Marks Family Reunion number 135


Entrance to Marks Cemetery area

You can tell when you see the first vestiges of Marks Cemetery that it's not going to be an average country last resting place.

Marks Cemetery in Cleveland County, Arkansas is worth the trip. If you are a history nut, put it on your bucket list. If you simply want to see something you won’t see anywhere else, it fills the bill. It’s kind of a park and kind of an outdoor museum carved out the southeast Arkansas boondocks.

pit barbeque

See the pork barbeque pit at Corndancer dot-com

If you can wangle an invitation, the best time to visit the site is for a few hours on the first Sunday morning in June when the Marks descendants gather for their annual family reunion an event dating back to 1877. More than one of these family members can regale you with historic tidbits, which others will corroborate with a reasonable degree of accuracy. You will also eat well. Very well. Speaking of eating, before we go too much further, may I direct you the start of this story on the Photo of the Week Page at Corndancer dot-com. We’ll wait here until you return.

Salt Branch memorial

As you enter the cemetery grounds you run up on this historical marker at Salt Branch, a lazy little stream which meanders around the grounds. The marker bears a quote from the Cleveland County Herald, in a story on the Battle of Marks Mill: "So many horses and soldiers were killed that Salt Branch ran red with blood." In the battle Confederate forces ambushed a Union Supply train and captured more than 1,000 prisoners.

Most of the acreage around the well-tended cemetery is unique. It was smack-dab in the middle of the legendary battleground of the Battle of Marks Mill site during the War Between the States. The Marks family had called the area home for 28 years when the battle took place on April 25, 1862.

By the 1950s, the family cemetery had gone the way of many other rural places of final rest after family members moved “to town” or out of the state. It showed evidence of overgrowth and neglect. Some family members imbued with a good case of well placed righteous indignation decided enough was enough and got the group organized to clean it up and maintain that status.

See more reunion and ground pictures in our Weekly Grist Gallery.

horse drawn tobacco planter

This is a horse-drawn tobacco planter. The plaque reads, "Purchased in Nashville, Tenessee. Used in the late 1800s to early 1900s. Brought to AR by Knowlton Broach to plant sweet potato slips. Edgar Colvin 4-2002."

Along the way, some brilliant Marks descendant minds decided that since this place was of historic value, why not sprinkle the landscape with historic artifacts, memorials, and informational plaques. Once the idea took wings, it engaged a ratchet and placement of historic accoutrements and thingamajigs continues. The latest entries are a couple of unknown soldier monuments standing side-by-side on the entrance road to the cemetery placed in September 2010 by Edgar and Sue Colvin (she’s a Marks, he married in). Appropriately, one monument memorializes Confederate Soldiers and the other reverently remembers Union Soldiers. Nobody is taking sides now, just respecting history.

horse drawn stalk cutter

This old horse drawn stalk cutter is near the cemetery entrance. The blade and mechanical setup is similar to a reel type lawnmower.

You won’t find a lot of Civil War cannons and other war left-overs at the site, but you will find a treasure trove of  old horse-drawn farm implements including, a row-crop planter, a couple of mowers, a hay rake, a bulbous tobacco planter, and a bunch more. You’ll also see an old railroad switch doo-dad with a nearby short section of track festooned with a cattle guard that looks like a medieval torture device.

See more reunion and ground pictures in our Weekly Grist Gallery.

Young whitetail deer buck

This young buck gives me a curious look. I had just completed shooting a huge Catalpa tree which will see in a future post, when I looked up and saw him. By the time I grabbed the camera with the long lens, he was long gone. The location was Prairie Road in Cleveland County, Arkansas.

Though the site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, all of the improvements, artifacts, additions, maintenance and use of the land are placed, privately funded and supported by like minded individuals who believe there is great value to the site. The gallons of sweat equity that have and continue to fuel this hallowed place are astronomical. It’s a testimonial to a family that places a premium on being who they are and knowing where they came from.

flag in woods

Click the flag for more reunion pictures

See more pictures in our Weekly Grist gallery.  More reunion. More grounds. 28 high resolution pictures in all.

We shot more reunion pictures than we had room for in this article, so we’ve put all of the keeper pictures, with captions, in our weekly on-line gallery.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey,

Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind
http://www.joedempseyphoto.com/

http://www.joedempseycommunications.com/

http://www.corndancer.com/joephoto/photohome.html

133 years and still counting


If you’ve arrived here from the Corndancer dot com photo of the week page, the story continues. If you haven’t been to the photo of the week page and want to be regaled with a couple of additional photos and the start of the story of a family that has kept it’s reunion going for 133 years, click here.

What you see here is southern potluck at it's finest. And you are seeing just a fraction of it. There are five more tables just like this one, brimming with mouthwatering cuisine from home kitchens. It's chow-time at the 133rd  Marks-Barnett Family Reunion in Cleveland County, Arkansas.

What you see here is southern potluck at it's finest. And you are seeing just a fraction of it. There are five more tables just like this one, brimming with mouthwatering cuisine from home kitchens. It's chow-time at the 133rd Marks-Barnett Family Reunion in Cleveland County, Arkansas, June 7, 2009. The total caloric value might power an aircraft carrier a respectable distance.

Remarkable people

The Marks family is truly a remarkable group in many ways. Their cemetery is the most visible evidence of their dogged determination to “do-right.” . In the early fifties, several of the family shook their heads in disgust and mused that their family cemetery, a horrible mess at best, deserved better. And that’s about all it took to spark a cemetery renaissance via no small amount of sweat equity.

Today the well kept cemetery not only is the final resting place for beloved relatives and ancestors, it is an evolving showplace of history and southern rural culture. The grounds around the cemetery are laced with nature trails, some of which follow small streams. While negotiating the trails, one will find several small, but sturdy foot bridges over gullies, and creeks where a stumble or splash might ruin an otherwise pleasant stroll through the woods.

 

Marks Cemetery, the site of the Marks Family Reunion is close enough to the site of the War Between the States Battle of Marks Mill, the creeks were red with blood during the battle. It was reported that “ ... so many horses and soldiers were killed or wounded that Salty Branch (above) ran red with blood.” Today, Salty Branch is a clear placid stream, a far cry from the violence of April 25, 1864. One of the hiking trails around the cemetery follows the trace of the stream.

Marks Cemetery, the site of the Marks Family Reunion is close enough to the site of the War Between the States Battle of Marks Mill, the creeks were red with blood during the battle. It was reported that “ ... so many horses and soldiers were killed or wounded that Salty Branch (above) ran red with blood.” Today, Salty Branch is a clear placid stream, a far cry from the violence of April 25, 1864. One of the hiking trails around the cemetery follows the trace of the stream.

A large number antique farm implements place around the grounds are visible evidence of the agrarian nature of the areas economy in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Plaques at every piece of equipment give evidence of  it use. This horse-drawn planter is a good example. The planter was donated to the cemetery collection in memory of  Tate “Uncle Bud” McGehee “Miss Vaughn” McGehee. Family member Edgar Colvin installed the planter at the cemetery, The plaque information, typical of the collection reveals a story. The planter was bought by Mr. McGehee in 1920. He always said, “ ... this planter is so accurate that if it drops two seeds in a hill, it will reach back and pick up one of them.”

A large number antique farm implements placed around the grounds are visible evidence of the agrarian nature of the areas economy in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Plaques at every piece of equipment give evidence of it use. This horse-drawn planter is a good example. The planter was donated to the cemetery collection in memory of Tate “Uncle Bud” McGehee “Miss Vaughn” McGehee. Family member Edgar Colvin installed the planter at the cemetery, The plaque information, typical of the collection, reveals a story. The planter was bought by Mr. McGehee in 1920. He always said, “ ... this planter is so accurate that if it drops two seeds in a hill, it will reach back and pick up one of them.”

James and James Boney, of New Edinburg bring their extensive collection of Civil War relics to the annual reunion. The elder James Boney found most of the collection on the battlefields of The Battle of Marks Mill. Younger James is a well-spring of Civil War information and Elder Boney is a respected source of information on the Battle of Marks Mill.

 

Left to right, (and vice-versa) James Stoney and James Stoney and their Civil War relic collection.

Left to right, (and vice-versa) James Boney and James Boney and their Civil War relic collection

I would be remiss if I did not make mention Spears Country Store, not far from Marks Cemetery. Not having been to the cemetery site before, I decided that a reconnaissance trip on Saturday before the reunion on Sunday would be a good idea. After my visit to and a few shots on the grounds, I meandered to nearby New Edinburg and dropped into Spears Country Store for what is known in southern parlance as a “cole drank.” (It is my understanding that some misguided souls call the refreshment a “soda.”) I was delighted to discover that the store offered sandwiches. I ordered a ham and turkey sandwich. It was so fine! And a hand full. Jerry Clowers would have probably said you could “ … eat one of those suckers and work all day at the saw mill.”

Spears Country Store

Spears Country Store, New Edinburg, Arkansas

Folks, there is a lot of goodness left in our world. From families to stores and sandwiches, this ol’ boy found ‘em this weekend.

Thanks for dropping by,
Joe Dempsey

 

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