Friday, July 2, 2010

My Rural Travelogue (Part XII): The cemeteries of Newton County

I traveled to my home county in Arkansas in early May with several goals in mind. One was to see some parts of Newton County I had never seen and another was to visit some parts I'd not seen since I was growing up there--places too remote to visit on my typically short stays with my mom near the county seat, Jasper. In a sense, I decided to make myself a tourist and to do some of the things that now draw many regional and national visitors to the county. I did not set out to visit the cemeteries of Newton County nor to photograph them, but I realized that one doesn't have to get far at all off the beaten path--the paved roads that is--to discover more cemeteries than I had recalled. So many tiny communities that now seem to me smaller than ever (either because they are actually shrinking or because my sense of scale has changed in all the years I have now been living in cities) have cemeteries. Indeed, there are cemeteries in places so out of the way that they don't seem to be parts of communities at all because no more than 2-3 houses are visible within 2-3 miles of the cemetery. Yet the cemeteries were always next to church buildings, some boarded up and most apparently rarely used. Still all the cemeteries were nicely kept. It being May--when most Arkansas cemeteries have their "decoration day"--graves were adorned with bright artificial flowers, the sturdy plastic ones that last the entire year, even if they fade a bit. I was reminded of the place-marking role of the cemetery in these communities too tiny to have even a little store or a post office.

I'm posting a smattering of the photos I took. The top photo is the Boxley Cemetery, adjacent to the 140-year-old church in Boxley Valley, one of the most photographed structures in Arkansas. While it certainly is pastoral, this cemetery is one of the most easily accessible community cemeteries, being less than a quarter mile from a paved road.

The photo below that is of the Crossroads Cemetery, between Deer and Jasper on Scenic Hwy 7. My mom and son are decorating the graves of my maternal grandparents. The next two photos down are of the cemetery at Buffalo Church, between Parthenon and Murray, at a very remote location, several miles from any paved road. The gate and sign are typical of all area cemeteries, though the brickwork is a fancy addition that my mom attributed to a local mason who attends church there.

The bottom photo is the cemetery on Cave Mountain, which is probably the most remote among the four, about 5 miles up a steep dirt road from Boxley or 10 miles or so along a similarly rough dirt road from Red Star.

1 comment:

Harry Styron said...

Here's a link to the Shaddox Cemetery about a mile east of the Pruitt bridge in northeastern Newton County:

And another to the Sand Hill Cemetery at Yardelle, in eastern Newton County: