Black History Month Spotlight – Little Rock Cemeteries

Mount Holly greyThe new Arkansas Civil Rights History Audio Tour was launched in November 2015. Produced by the City of Little Rock and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock allows the many places and stories of the City’s Civil Rights history to come to life an interactive tour.  This month, during Black History Month, the Culture Vulture looks at some of the stops on this tour which focus on African American history.

Mount Holly Cemetery: Broadway at Twelfth Street, est. 1843

Oakland and Fraternal Historic Cemetery Park: 2101 S. Barber, est. 1863

Haven of Rest Cemetery: 1702 Twelfth Street, est. 1903

National African Americans and important civil rights leaders are interred in several local cemeteries.

Mount Holly Cemetery is the final resting place of enslaved people, who were buried in their owner’s family plots, and the graves of several free blacks in the mid-1800s. One notable black leader buried here is Nathan Warren, founding pastor of Bethel AME Church. A marker is dedicated to Quatie Ross, wife of Cherokee Chief John Ross, who died along the Trail of Tears in 1839.

Oakland and Fraternal Historic Cemetery Park is composed of several cemeteries serving different communities: Oakland, Confederate, National, Jewish, and Fraternal, an historically black cemetery. Civil rights advocates buried in Fraternal include Mifflin Wistar Gibbs, John E. Bush, Charlotte Andrews Stephens, Dr. John Marshall Robinson, Isaac Gillam, Sr. and Jr., Asa l. Richmond, as well as members of the influential Pankey and Ish families.

Haven of Rest Cemetery is the largest cemetery for black people in Little Rock. Among the graves here are those of Daisy Gatson Bates, civil rights activist and mentor to the Little Rock Nine; attorney Scipio Africanus Jones; and Rev. Joseph Booker, president of Arkansas Baptist College.

The app, funded by a generous grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council, was a collaboration among UALR’s Institute on Race and Ethnicity, the City of Little Rock, the Mayor’s Tourism Commission, and KUAR, UALR’s public radio station, with assistance from the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau

Little Rock Look Back: Happy 183 to Little Rock

LR 183With the stroke of Territorial Governor John Pope’s pen, Little Rock was officially chartered as a town on November 7, 1831. This followed approval by the Arkansas legislature a few days earlier.

As a chartered, officially recognized municipality, the Town of Little Rock was authorized to create a government and to plan for a Mayor and Aldermen to be elected. That election would take place in January 1832 with the initial council meeting later that month.

There are several earlier and later days which could be used to mark Little Rock’s official birth (LaHarpe sighting in 1722, first settler in 1812, permanent settlement in 1820, selection of trustees in 1825, chartered as a City in 1835, chartered as a City of First Class in 1875) — but it is November 7, 1831, which has been the officially recognized and accepted date.

In 1931, Little Rock celebrated her centennial with a series of events.  Likewise, in November 1981, Little Rock Mayor Charles Bussey signed and City Clerk Jane Czech attested Resolution 6,687 which recognized the Little Rock sesquicentennial.

Little Rock Look Back: Police Chief George Counts

Little_Rock_PatchThis afternoon at 2pm, a ceremony will be held at Mount Holly Cemetery to commemorate the installation of a grave marker for former Little Rock Police Chief George A. Counts.

Chief Counts died in 1884 at the age of 35 years old.  For 130 years his grave has been unmarked.  Thanks to his Great-Grandson, Jim Counts, LR Chief of Police, Stuart Thomas and the Little Rock Police Department, his grave is now marked.

According to Police Department records, Chief Counts was the first chief of a full-time paid police force in 1874. He only served briefly at that time.  Then, in 1878, he was again elected Police Chief by the City Council.  His name was placed in nomination by City Councilman Isaac Gillam, who was one of Republican African Americans serving on the City Council at the time.  There were three candidates. In addition to Counts, the other two candidates were then-current Chief Joseph Plunkett and a gentleman named Tom Scott.

The first vote was five for Counts, five for Plunkett and one for Scott. This vote total continued for each of the 103 ballots that took place. Finally, on the 104th ballot, Alderman Dick Lewis (who had been the sole vote for Mr. Scott) changed his vote to former Chief Counts. This made Chief Counts again the Police Chief.  He served from 1878 until 1883 when he resigned due to health reasons.