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History of Walnut Hill Cemetery

 

HISTORY OF WALNUT HILL CEMETERY

The following is an early history of Walnut Hill Cemetery dated November 5, 1959. 

 

“In an article written in 1931, by the late Judge W. B. Weeks of Texarkana, who lived in Bradley in his youth, he says, ‘Major David F. Dickson and Col. John H. Hamiter led in the work of establishing the famous Walnut Hill camp Meeting, which beginning in 1870 was held annually for many years.

 

Col. Hamiter donated the ground on which the camp was pitched.  Such sainted preachers as A. R. Winfield, Horace Jewell, A. D. Jenkins, E. N Watson and others, giants of those days, delivered great messages at these meetings 50 or 60 years ago, stirring and thrilling the multitudes which attended each year from miles around and resulted in hundreds and perhaps thousands of conversions.  The camp meetings were discontinued around 1880, after which the ground was dedicated as a cemetery and is still used as such.’

 

Previous to that time the settlers had buried their dead on the farm where they happened to be living.  A few moved the remains of their loved ones to the new cemetery, with gravestones bearing much earlier dates of death.  The earliest burial there I can positively identify was that of an infant son of Col. And Mrs. J. H. Hamiter in 1887.

 

During the years since then approximately seven hundred people have been buried there.  Some of the early graves which had no markers, and families who died or moved away, have been lost.  The bodies of several Confederate veterans are resting there.  Among them are Major David Dickson, Col. John H. Hamiter, John W. Barker, Tom McGee, G. P. Baker, Dr. Henry Cotton Randal, and others.  Some Union soldiers are buried there.  Two that I recall are J. W. Carl and Dr. J. G. Morgan.  Every war since then has added to this city of the dead.

 

The most unusual burial was that of Bob Morgan.  He was attending a barbeque at Benton, Louisiana, in 1902, when he was taken suddenly ill and died that night.  His body was brought to Bradley on the 7:30 p.m. train the next day.  Despite the pleas of friends, his father had the body taken directly to the cemetery and he was buried by lantern light.  He was the son of the above-mentioned Dr. J. G. Morgan.

 

After the dedication of the cemetery, no plans were made for the care of it for approximately fifty years, except one day set aside each summer, as Community Cemetery Working Day.  People for miles around came, brought their lunches, spent the day and did as much cleaning of grounds and repair of graves as could be done, but realized that wasn’t enough.  So on a Sunday afternoon in April 1931, there was a community meeting in the Bradley High School Auditorium to discuss ways and means of improving grounds and establishing a better system of assigning or selecting grave plots.

 

A committee was composed of Mrs. Alita Hamiter Tidrow (now Dickerson) who was elected president of the Walnut Hill Cemetery Association, Mrs. J. F. McKnight and Mr. John Bird were appointed to make plans and direct the work.  They gave a key to the cemetery gate to Mrs. Alonza Akers, who lived nearby and asked her to assist in assigning new plots for graves.  A short time later, Mrs. Tidrow moved away and was succeeded by Mrs. T. H. Dismuke, who is still serving.  Mrs. McKnight served until her death May 4, 1954.  Her daughter, Miss Mary McKnight was appointed to fill her place.  Mr. John Bird is still serving.

 

They have managed through donations to build a pavilion where the tabernacle for the camp meetings once stood, to enlarge the grounds, keep grass mowed and underbrush cut.

Mr. F. M Cochran, Jr. has offered to take on the big task of making a plat of it.  The cemetery is two and one-half miles northwest of Bradley."

 

                                                                                    By Mrs. Aletha Barker Hamiter

                                                                                    November 5, 1959

 

 

 

 

John Hodges Hamiter, and his wife, Florence Lafayette Hicks Hamiter, as well as many of their family, are both buried in Walnut Hill Cemetery.  Their headstones are shown below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little is known about the cemetery after this brief history was written in 1959.   During the late 50’s and early 60’s, Mr. Floyd Deaton became a dedicated and longtime caretaker of the cemetery.  He is remembered for his tireless work.  After the death of Mr. Deaton, a bench was placed near the front entrance to honor him for his many years of service to Walnut Hill Cemetery (see photo below).

 

    Historical Note: Mr. Deaton’s home was located on the site where Col John Hamiter had built a mansion in the 1800’s.  Ironically, this mansion burned while Col. Hamiter and his family were attending one of the annual Camp Meetings.  This property is now owned by Mike and Dedra Lyons.

 

 

 

 

 

After the formation of the original Walnut Hill Cemetery Association in 1931, its members have continued to labor for the care and beautification of the cemetery.  One of the Association members who served faithfully for many years was Mr. Marvin McCalman, Sr. who served as President and Treasurer.  He was very knowledgeable about the cemetery and always made himself available to anyone looking for the grave of a loved one.  A memorial bench has been placed in his honor also.   

 

Many improvements were made to the cemetery over the years. During the   1960’s, more space was needed for the cemetery and Mr. Chester Barrington kindly donated a portion of his land to be used for the cemetery.

 

During the 1990’s, the Association recognized the need to have the roads re-paved.  A fund was established under the direction of Mrs. Evelyn Jernigan and Mrs. Ollie Jean Kelner and in 1994, the road project was completed.  Soon after, the project to build the new Pavilion was begun and in 1996, the Pavilion was completed. The flagpole near the Pavilion was erected in honor of Mr. Harry Darner, Jr., who was the accountant for the cemetery for many years.

 

Currently, a project is underway to construct a new entrance to the cemetery.