The Mount Olive/Bedford Chapel Cemetery Committee dedicated the Mount Olive/Bedford Chapel Cemetery historical marker, Saturday, July 22, 2023, at a public ceremony in Mount Vernon. The historical marker was received in partnership with the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program and sponsored by the Mount Olive/Bedford Chapel Cemetery and the White County Historical Society.
The marker tells the story of the cemetery and the community The Colony that settled in the area after the Civil War. The marker stands at the Mount Olive/Bedford Chapel Community Cemetery in White County.
The Arkansas Historical Marker Program was established in 2017 by the division of Arkansas Heritage. The markers commemorate the past by acknowledging the historically significant people, places and events that have shaped our state and confirm the importance of educating the public about these Arkansas treasures.
“Arkansas Historic Preservation Program’s historical marker program creates a visual and lasting tribute to the historically significant people, places and events that have shaped our state,” said Shea Lewis, interim secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism.
The text on the Mount Olive/Bedford Chapel Cemetery historical marker is as follows:
After the Civil War, African Americans from across the former Confederacy settled here, in a farming community called The Colony. Many owned their own farms and others were sharecroppers. The community established the Mount Olive Baptist Church in the mid-1870s, which also housed the local school until a schoolhouse was built nearby in the 1890s. About 1880, the Bedford Chapel Colored Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church was founded. When its building burned in the 1950s, many of its members joined the Mount Olive Baptist Church. The Colony thrived though the 1930s, then slowly dwindled as residents sought opportunities elsewhere. Since 1972, descendants have held biennial reunions to celebrate The Colony’s legacy.
MOUNT OLIVE/BEDFORD CHAPEL CEMETERY
The Mount Olive / Bedford Chapel Cemetery and Mount Olive Baptist Church are the last remnants of the African American community called The Colony. The cemetery contains more than 90 burials, marked and unmarked, dating from the early 20th century and continuing into the 21st. Members of both local churches, including early settlers of the community and veterans of both world wars, are buried here. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2019, it is significant due to its association with the story of The Colony and for the fact that many graves exhibit funerary art and customs characteristic of similar rural African American communities.
(Photos by: Joe McCray, Jr.)