Mount Holly Cemetery… after dark…

Mount Holly Cemetery

On the outside looking in!

This is the nineteenth year that Parkview High School’s theater class has put on Tales from the Crypt at Mount Holly Cemetery, but this was our first year to attend.

Just because this event is scheduled for the second Tuesday in October – in a cemetery, no less – doesn’t mean that it is supposed to be ‘scary,’ so don’t let that deter you from coming next year if scary things aren’t your cup of tea.  And if you’re at all interested in Arkansas history, this will be right up your alley!

A little history about the cemetery…  Mount Holly is sometimes referred to as the Westminster Abbey of Arkansas because of the many high profile Arkansans buried there.

“Interred within the rock walls of Mount Holly are 11 state governors, 15 state Supreme Court justices, four Confederate generals, seven United States senators and 22 Little Rock mayors, two Pulitzer Prize recipients, as well as doctors, attorneys, prominent families and military heroes, including venerated David O. Dodd, a 17-year-old boy executed for being a “Confederate spy,” and often referred to as the “Boy Martyr of the Confederacy.” There are veterans from all wars: Revolutionary, War of 1812, Mexican, Civil War, Spanish-American, World War I and II, Korean, Vietnam and Desert Storm.”

It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the oldest cemeteries in Arkansas. (Batesville has the oldest.)

Tales from the Crypt

About 20 theater students from Parkview Arts-Science Magnet School were each assigned a notable Arkansan who is buried in Mount Holly Cemetery.   After doing research,  each student writes a monologue describing this person’s life and their contribution to the early history of this state. In performance, they dress in period costume and share their story with the visitors.

We arrived right at 5:30pm, quite surprised to see lines extending from the cemetery gates to both ends of the block.  We briefly considered not stopping, but then decided it wouldn’t be too bad a wait.  I’m glad we stayed.  The weather was pleasant (maybe a tad chilly but not uncomfortable) and after a short wait we were made part of a tour group of about 15 people. There are two ‘half-tours’ of the cemetery to get more groups through – great idea!

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David O Dodd

Probably the most famous person of our half of the cemetery tour was David O. Dodd.  Having known of him from the street and the school in southwest Little Rock both bearing his name, I did a little research on this young man and his story before coming here tonight. The student who portrayed Dodd did an excellent job of bringing his person to life (in a manner of speaking).  When you read about Dodd in history books, he is often referred to as being a ‘spy’ for the Confederacy and ‘spy’ is put in quotation marks as though it were an “alleged” claim… It’s really downplayed, and maybe I’m letting the cat out of the bag, but really, folks, he was caught red-handed carrying incriminating information on his person that spelled out (in Morse code) details of where the Union army camps were and the number of soldiers and types of weapons they had at each.  Can you say ‘espionage’?  After a court-martial, he was hanged for that crime, and that is indeed a tragic end to a young life as he was only seventeen.  The real mysteries here are:  who he was protecting by not divulging his source? And, did he really understand the gravity (sorry) of what he was doing, or was he maybe tricked or coerced? I personally believe he was young and probably feeling invincible, and he wanted to be a hero by either helping the Confederates or dying for The Cause. Fascinating story, tho.  Google it sometime.

Incidentally, the young man who portrayed David Owen Dodd last year is actually a distant descendant of Dodd –  how cool is that?!

Unfortunately, it got too dark too soon, so we had to leave before we finished both parts of the tour.  However, we are preparing for next year by:

  • making sure we eat first,
  • arriving earlier than 5:30pm,
  • bringing a big sack of clothes to donate to the Goodwill Store across the street to get free (close) VIP parking,
  • wearing comfortable shoes and weather-appropriate clothes, and…
  • bringing some cash money to donate to the upkeep of the Mount Holly Cemetery. Admission to this event is free, for heaven’s sake… so bring some cash for a worthy cause!!

Here are some photos of the other ‘personalities’ we heard from.

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John Otto Kumpe and Lucinda Maples Kumpe

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James Alexander Woodson, a Little Rock mayor

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Anne Warren

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Quatie Ross, married Cherokee Chief John Ross

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Arabella Bertrand Clark

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Catherine Yeiser Adams

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Richard Flanigan

(My photo of Jane Elizabeth Woodruff, wife of Arkansas Gazette
founder William Woodruff  didn’t turn out, sorry!)

Next year!

Mark your calendars now for Tuesday, October 14, 2014, for the 20th performance of Tales from the Crypt… I know I’ll be there!

National Coffee Day


coffee

Sunday, September 29, is National Coffee Day!  (Hey, every day is coffee day for me!)  And, in honor of this festive occasion, I’m pleased to feature two Arkansas coffee companies, Westrock Coffee and Airship Coffee.  For both companies, making a positive social impact, providing economic sustainability and fair trade are their primary focuses.

WESTROCK COFFEE

Westrock Coffee is based in North Little Rock, and started off as the brainchild of Scott Ford, former Alltel CEO.  Through his work at an orphanage in Rwanda, Ford became acquainted with their president and other leaders.  As the country struggled to get back on its feet after the tumultuous ’90’s, Ford saw a way to help them help themselves.  Rwandan soil, elevation and climate is one of the finest for growing coffee.  Ford started with an abandoned coffee mill, gained the trust of the local farmers and gave them the tools to reestablish their coffee farms.

AIRSHIP COFFEE

Bentonville is the home of Airship Coffee.  In 2005, University of Arkansas agronomist, Mark Bray, was in the Honduran mountains, and as he listened to the coffee farmers talk about their hope for a brighter future, the idea of Airship Coffee was born. “Airship Coffee was founded on the idea that we could improve lives by helping farmers improve their coffee quality and by creating market access through direct trade relationships.”

PROUD TO BE AN ARKANSAN!

For more information on these companies and where to purchase their coffees, visit their website at www.westrockcoffee.com and www.airshipcoffee.com.

I’ve personally had Westrock Coffee and endorse the Bold!  Looking forward to trying Airship Coffee when I visit NW Arkansas.

Have a cup o’ Joe and celebrate National Coffee Day!

westrock coffee

Toltec Mounds, Part II

Autumnal Equinox Celebration
September 21, 2013

It was a gorgeous day, thankfully, after the dreary rainy day we had yesterday.  Puddles of water still stood in the flat “plaza” area at Toltec Mounds Archaeological State Park today, as about 50 of us, of all ages, came out to watch the sun set over Mound A from the vantage point at Mound H, much as the Plum Bayou culture natives did on this same spot a thousand years ago.

I learn something every time I visit Toltec Mounds!  Today, the Park Archaeologist, Dr. Elizabeth Horton, gave a presentation to the families who came out, a little bit of the background of what we already know about the Plum Bayou people as well as give us some updates on what has been discovered more recently and the current projects she is working on.

We walked the Knapp Trail around the mounds, finishing up by Mound H where the staff had set up seating for us so that we could observe the setting sun from the correct angle.  The fall equinox marks one of two days during the year where the days and nights are the same length of time.  The other day occurs in the spring (“vernal equinox”), and there is a mound alignment for that here at Toltec as well, I believe.

As the sun was setting, it didn’t appear to me to be directly over Mound A, but a little bit far to the south.  I figured it was probably an optical illusion due to the point where I was standing.  Then, as the sun continued to go down, it seemed to move more and more towards the ‘center’ of Mound A… and the moment we had all be waiting all afternoon for was about to happen!

Toltec Mounds Autumnal Equinox September 21, 2013

Toltec Mounds Archaeological State Park, Autumnal Equinox, September 21, 2013

In a matter of minutes, we all started taking pictures of the setting sun… then we stood there and gazed in awe at the stunning view.

One of the interpreters had mentioned that there are some Native Americans communities who still utilize this site for certain ceremonies and rituals.  I have to admit that stepping into the ‘inner circle’ around the mounds does bring about a sense of respect and reverence.  Maybe it’s because it is such a large cleared area, and standing there makes one feel quite small and almost insignificant in the big scheme of things.  By the same token, being here as part a large group of people (much larger than we had today), make give a person a sense of community, of belonging, and that’s why these sacred areas were designed this way…. ah, who knows, right?

I should have been an anthropologist like I told my dad I wanted to be.  (He had given me this quizzical look before asking me again if I had thought about what I wanted to do when I grew up – lol!)  I find all this tremendously fascinating, and I hope to share some of my enthusiasm with you!

FYI, my future blog posts will be about other things Arkansas… people, events, food!  But just know that history and lore are where my true passions are.  Well, food, too, but that’s another matter 🙂

Toltec Mounds State Park, Scott AR

Toltec Mounds State Park

We went on a field trip last weekend!  It’s been a while since I’ve visited Toltec Mounds State Park, and long overdue.  But, it was a little like re-reading a great book from 10 years ago – you remember the gist of the story and how good it was, but going there again brings back all the nuances and details you’d forgotten, and made it all new again.

The good news is that we will be going back again next weekend (September 21) for the Fall Equinox Celebration from 3pm to 7pm.  At 4:30, the staff will give a presentation demonstrating how the mounds aligned at particular solar events (seasons).  Cost is $4 for adults, $3 for children 6-12, and under 6 is free.  I can’t wait!

A brief history for those who may not have ever heard of Toltec Mounds Archaeological State Park, the area was officially made a state park in 1975.  Prior to that, it was privately owned land – farmland, no less – and almost all of the historic mounds were razed in their efforts to grow crops, mostly cotton, in the fertile ground that used to be a channel in the Arkansas River.

The mounds at one time were believed to have been built by members of the Toltec culture in Mexico, but anthropologists and archaeologists later concluded that this was highly unlikely.  From then on, the culture that lived here from about 650 A.D. to 1050 A.D. has been generally referred to as the Plum Bayou culture, for lack of a better descriptor.

Since there was no written language for these people, much of what we know was gleaned from the things they left behind, and from certain shared characteristics among tribes and cultures in the area during that time period.

From what I learned (re-learned!) during our visit was that there are probably more questions than answers when you look at the brief existence of these peoples here.  Where did they come from?  What was their social structure?  civil structure? How many people considered this particular location their Mecca and travel here for ceremonies or festivals or celebrations?  And most puzzling is, why did they abandon this site… and where did they go?

From what we can piece together, the Toltec Mounds was likely a smaller group made up of the leaders of the larger community.  The other members were scattered about throughout the area, and would gather here for special occasions.  And we have every reason to believe these people were a peaceful lot.  There is no evidence of war or crime.  Yay!

The Plum Bayou culture lived on this spot for approximately 400 years, which, in the grand scheme of things, is a short period of time.  We do not know where they came from nor who their descendants are.  We do know they had knowledge of astronomy because the mounds are spaced and placed at specific heights and locations in order to line up during the solstices and equinoxes to help the natives with their still-developing planting and harvesting skills.

So many other fascinating facts, but I’ll save them for you to learn when you visit!  If you can’t come this weekend for the Fall Equinox Celebration, do try to visit sometime,

Toltec Mounds is not far from Little Rock, so for those of you who are in the central Arkansas area, this makes a good day trip.  Check out their particulars at www.arkansasstateparks.com.

Toltec Mounds State Park

Knapp Trail at Toltec Mounds

Toltec Mounds State Park Gift Shop

The friendly and knowledgeable staff at the Visitors’ Center.

Toltec Mounds State Park