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

Meandering through Louisiana and Arkansas (north and south respectively)

It's best days behind it, this old service station in Stephens, Arkansas reminds us that time stands still for no one.

Its best days behind it, this old service station at First and Onyx streets in Stephens, Arkansas reminds us that time stands still for no one.

Regular or ethyl?

If you are long of tooth, you can remember this genre of service station. If you are not long of tooth, this is a part of your forebearers’ culture. The station had only two pumps, one for regular, one for ethyl gasoline. The concrete floors were permanently lubricated with years of ground-in grease and oil. The odor was of oil and anti-freeze. The operators filled your vehicle with gas, checked your oil and coolant and wiped your windshield. The only snacks available were allegedly cold Cokes and nickel sacks of Tom’s peanuts. This old station has apparently seen a few attempts at re-birth only to arrive at this state of affairs. That it has survived this long is a testimonial to its sturdy beginnings. It served well.

This tale of a trip started on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com, the subject of which is the town of Athens, Louisiana. While Athens, like a lot of small towns has taken its licks, the people are resilient. See the pictures and read the story, a cool thing to do.

Remembering what’s important

Remembrance and respect knows no geographic limitations. Spring Hill Community Cemetery can be found only after a trip on a gravel road. That does not diminish the sacrifices here represented.

Remembrance and respect know no geographic limitations. Spring Hill Community Cemetery can be found only after a trip on a gravel road. That does not diminish the sacrifices here represented. Only less noticed by the crowds.

Spring Hill Community Cemetery is well cared for and well decked out with flags commemorating Memorial Day. This cemetery in Ouachita County, Arkansas will never make the six o’clock news or the front page above the fold. The families of those here interred could care less. They continue to accept and keep their responsibilities, just as their parents and grandparents before them because it is the right thing to do.

Barn with tartan

This barner is a head-scratcher until you see the sign at the field entrance.

This barn is a head-scratcher until you see the sign at the field entrance.

Somehow, you simply do not expect to see a barn with a tartan designed roof. Even less so in north Louisiana. East of Minden LA, the barn is at the entrance to Scotland Farms of Louisiana, breeders of registered highland cattle according to the entrance sign.

Thanks for dropping by,

PS: As you can see, I don’t make this stuff up. :o))