There are two purposes for Comments in the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture. Comments can either add information to aid in the understanding of the entry or add information that provides an alternate interpretation of the historical record.


Information included in this section is not fact checked by the Encyclopedia staff. The author of the Comment is entirely responsible for its content.


A group of nuns known as the Sisters of Loretto arrived in Arkansas in 1938 from Loretto, Kentucky. The Mother Superior was Sister Agnes Hart, who died on August 20, 1839. She was the last nun in the United States to be buried using an ancient ritual, without a coffin.

Thirty years later, in 1869, the Arkansas River shifted and was threatening to wash away St. Mary Church and the cemetery where Sister Agnes was buried. The log cabin church was placed on a barge and moved to where it now sits, Plum Bayou. Today, St. Mary Catholic Church is the oldest Christian worship structure in Arkansas.

After moving the church, the people of Pine Bluff proceeded to move the cemetery by digging up the graves and moving the remains to the new location at Plum Bayou. When they dug up Sister Agnes’s grave, they reportedly found her body to be intact, not decayed but petrified—solid rock! They placed her body in a coffin and re-buried her at Plum Bayou, where her body remains interred.

Another significant figure was the late Rev. Msgr. J. M. Lucey. Besides becoming the first editor of the state’s first Catholic newspaper, Lucey, at age 17, joined the Fort Smith Rifles, Company A, Third Arkansas Infantry and fought in the Civil War until taken prisoner and later paroled in 1864. After the war, Lucey helped found the Pine Bluff Colored Industrial Institute in 1889, which was the predecessor to St. Peter School.


Father Warren Harvey
Pine Bluff, AR


The entry makes it seem as if the Vatican snubbed Bishop Graves by not making him the bishop after Bishop Fletcher's death. As a matter of fact, Bishop Graves had had a severe heart attack and was not in any shape to take over the diocese. After his condition improved, he was named bishop of Alexandria.
Ken Parker
Little Rock, AR