlefield graves scattered across England, France, Belgium, Italy, Russia, and Germany. (A great many were missing in action, their bodies never recovered.) Of the 63,708 families who responded to the government’s notification, 43,909 requested the return of the bodies to this country.91 (p.229)

Disenfranchised Death

Figure 11.3 John Flake Matheny died of pneumonia in France, 1919, and was brought back to Leslie (Searcy County) in about 1920. His was the county’s first military funeral following World War I.

Courtesy of George and Sally Matheny Family.


Families requesting this repatriation were finally able to hold full-fledged funerals, complete with casket. One of these was Pvt. Charles Magness Mc-Kinney, who died of a ruptured appendix in France in 1918. In 1920 McKinney’s body was disinterred and returned to Newark, Arkansas, with a military escort.92 Once home it was discovered that the casket, in a shipping container, was too large to fit through the front door, and it remained on the front porch until the funeral the following day.93

Bodies tended to be sent back in the order in which the soldiers died, the first returns receiving the most elaborate funerals and drawing the largest crowds. Bodies continued to arrive back in this country over the next several years. Despite so much time having elapsed, some families insisted on opening the sealed burial containers, intent on seeing their sons again or to ensure they were burying the right person.

These men’s tombstones occasionally mention reburial or justified repatriation. The parents of Charles Meeks (Lawrence County, 1919) chose a verse from a Civil War–era poem: “Your own proud land’s heroic soil / Shall be your fitter grave,”94 an argument also made in the poem, “Take Me Home,” that Shelton’s mother saved in her scrapbook.

  • And they tell me t’would be grand
  • Just to leave him in that land
  • This I know.
  • But I fain would have him lifted
  • From that loam,
  • If my brave lad could speak
  • He would say in accents meek:
  • “Take me home.”95

Gold Star Mothers and Widows

Ultimately, nearly 31,000 burials (including remains that could not be identified) remained in Europe. These were consolidated into eight permanent American military cemeteries, six in France, one in England, and one in Belgium, established and maintained with money appropriated by Congress in 1919.96 In 1929 Congress passed Public Law 592 recognizing families’ sacrifices, as well as the expense and energy saved by not returning their dead. This bill appropriated over $5 million to send widows (provided they had not remarried) and mothers overseas to view their husbands’ and sons’ graves, and tour the battlefields where they died. Of the nearly 16,500 women (p.231) eligible to go on this Gold Star Pilgrimage, 6,674 women undertook the trip between 1930 and 1933.97 (According to an account written at the time, nearly 9,000 women initially accepted the offer to go and over 5,000 of them made the trip during the first year of the program.)98 These trips were controversial, and some felt the $650 expenditure per woman would have been better spent on veterans.

A “Gold Star Mother” was one whose child had died in battle, and the term “Gold Star Widow” was also used. The name derives from the service flags churches created to honor local men serving in the military. Blue stars were used to represent those who had just joined up; these were ceremoniously changed to red ones when the men were sent overseas, to gray if they were wounded, and to gold if they were killed. In a related practice, families displayed a blue star in a window for each member serving in the military, replacing one with a gold star if the person was killed. John Branscum’s epitaph (Searcy County, 1919) notes the distinction: “The service star of one we love / Has changed its blue to gold.”99

Of the women who went on the pilgrimage, 95 percent were Gold Star Mothers, not widows;100 the few husbands who accompanied their wives (“Gold Star Fathers”) had to pay their own way. Eliza Baker Smith (Pope County, 1930), whose youngest son, Pvt. Joe F. Smith, died of pneumonia after being gassed on the front lines in 1918, received coverage in her local newspaper, which noted that she’d never been outside her county before this. “The beauties of the sea, the wonders of the foreign country will no doubt slip her vision, for ‘to visit’ her boy’s grave is more to her than the ‘dreaded trip.’ Perhaps she’ll have a story when she returns, but it’s doubtful.”101 This was a self-fulfilling prophecy, as no follow-up article was written.

The S.S. America brought the first 231 Gold Star Mothers to France on 16 May 1930, with other ships arriving quickly so a large contingent of women could attend Memorial Day services in the five military cemeteries outside Paris. The women must have been overwhelmed by the reception they received, which included military planes escorting their ship and a “tumultuous welcome” by thousands of people who greeted them at the dock.102

When interviewed, these women remarked, repeatedly, on how impressed they were by the military cemeteries’ beauty and upkeep. “Back home in America, cemeteries were a visual hodgepodge of gravestone designs and types of stone, and while marble stones were common, they were seldom carved in the form of crosses. Nor were lush green lawns and carefully planned landscaping and fountains always found in American small town cemeteries,” something especially true of the Ozarks’ rural burial grounds.103

Immediately after the war the Red Cross had sent families photos of their sons’ graves, but now they looked different, the wooden crosses having been (p.232) replaced by marble markers. Seeing the actual grave was a revelation. “Some mothers had never fully grasped the idea that their boys were dead,” wrote Grace Robinson, a reporter who traveled with the women, also aboard the S.S. America, and observed them as they came to terms with the reality of their losses. Robinson explained, “It is hard to nurse your dear ones through an illness, to watch life ebb from the loved body. There is at least the relief of expression in the poor show of the funeral and consolation of friends. But it is harder and more cruel to receive a telegram from the War Department and a studied, kindly letter from your boy’s commanding officer—and then to hear and see no more.”

Robinson, who accompanied some of these women to a cemetery, likened their first view of the headstone to that of a condemned man seeing the electric chair for the first time. Nor did she spare readers these women’s anguished reactions, describing them prostrating themselves on the graves, and crying out “My baby!” “Oh Johnny, my boy!” and, “My son, can you hear me!” Some of the women, caught up in their grief, were unable to operate the small cameras they’d brought with them from home. Then newspaper photographers, there to record the event but staying back so as not to intrude, came forward and used the women’s cameras to record photographs of the graves. Despite the terrible expressions of sorrow, Robinson wrote that the visits ultimately made the women feel better. At least, as one mother told her, her son had died for a noble and valid cause, fighting in a war “to end all wars.”104

Susie W. Shelton, the mother mentioned above, despite saving the poem “Take Me Home” was among the arrivals aboard the S.S. America and one of four Gold Star Mothers from Arkansas in the first wave to reach France.105 John J. Noll, another reporter covering the story, accompanied Shelton’s contingent to Somme American Cemetery and described the women’s arrival there as being one without further ceremony or speech making.

“Quietly each mother or widow was shown the grave she sought. … Here rested her dead. Carefully and reverently the wreaths and flowers were placed before the cross—with them, an American flag brought from home,” he wrote. “After communing with their dead, many gave thought to the sons of other mothers who had either gone to their rest or who were unable to make the long journey,”106 and they did their best to decorate these graves, as well. Shelton had brought two potted hydrangeas with her to plant on her son’s grave, and was assisted with this work by a cemetery laborer.107 Military cemeteries do not allow the planting of flowers and shrubs, so such things would have been removed after the women returned home.

“I wish that every mother who has a son buried in France would make the trip,” Shelton told a local reporter on her return. “I am sure they would (p.233) come home with a heart full of gratitude for the care that is given not only by the United States government but also by the people of France.”108

World War II (1939–1945)

When the Second World War ended there was, again, debate over the repatriation of bodies. Kenneth C. Royall, undersecretary of war (1945–1947), said the troops he’d spoken with had all preferred burial “in the lands they fought to liberate,”109 and Brig. Gen. T. Bentley Mott, director in Europe of the American Battle Monuments Commission, protested a bill before Congress authorizing families to again decide on the return of their dead. “Remembering what took place after the last war, I should think that an effort could be made to do some educational work before the undertaker’s union or some other organization had already started a crusade to have the bodies returned,” he wrote in a letter to Washington, D.C. (1945).110 If the country’s National Funeral Directors Association had spearheaded any such “crusade” they made no mention of it in the history of their industry they commissioned ten years later. They did, however, praise local undertakers’ efforts in assisting families with taking delivery of returned remains, holding funerals and burials, and helping make sense of the military’s repatriation program, which the previous war had given them experience in dealing with. In all subsequent conflicts the military has brought all bodies back to the United States for burial.

Once again, the term “Gold Star Mother” was used to denote someone whose child had died in the military—a term still used today. This time, however, there would be no Gold Star Pilgrimage. As before, bad news came via military telegrams, ones stamped with a single star to denote a soldier missing in action and two stars when one was killed. Bruce Vaughan delivered wartime telegrams for the Western Union Telegraph Company (Washington County), some of them stamped with two black stars on both the telegram and its envelope. “Death messages were something I dreaded. Some women would literally fall in your arms, overcome with grief.” Recipients who lived outside city limits were notified by telephone whenever possible, but Vaughan had to take telegrams to homes that had no phones. Delivery in town cost ten cents, but Vaughan said he was rarely able to collect the twenty-five-cent fee for out-of-town deliveries, nor did he ever receive a tip.111

The Army Quartermaster Corps supplied all materials needed by the troops; when soldiers were killed, the Graves Registration Service, under the auspices of the Quartermaster, provided caskets, oversaw burials, and was responsible for all “cemeterial activities.”112 After the war ended, this service (p.234) was also responsible for disinterring remains. John D. Little (Madison County, born 1924) was assigned to the Graves Registration Service, now called Mortuary Affairs, and received specialized training. “I’d seen a lot of dead bodies before I was nineteen years old,” he said, referring to the open-casket funerals he attended as a child. It was for this reason, he believed, that the military specifically chose country boys for the job.

“They had to toughen us up for the situation,” he said. “Well, we went to the Denver City Morgue and watched them cut up dead bodies. We had to eat our dinners right in the place [in amphitheater seating surrounding a dissected cadaver] then the doctor would take a volunteer out of the audience to sew the body back up, and to put the parts back in the body.” Little had to do this on occasion but, he said, “I was nineteen and nothing bothered me.”

Little was sent to England in 1944, landing on Omaha Beach shortly after the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France, in order to begin the process of collecting and processing bodies, or pieces of bodies, for burial. This job involved such things as recording dental records (“tooth charting”), removing live ammunition found on the bodies and burying it, collecting soldiers’ personal effects to be sent back to their families, marking the graves, and overseeing grave digging. Despite the immense carnage, “We had a pretty good record,” Little recalled. “We buried [only] one percent of our troops unidentified.” In some instances, information they gathered was sent on to Kansas City where a final identification might be made.

According to a report by the Graves Registration (1946), “The painstaking efforts made by search teams to identify bodies rival the methods of detectives in fiction.” If unable to use fingerprints, dental work, or dog tags, practically any clue was used to trace a soldier’s identity: a high school class ring, laundry marks in clothing, handwriting on scraps of paper, or the serial numbers found inside wristwatches.113 Little said they also recorded anything unusual on the body, such as tattoos, that might aid with later identification.

Graves Registration also buried Red Cross and medical personnel, as well as civilians—the latter made easier because everyone carried identification papers, although military regulations forbade burying American and enemy soldiers together. American soldiers were usually identified using the paired metal “dog tags” worn around the neck, the earliest versions of which were stamped with the soldier’s name, serial number, next of kin’s name and address, date of tetanus inoculation, blood type, and religious affiliation (Protestant, Catholic, or Hebrew). Starting in 1943 these tags no longer carried the next of kin but were otherwise the same. At burial the two tags would be separated; one remained with the body and the other was attached to the wooden grave marker. (p.235)

The army started issuing aluminum identification disks in 1913, and by 1917 all soldiers wore pairs of these disks around their necks. During World War II, however, the design was changed to a metal rectangle, notched at one end. “Battlefield rumor held that the notched end was placed between the front teeth of battlefield casualties to hold the jaws in place,” according to the U.S. Army Quartermaster Foundation. However, “the only purpose of ‘the notch’ was to hold the blank tag in place on the embossing machine,” something no longer needed by today’s technology.114 (Another myth was that one of the two tags was placed in the corpse’s mouth before burial.) According to Little, even a body wearing dog tags had to be initially buried as “unidentified” if it was found to have someone else’s tags in a pocket, though these additional tags would be listed in the paperwork so that a determination could be made later.

Families could begin the application process for the return of bodies within six months of the end of the war. According to one report, the work of processing the remains began after C-Day (“Casket Availability Day”) and E-Day (“Exhumation Day”), when enough caskets had been shipped to Europe for digging to begin.115 Cemetery by cemetery, “letters of inquiry” were sent to the next of kin, and disinterred remains in caskets were stacked above ground until all responses had been received. According to Little this meant that some caskets were above ground for as long as two years awaiting families’ replies.

The government had anticipated that 80 percent of bodies would be returned to this country at the families’ request, in part because all of the cemeteries established by the United States military after World War I (with the exception of Brookwood American Cemetery in England) had been overrun by the German army during World War II. The actual return rate was 71.4 percent, practically identical to the 68.9 percent of return following the previous World War.116 After all requests had been processed, the remaining caskets were reburied in fourteen permanent military cemeteries in eight countries: the Philippines, Tunisia in North Africa, England, Italy, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.

“This is one thing civilians didn’t realize after World War II, when they requested that their boys’ bodies be brought home,” Little said. “We had buried them in mattress covers, nearest I can explain it, like a cotton sack. It was made out of canvas and slipped over a one-man bunk. That’s what we buried them in,” and these sacks had deteriorated from being in the ground. “You dig them up, and you dig the dirt up around them, that’s why the caskets are so heavy, there’s a lot of dirt.” He added, “I believe that if the people in America understood the moving of graves when they request a body back, they wouldn’t do it.”


(1) . Bayliss, “The Arkansas State Penitentiary,” 207–8.

(2) . “A Hell in Arkansas,” Arkansas Gazette, 24 March 1888.

(3) . Westphal and Osterhage, A Fame Not Easily Forgotten, 105–7.

(4) . Sandels and Hill, A Digest, 380–81.

(5) . Acts of Arkansas, Act 1, 1876, 1–2.

(6) . Acts of Arkansas, Act 103, 1889, 143–45.

(7) . Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, Wilcox, “Poor Houses.”

(8) . “County Court Proceedings, Jan. 9, 1911, Accounts Allowed—County General Fund,” Huntsville Republican, 19 January 1911.

(9) . Sharp County Record, 12 January 1917.

(10) . Baldridge, “Paupers and the Poorhouse,” 121.

(11) . Henker, “The Evolution of Mental Health,” 223–39.

(12) . Berryville Star, 11 October 1907; Rogers Democrat, 10 July 1902.

(13) . Sharp County Record, 13 October 1899.

(14) . Abby Burnett, “At Home a Helping Hand,” Morning News of Northwest Arkansas, 3 October 2004.

(p.285) (15) . Ashworth and Lankford, “Olden Days of Mount Comfort, Part 1,” 2.

(16) . Van Buren Press, 26 March 1872.

(17) . Springdale News, 27 January and 3 February 1905.

(18) . Shull, “The Forgotten of Pope County,” 22.

(19) . Bland, “The Poor Farm,” 16–17.

(20) . Benton County Democrat, 31 August 1899.

(21) . Rogers Democrat, 23 September 1903.

(22) . Robert G. Winn, “The County Home,” Washington County Observer, 26 August 1982.

(23) . Ashworth and Lankford, “Olden Days of Mount Comfort, Part 2,” 2.

(24) . “Smallpox Proclamation, Important Notice,” Sharp County Record, 7 April 1899.

(25) . Samuel R. Phillips, Loyalties Divided, 139.

(26) . Rothrock, “Sarah Elizabeth Banks,” 16.

(27) . Harrell, “Price-Smith and Related Families,” History and Folklore of Searcy County, 385.

(28) . Pollan, “Diary,” 60.

(29) . Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, Lancaster, “Smallpox.”

(30) . “Smallpox in Russellville,” 12.

(31) . Fayetteville Democrat, 19 January 1882.

(32) . “State News,” Arkansas Gazette, 19 March 1882.

(33) . Burgess, “Building the Frisco Roadbed,” 278–79.

(34) . Winn, “A Smallpox Epidemic,” 27–29 (article contains numerous errors).

(35) . Brotherton, “The Train Whistle Cries for Them,” 34–36.

(36) . Joe E. Smith, Sexton’s Record, 4–5.

(37) . Fayetteville Democrat, 12 January 1882.

(38) . A. J. Vance, M.D., “Small-Pox in Boone and Marion Counties,” Arkansas Gazette, 5 April 1882.

(39) . “State News,” Arkansas Gazette, 19 March 1882, thought to be Dr. Leonidas Kirby.

(40) . Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, Lancaster, “Smallpox.”

(41) . Mayme Ferguson, Hangman’s Harvest.

(42) . “Big Crowd Turns Out For Benton County Hanging,” Northwest Arkansas Times, 14 June 1960, Centennial Edition.

(43) . Van Buren Press, 7 February 1871; Isaac Watts, “That Awful Day Will Surely Come,” written 1707–1709.

(44) . “‘Black Friday,’ The Lee Mills Hanging,” 4–5; Ruby Neal Clark et al., Van Buren County History, 28.

(45) . Arkansas Gazette, 23 June 1883.

(46) . “Hangman’s Day,” New York Herald, 23 June 1883.

(47) . Hogue, Back Yonder, 193.

(48) . Akins, “George Maladon,” 34–38.

(49) . Opie and Tatem, Dictionary of Superstitions, 189.

(50) . “A Hangman’s Rope,” Arkansas Gazette, 21 February 1893.

(51) . Akins, “Hangin’ Times in Fort Smith; Three of Seven Men Hang,” 35.

(52) . Acts of Arkansas, Act 24, 1887, 29–30.

(53) . Acts of Arkansas, Act 58, 1901, 105–6.

(p.286) (54) . Arkansas Democrat, 26 July 1901.

(55) . “Execution of Bushwhackers.”

(56) . Acts of Arkansas, Act 55, 1913, 171–75.

(57) . “Electrocution Replaces Hanging.”

(58) . Tom Dillard, “The Last Hanging,” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 21 November 2010.

(59) . Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, Rickard, “Capital Punishment.”

(60) . Buckelew, Racial Violence in Arkansas, 52–53, 55; Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, Riffel, “Lynching.”

(61) . Encyclopedia of Southern History, Shapiro, “Lynching,” 762–64.

(62) . WPA, Early Settlers’ Personal History Questionnaire, J. T. Odom (Pope County, born 1856); Bynum, “Russellville Lynching,” 5.

(63) . Gillespie, “The Chronicle,” 45–46, excerpting early issues of the newspaper.

(64) . [Hot Springs] Sentinel-Record, 20 June 1913.

(65) . Ibid., 21 June 1913.

(66) . 1850 Census, University of virginia Library, Historical Census Browser, accessed 2011 at http://mapserver.lib.virginia.edu/php/county.php.

(67) . Bolton, Arkansas, 1800–1860, 129.

(68) . Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, Moneyhon, “Slavery.”

(69) . Bolton, Arkansas, 1800–1860, 135.

(70) . Turnbo, “Bewildered in the Wild Woods,” vol. 23.

(71) . Craig, “The Magnesses: Pioneers of Big Bottom,” 59–60.

(72) . WPA, Early Settlers’ Personal History Questionnaire, E. M. Bailey (Randolph County, born 1851).

(73) . WPA, Early Settlers’ Personal History Questionnaire, John Ed Watkins (Carroll County, born 1854).

(74) . Phillips, The New Ozark Cousins, 145; Jasper M. Faught, 1863–1865, Deer Cemetery (Newton County).

(75) . Phillips, The New Ozark Cousins, 344.

(76) . Mollie E. Williams, A Thrilling Romance of the Civil War, 39–47.

(77) . Atwoods Gibbs obituary, unknown newspaper, August 1913.

(78) . Baxter, “The Battle of Prairie Grove,” 42.

(79) . Wilder, “Thirty-Seventh Illinois at Prairie Grove,” 18.

(80) . Lemke, “Come All You Sons of Ioway,” 38.

(81) . Banes, “Tebbetts Family History,” 19.

(82) . Wooley, “A Short History of Identification Tags,” 1.

(83) . Mollie E. Williams, A Thrilling Romance of the Civil War, 13–14.

(84) . Fayetteville Democrat, 17 June 1897.

(85) . Eudora Ramsay Richardson and Sherman Allan, Quartermaster Supply, 1.

(86) . Ibid., 87.

(87) . “In Memory of Our Hero Dead,” [Marshall] Mountain Wave, 18 April 1919.

(88) . Shelton scrapbook, undated letter.

(89) . Eudora Ramsay Richardson and Sherman Allan, Quartermaster Supply, 1.

(90) . Leland and Oboroceanu, American War and Military Operations Casualties, 2.

(p.287) (91) . Sledge, Soldier Dead, 150.

(92) . McKinney family papers, Old Independence Regional Museum, Batesville (Independence County).

(93) . Robert D. Craig, History of Newark, Arkansas, 74.

(94) . Charles C. Meeks, 1893–1919, Masonic Cemetery, Pocahontas (Lawrence); Theodora O’Hara, “The Bivouac of the Dead.”

(95) . Shelton scrapbook, “Take Me Home,” undated, unsigned.

(96) . Eudora Ramsay Richardson and Sherman Allan, Quartermaster Supply, 1.

(97) . Meyer, “Mourning in a Distant Land,” 31–75.

(98) . Noll, “Crosses,” 14–17, 52–54.

(99) . John Branscum, 1894–1919, Marshall City Cemetery (Searcy).

(100) . Meyer, “Mourning in a Distant Land,” 34.

(101) . [Russellville] Courier-Democrat, 24 April 1930.

(102) . “France Welcomes War Mothers; City Turns Out En Masse As In 1918 When U.S. Soldiers Landed,” Fayetteville Democrat, 16 May 1930.

(103) . Meyer, “Mourning in a Distant Land,” 68.

(104) . Grace Robinson, “Mothers Remember,” 7–11.

(105) . “Paris Dresses Up For War Mothers,” Fayetteville Democrat, 17 May 1930.

(106) . Noll, “Crosses,” 53.

(107) . Peel, “Gold Star Mother Returns From France.”

(108) . Ibid.

(109) . “Graves Registration; Quartermaster Review,” 3.

(110) . Eudora Ramsay Richardson and Sherman Allan, Quartermaster Supply, 8, 11.

(111) . Bruce Vaughan e-mail, 2008

(112) . Eudora Ramsay Richardson and Sherman Allan, Quartermaster Supply, 5.

(113) . “Graves Registration; Quartermaster Review,” 2–3.

(114) . Wooley, “A Short History of Identification Tags,” 1.

(115) . Eudora Ramsay Richardson and Sherman Allan, Quartermaster Supply, 89

(116) . American Battle Monuments Commission.