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Southern Memorial Association of Washington County

The Southern Memorial Association of Washington County (SMA) was formed in 1872 to care for Confederate graves in northwestern Arkansas. The result was the construction of the Confederate Cemetery at Fayetteville (Washington County), which remains under the group’s care. The Southern Memorial Association may be the oldest organization of its type in continual operation.

The Southern Memorial Association of Washington County was organized on June 10, 1872, to collect scattered Confederate graves in northwestern Arkansas into one central location, the Confederate Cemetery at Fayetteville, for more effective grave stewardship. On June 10, 1873, the one-year anniversary of the group, the association dedicated the cemetery, which contained about 500 relocated graves at that time. Because soldiers from Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana, and Texas were interred in the cemetery, the dedication service drew an estimated 3,000 people.

The cemetery has been continuously under the custody of the SMA, and the location has received several improvements over time. The remains of General William Slack, a general from Missouri who died from wounds received on the field at Pea Ridge, were moved there in 1880. The group replaced the wooden fence with a more durable rock wall in the 1880s, and the original headstones were replaced with marble markers in 1903. The most notable change was the addition of the Confederate monument, which was dedicated on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the group, June 10, 1897.

As chapters of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) formed in Arkansas in the late 1890s, the SMA remained a separate organization, allowing their members to hold dual membership. This allowed the group to focus on the cemetery while members worked on other projects with the UDC. Nonetheless, the SMA understood the power of associations. In 1900, it was instrumental in the formation of the Confederated Memorial Association of the South in Louisville, Kentucky, a group that attempted to amplify the work of individual memorial associations through a consolidated group.

In Fayetteville, the SMA continued improving the cemetery. A stone archway with iron gates was begun in 1926, and a gazebo was constructed overlooking the site during the 1980s. In 2001, storms damaged the monument, which was rebuilt and rededicated in 2002. That same year, the group utilized Arkansas’s First Annual Arborist Service Day to care for the impressive collection of old trees in the cemetery. Two years later, the deteriorating and damaged rock wall sections were repaired.

Throughout the history of the SMA, several members have acquired wider recognition. Lizzie Pollard, who spoke at numerous Confederate veterans’ events during the 1880s and 1890s to promote the SMA’s cause, achieved statewide fame. Mary Walker was the wife of James David Walker, U.S. senator from 1879 to 1885. Their daughter, Sue H. Walker, served with Julia A. Garside in early leadership positions in the Confederated Memorial Association of the South.

The SMA still exists with approximately eighty members and holds an annual Confederate Memorial Day service on the second Saturday of June. In 2011, the SMA received the deed to the historic Walker Cemetery in Fayetteville from the Walker family in order to oversee its care and restoration.

For additional information:
Confederated Southern Memorial Association. History of the Confederated Memorial Associations of the South. New Orleans: The Graham Press, 1904.

Gallawy, Rowena, ed. The Southern Memorial Association of Washington County, Arkansas. Fayetteville, AR: Washington County Historical Society, 1956.

The Southern Memorial Association. http://www.rootsweb.com/~arsma/index.html (accessed July 13, 2006).

Derek Allen Clements
Pocahontas, Arkansas

Last Updated 4/29/2015

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