Friday, August 03, 2012

TOP STORY >> Saving Ebenezer Cemetery

 Joseph Boyd, a Civil War veteran, was laid to rest in Ebenezer Cemetery
with his wife, Martha, and their son, Jesse.

Leader staff writer

“I served about two years in the army that broke me verry fast I moved from Miss 2 years ago and stoped hear I am verry well pleased.”

— Joseph Boyd wrote to his wife’s uncle on Oct. 10, 1869.

Boyd is one of several Civil War veterans buried in the 1800s at Ebenezer Cemetery, a mostly forgotten piece of history near East Republican and Peters roads in north Pulaski County.

Forgotten until now.

Rob Laxton of Jacksonville is working to restore the “horribly overgrown” site.

A cleanup will be held at 8 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 18.

About 80 men, women and children were laid to rest at the cemetery.

Among them were Laxton’s great-grandparents, uncle and cousin. His uncle and cousin fought in the Civil War.

The family attended Ebenezer Cumberland Presbyterian Church, which burned down in 1987.

Unfortunately, the church kept no records of cemetery and several graves are marked by nothing but smooth rocks.

On top of that, Laxton said, vandals have broken and stolen tombstones.

So he has a lot of work ahead of him.

But Laxton has already started researching Ebenezer’s interred.

He is hoping the Arkansas Historic Preservation Society and the Jacksonville Museum of Military History can help.

Laxton found Joseph Boyd’s great-grandson, Bob Boyd, of Mayflower.

The two men share a descendant, James Washington Boyd, Joseph Boyd’s brother.

James Washington Boyd is probably buried at Ebenezer with his wife and children, according to Bob Boyd, who knows that Joseph Boyd, his wife Martha and their son, Jesse William Boyd, are there.

Joseph died in 1876 at the age of 55.

His son, Jesse, died in 1891 from pneumonia at the age of 45.

He had been chopping wood in the freezing rain for a family who didn’t have anyone to do it for them, Bob Boyd said.

Bob Boyd says Jesse told his wife Josephine to write everything down which has helped with family history.

Josephine wasn’t just a chronicler. Bob Boyd said he wished he could have met her.

He said she hid in a corncrib when the Yankees came to ransack her home and climbed a tree once to get at a beehive so that her children could enjoy the sweet honey.

Josephine used to look after the cemetery by bringing a wagonload of volunteers to keep it clean, Bob Boyd said.

Jesse joined the cavalry at age 16 while his brothers — Thomas Lindsey Boyd, 19, William Armstrong Boyd, 18, and George Washington Boyd, 17 — went into the infantry.

George is still missing in action. Until her last day their mother, Martha, would look down the road looking for him, Bob Boyd said.

He said his father told him that Martha had “a map of Ireland in her face.”

The Boyds moved to Arkansas from Mississippi. They built an 80-acre homestead on Tadpole Road between Hwy. 89 and McClellan Drive in the Jacksonville area.

The land is still family-owned, although the log cabin Joseph and Martha built there burned down in 1961.

Bob Boyd said he hopes what he knows will put a face to the effort to preserve the resting place of his relatives, which he hopes to help Laxton with.

“They deserve our respect,” he said.

One roadblock to that effort is that the cemetery is on private property, and there is a dispute over who owns it.

A recent survey shows that about a third of the site is on Tom Salmon’s land while the other two thirds is on land owned by Larry Holman.

But Holcomb fenced the cemetery and he says his deed confirms the entire plot is his. He said he would love to deed the cemetery over to Laxton so that it can be taken care of.

Salmon said he’d do all he could to help open a road to the site and he is also interested in having the cemetery preserved whether he owns part of it or not.