Listed in Arkansas Register of Historic Places on 12/03/14
Oaks Cemetery is located on property adjacent to the National Cemetery of Fayetteville, Arkansas. The cemetery is bounded on the west by South University Avenue and on the east by Dunn Avenue. The north boundary of the cemetery is the fence-line of the Fayetteville National Cemetery (NR 7.28.1999). A large percentage of the black citizens who lived and died in Fayetteville in the decades after the Civil War are buried in Oaks Cemetery. Because of slavery and the long shadow it has cast on the Fayetteville community and the country as a whole, Oaks Cemetery is unique because it served as the only area specifically set aside for African-American burials in the city. This site has remained an important part of the local community as a record of the newly free generations that survived the Civil War and their descendants in northwest Arkansas. Due to its importance as the only surviving evidence of the development of the African-American population of Fayetteville during the Civil War and in the decades that followed, Oaks Cemetery is being nominated to the Arkansas Register under Criterion A with local significance.
Fayetteville, Arkansas was first settled by George McGarrah and his sons in 1828. Also in 1828, Washington County was formed by carving out part of Lovely County, which was created in 1827. The current town of Fayetteville was originally known as Washington Courthouse. The name was changed to Fayetteville in 1829 when a local post office was established to eliminate any confusion with the county name or the town of Washington in Hempstead County. The town of Fayetteville was incorporated in 1841 and granted a city charter in 1859.
During the Civil War, the city of Fayetteville was occupied alternately by both sides with the Action at Fayetteville on April 18, 1863, being the only major battle to be fought within the city limits. Most of the city’s businesses and residences were damaged or completely destroyed by fighting throughout the war and there was no local government other than military rule during the war itself. It wasn’t until 1868 that local government was re-established under the legislative city charter of 1859.
After Fayetteville was rebuilt, several churches were established to meet the needs of the local population. One need, however, was not met. There were no established cemeteries that would accept African-Americans. This was remedied immediately after the end of the Civil War with the establishment of the only purposefully planned African-American cemetery in Fayetteville. In order to meet the need for a cemetery for the newly free population of the surrounding area, Stephen K. and Amanda Stone sold a plot of land on the southern edge of the city to the African-American community of Fayetteville on July 4, 1867, for ten dollars ($10). Stephen K. and Amanda Stone conveyed the property to Mary Lowe, Lafayette Gregg, E.D. Ham, Malloy, and William Storey to hold in trust “for the Colored peoples of Washington County” and that the land would be used “for the purposes of a Church or a school house for the Colored people, or for any other purposes that will add to the … improvement of the Colored people of said county.”
Stephen K. Stone was one of the early founders of Fayetteville and became a highly successful entrepreneur, at his peak becoming one of the wealthiest men in Northwest Arkansas. Stone and his wife Amanda were also community-minded philanthropists and sold or gave land in Fayetteville for projects such as the City Hospital, Harmon Playfield and the West Side School. Fayetteville High School also sits on land once owned by Stephen K. Stone. The home of Stephen and Amanda Stone, the Walker-Stone House at 207 Center Street is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (9.4.1970). Interestingly, Stephen K. Stone was also the grandfather of Edward Durell Stone, who would become one of Arkansas’s most famous architects.
The land that was acquired for the establishment of the African-American cemetery lies directly to the south of the Fayetteville National Cemetery (NR 7.28.1999). This military cemetery was created in 1867 as one of seventeen national cemeteries after the Secretary of War was directed to purchase additional land for new cemeteries. The land for the Fayetteville National Cemetery was also purchased partly from Stephen K. and Amanda Stone, with additional land purchases through 1875. It is possible that the land for Oaks Cemetery was sought out, or seen as appropriate, since the newly established national cemetery was adjacent to the property. Prior to the establishment of either Oaks Cemetery or the Fayetteville National Cemetery, this rise of land was known locally as Gallows Hill, and possibly served as the location for county hangings.
Variously known as Twin Oaks, the African, or Colored Cemetery, Oaks or Oak Cemetery, this African-American cemetery became an important cultural landscape for the local community. It was used for a burial ground soon after it was given into trust for the “Colored people” of the county. By 1924, the cemetery was again mentioned in a deed of transfer to trustees for the “Colored Cemetery” from Emma Jones.
The earliest known birth of those buried in Oaks Cemetery is that of Margrett West (b. 1819, d. 1913). Others were born in the 1840s, including Fanny Denton, 1844- 1917; Henry Moore, 1845- 1922; Lucille Smith, 1845- 1912; William Taylor, 1845- 1912; and Ann York, 1845-1928. Most likely, all of these people were slaves. One verified slave was Willis Pettigrew (b. Unknown, d. 1913). Mr. Pettigrew is mentioned and appears in a photograph of four former slaves who still resided in Fayetteville c.1910.
Prominent Local Citizens Buried in Oaks Cemetery Include:
Lem McPherson (d. 1928):
Mr. McPherson was a city patrolman, most likely the only black officer in the city of Fayetteville before at least 1960. McPherson was killed in the line of duty in April 1928 while trying to apprehend a recently released moonshiner. McPherson's story has only recently been brought back to public awareness. Through the efforts of the Fayetteville Police Department, he is now listed among the officers killed in the line of duty on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington D. C. Fayetteville Police have also had a new gravestone placed for Officer McPherson in Oaks Cemetery. They have also honored him on a memorial in front of the Fayetteville Police Department building.
Otis Parker (1890- 1976):
Mr. Parker was a well-known horseman in Fayetteville and Washington County. Parker was a self-taught veterinarian and popular rodeo trick rider, especially back in the 1930s. He was highly respected in town and kept a pasture for his horses for many years in the southern part of Fayetteville. He was featured in a Northwest Arkansas Times article on October 6, 1971.
James Hoover (1896- 1954):
Mr. Hoover worked for some thirty-five years at Fayetteville City Hospital. Six feet-six inches tall, Hoover was a veteran of World War I and came home to a job at City Hospital where he was employed as a janitor and general helper. Over the decades he became one of the hospital's longest serving and most valued employees. After his death, City Hospital put up a plaque in his honor.
Roberta Carr (1922- 1995):
Mrs. Carr was the matriarch of a large local family. Her gravestone is located in the western part of Oaks Cemetery with the newer burials. The children listed on the back of Mrs. Carr's gravestone are Charles Morgan, Bill (also known as Billy Mac), Rodney, Bobby Joe, Mary Susan, Toofer, Barbara and Gail.
Willis Pettigrew (d. 1913):
Mr. Pettigrew was one of the last known slaves living in Fayetteville. He can be seen in a c. 1910 photograph in both W. S. Campbell's One Hundred Years of Fayetteville: 1828-1928 and in Kent Brown's Fayetteville: A Pictorial History. Pettigrew's vertical marble gravestone is one of the nicest in Oaks Cemetery.
George Pool Ballard:
Mr. Ballard was a well-regarded poet during the 1920s and 1930s. His book of poetry, cleverly titled Ozark Ballards, is a fine collection of his work published by the Democrat Publishing Company (the parent company of the Fayetteville Daily Democrat which became the Northwest Arkansas Times in 1937, it was owned at the time by Roberta Waugh Fulbright, mother of famed Senator J. W. Fulbright). Ballard first gained fame for his 1924 poem "Woodrow Wilson – A Tribute" on the death of President Wilson. This poem was published not just locally but in newspapers in other parts of the country as well. Ballard is unfortunately buried in an unmarked grave in Oaks Cemetery.
Sam Young (b. c.1828, d. 1931):
Mr. Young was a former slave who resided in Arkansas for over 74 years. Sam reported that he had been sold at least sixteen times during his life as a slave. He recalled the highest price he was bought for was $1600. Sam’s last owner was a Mr. Billy Moore of Paris, Texas. Mr. Young followed his former master from Texas to Fayetteville and eventually settled in Fayetteville for the rest of his life. Sam married Martha, also a former slave. They lived to both be over 100 years old. Both died during the 1930s in Fayetteville. He is known to have built a home along Mountain Street, which was destroyed by a tornado in 1880. Sam Young was buried in Oaks Cemetery, but a gravestone does not exist. His son, Sam Young Jr. is also buried in Oaks Cemetery with a gravestone.
Caretakers of the cemetery over the years have included the following organizations: Community Club (1930s); Oakland (sic) Cemetery Trustees (1940s): Labe Joiner, J. C. Hoover, C. C. Manuel and A. Ollison; Oaks Cemetery Group (current): Henry Childress, Lois Bryant.
Oaks Cemetery, while nicely maintained, needs additional funding to improve its care and maintenance. Trees need to be trimmed and shrubs pruned. Better grass and leaf grooming would help. There is a large pile of dirt that needs to be leveled or moved to a less conspicuous part of the graveyard.
A large percentage of the black citizens who have lived and died in Fayetteville are buried in Oaks Cemetery. Because of slavery and the long shadow it has cast on the Fayetteville community and the country as a whole, Oaks Cemetery is unique because it served as the only area specifically set aside for African-American burials in the city. This site has remained an important part of the local community as a record of the newly free generations that survived the Civil War and their decedents in northwest Arkansas. Due to its importance as the only surviving evidence of the development of the African-American population of Fayetteville during the Civil War and in the decades that followed, Oaks Cemetery is being nominated to the Arkansas Register under Criterion A with local significance.
Kirkpatrick, Matthew B. “Washington County.” The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture. (accessed September 2, 2014).
Stewart, Charles H. “Fayetteville (Washington County).” The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture. accessed September 2, 2014).
In early accounts of Fayetteville, local cemeteries are mentioned, but none served the African-American population. It is assumed that this community either buried members outside the city or on private property.
Handwritten deed, Book Q, Page 394, recorded July 4th, 1867. Washington County Records.
Walker-Stone House, National Register Nomination Form, Files of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.
Fayetteville National Cemetery, National Register Nomination Form, Files of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.
Alison, Charles. Fayetteville: Images of America (Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Pub., 2011), 21.
Warranty Deed, book 223, page 305, Washington County Records.
Campbell, William S. One Hundred Years of Fayetteville, 1828-1928 with the Journal of Marian Tebbetts Banes (Washington County Historical Society: Fayetteville, AR, 1977), 7.
Rothrock, Thomas. “James Hoover,” Flashback Washington County Historical Society (August 1967), 15-17.
Neal, Joe. “George Ballard of Fayetteville: Remembering an Arkansas poet”.
Preston, Izola. “Sam Young: Former Slave of Fayetteville,” Flashback: Washington County Historical Society (1950), 32-34.
Refer to Appendix 1
Alison, Charles Y., and Ellen Compton. Fayetteville: Images of America. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Pub., 2011.
Alison, Charlie, Mary Cantwell, George Crabtree, and Walter Lemke. "Names on Markers at Oaks Cemetery." 'Fayetteville History: The Book of Lists' FayettevilleHistory.com, 9 Feb. 2010. Web. 20 Aug. 2014. <http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451fb5369e20120a8813770970b>.
Campbell, William S., and Marian Tebbetts Banes. One Hundred Years of Fayetteville, 1828-1928 with the Journal of Marian Tebbetts Banes. Washington County Historical Society: Fayetteville, Ark, 1977.
Cemeteries of Washington County Arkansas, Vol. 12. Northwest Arkansas Genealogical Society: Rogers, AR., 1995.
Good, Ken. "Ageless Ozark Horseman." Northwest Arkansas Times October 6, 1971. 1, 20.
Kirkpatrick, Matthew B. "Washington County." The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture. Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, 28 June 2013. Web. 20 Aug. 2014.
"Martha Young Dies at Age Of 101." Fayetteville Daily Democrat 30 Aug. 1935, Friday Evening ed. 1.
Neal, Joe. "George Ballard of Fayetteville: Remembering an Arkansas Poet." The Grapevine. 16 Mar. 1977.
Oak Cemetery: A Forgotten Place. Dir. John Cooper. Dir./Perf. Tiffany King. Lemke Department of Journalism: University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, 2013. Film.
Preston, Izola. "Sam Young: Former Slave of Fayetteville." Flashback: Washington County Historical Society (1950): 32-34.
Rothrock, Thomas, “James Hoover,” Flashback: Washington County Historical Society, Vol. 17, No. 3, (August 1967): 15-17.
Stewart, Charles W. "Fayetteville (Washington County)." The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture. Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, 8 Aug. 2013. Web. 20 Aug. 2014.
Lemke, Walker J. “Twin Oaks Cemetery, Fayetteville.” Flashback: Washington County Historical Society, Vol. 8, No. 6, (October 1958): 55.
"Uncle Sam Young, Last Ex-Slave, But Two, Passes." Fayetteville Daily Democrat January 31, 1931. 6.
Walker-Stone House, National Register Nomination Form, Files of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.
Washington County Deed Books.