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There are over 500 graves in the Pine Ridge Community Cemetery (originally Waters Cemetery) on Old Waters Highway in Pine Ridge (Montgomery County). Pine Ridge is between Oden (Montgomery County) and Cherry Hill (Polk County), one and a half miles east of the Montgomery-Polk county line on Arkansas Highway 88. The cemetery remains active in the twenty-first century.
Most early settlers in the area were southern farmers and their families, traveling west by wagon train (farm wagons) throughout the 1800s. The valleys and streams fulfilled their needs, and so they stayed, as many descendants continued to do. The Ouachita National Forest constitutes over seventy percent of Montgomery County, so there is little industry other than farming, forestry, and tourism.
The first grave in the Pine Ridge Cemetery is that of six-year-old Mary Roden (1880–1886). Before she died, she had asked to be buried under the tree where she played near the community building. The building served as an interdenominational church and one-room school, probably built before 1880. The second grave is that of Helene/Hellynn Brown, about the same age as Mary, who died less than a year later. The third grave is that of Joseph Smith (1855–1891). The community building and surrounding land had been exempt from acreage purchased by George Drain in 1885. More land was bought as the need grew.
Most graves have original headstones; those without were identified, and small stone markers with names were placed on the graves. Several homemade gravestones are still intact on children’s burial sites, made of slate or concrete with river mussels or colored marbles for ornamentation, and bent nails or the remaining indentations for the lettering. Deaths used to be announced by ringing the church bell, each peal telling the age and therefore the likely identity of the deceased.
At least sixty veterans are buried in the cemetery, including William Victor Grady (1875–1955), who served in the Spanish-American War, as well as several World War I veterans and many World War II, Korea, and Vietnam veterans. No known Civil War veterans are buried there, but there are some in several earlier family graveyards nearby.
Decoration Day and Mother’s Day have been celebrated together at the cemetery and adjoining church since May 1916. Many families came by horse and wagon, bringing baskets of food to share. School children took part in saluting mothers and soldiers with songs and recitations. The unique tradition of cemeteries throughout Montgomery County holding their celebrations on different Sundays in May so people could attend more than one family reunion continues, with or without “dinner on the ground.” The Pine Ridge Community Cemetery’s Memorial Day celebration is on Mother’s Day.
The Pine Ridge Community Cemetery Association meets regularly and oversees the upkeep of the grounds.
For additional information:
Montgomery County Historical Society. Montgomery County Our Heritage. 2 vols. Mount Ida, AR: Montgomery County Historical Society, 1986, 1990.
Pine Ridge Cemetery. Find-a-Grave.com. https://www.findagrave.com/cemetery/55685/pine-ridge-cemetery (accessed November 12, 2018).
Kathryn Moore Stucker
Lum and Abner Museum
Last Updated 11/12/2018
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