Stephenson Family Cemetery
How I Found the Cemetery
Located in Woodruff County
Near the unincorporated community of Revel, Arkansas
Growing up as a young boy, I remember my father telling us that a family cemetery was located on the old family farm in Arkansas. My grandfather left Arkansas about 1915 and moved to Texas where my father was born in 1918. As an adult I started asking questions about this cemetery but few family members remembered any details. No one knew more than a few of those who were buried there or where it was exactly located. Other family members had passed through the area looking to gain any information about the cemetery location or even if it existed any more but nothing had been discovered.
In the summer of 2004 I told my wife I wanted to go to Arkansas and try and discover once and for all if the cemetery existed, or if it had been destroyed as so many other private cemeteries had been over the years. We arrived in Augusta on a Sunday morning and went to the local Methodist church as I remembered that my grandfather had been a Methodist. It’s a small church and maybe only 30 members were there that day. After the service was over, of course, many came over to introduce themselves and see who these two strangers in their midst were.
I informed them that I was doing genealogy research looking for Stephenson, Garrett, and Yarbrough relatives, but specifically looking for a lost Stephenson Cemetery. I knew that the cemetery had existed as late as the 1970s because I found it listed in a locally published historical society book with only four names published, two of which were my great-grandparents—Samuel and Margaret Stephenson. One of the ladies introduced herself as Gayne Priller Schmidt, a relative of the Yarbroughs. She mentioned several Yarbrough names that I recognized as cousins of my Dad. As is traditional in their church, after service they all head to the local deli for lunch, and of course, we were invited to join them. We did and had a very nice lunch with conversation. We discovered that one elderly lady, who had worked for the county, had a lot of local records at her home. She invited us to come over. Gayne went with us. We looked at land plots and cemetery records and really gained no information that we didn’t already know. Gayne suggested that she go with us and drive out to the area as her afternoon was free. We drove to the Revel community which is about 10 miles southeast of Augusta. We drove into fields, got out and walked through fields and Gayne in her 70s and dressed in very nice Sunday clothes didn’t seem to mind at all. We talked with local farmers who were inquiring what we were doing. Of course they all recognized Gayne. She explained but no one had any knowledge of any grave sites in the area. It was finally suggested by some farmer that we call the owner of the funeral home. Gayne called him at home—seems everyone knows everyone. He agreed to meet Patty and me at the funeral home in an hour and a half. We took Gayne back to the church and that’s when we discovered that she is also the church secretary and just lives across the street in an old colonial looking home.
With directions in hand from Gayne, we met the local funeral home owner that Sunday afternoon, July 4, 2004. What a nice man to do this favor for us on a Sunday and no less a holiday also. He went through his records but couldn’t find anything. He called Mr. Revel, (son of the founder of the Revel community) who was in his 80s and in poor health, but he couldn’t remember any grave sites in the area either. He called Emmett Garner, at the Duck Hunting Club, who was a retired local farmer from the Revel community. The Duck Hunting Club is normally closed this time of the year, but Emmett just happened to be there that day. Emmett said something about a thicket and Patty and I headed back to the Revel area. Once at the Duck Hunting Club Emmett told me (Patty sat in the car) about two possibilities. Across the river and up a ways were some Indian mound graves that had been there for years, but we didn’t believe that was what I was looking for. But up the road about half a mile and off into a field was a bamboo thicket. (Patty and I had driven on this dirt road before and had commented how strange to see a hill in the middle of all that flat land. At that time we did not know and could not tell that this hill was the bamboo thicket. Of course it was no hill at all, but the bamboo growth made it look like one.) Years earlier while plowing the land Emmett had been told to just plow around all that bamboo because there were some graves in there. He had never been inside the bamboo thicket and had never seen any tombstones but was told there were some and to simply plow around it. The bamboo thicket is now located on the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge and one is subject to heavy fines if caught trespassing. He filled out a pass for me and said to show this to the warden if we got caught. By this time it was late in the day and we decided to head back to camp and try the bamboo thicket the next day, Monday.
We were camping in a state park in our motor home about 30 miles east of Augusta. We drove back and spent the night in the park which was not very crowded. We charged the walkie talkies so they would be ready for the next morning. The next day we arrived at the bamboo patch around 9 am. I stopped the car on the side of the dirt road parking in the weeds. Dressed in boots, a long sleeve shirt, gloves, and a hat I took off across the field walking about 200 yards to reach the bamboo. It was hot, humid, and the mosquitoes were plentiful. Patty sat in the car with the air conditioner running.
I found a place on the northeast corner to enter the bamboo. It was thick with the bamboo ranging in diameter from half an inch to more then 3 inches in diameter. In places I had to change directions because the bamboo was so thick that I could not get through. All the time I was looking for a grave stone. Every few minutes Patty would radio me asking “Are you ok, are you ok?” Of course I always answered with “I’m fine”. For more than an hour I roamed inside that thicket never knowing where I was for I could not see the edges at any time. The bamboo is so tall and thick that you could not even see the sky. I just kept meandering until I saw what I thought might be the top of a stone, but just barely. It was covered in bamboo duff and barely visible, the light being dim because of the thickness of the bamboo. Once I made my way over to the stone and brushed it off I could see the name, Hargis, carved into the stone. I knew I had found the Stephenson Family Cemetery in Arkansas.
My grandfather’s sister, Edna, had married Dr. H. P. Hargis. They had two small girls that died early in the 1900s and were buried there. There is one tombstone with their names on either side. I radioed Patty that I had found one tombstone and would continue to look for others. Continuing to comb the area squeezing my way through the bamboo I discovered a second tombstone about ten feet away, but was unable to see it from the other one. It too, was covered in bamboo duff, but once I got close and cleaned it off I saw the name – S. W. Stephenson, my great-grandfather. The back side of the tombstone read Margaret Stephenson. I radioed Patty that I would now be coming back to the car for the camera. I had to make sure that I could find my way out and back in again, because I had no idea of my location inside the bamboo thicket.
Patty came back with me and I led her inside the bamboo thicket to the tombstones and we cleared away as much as we could by hand and took some pictures. Taking pictures was difficult because without the flash it was too dark, and with the flash it was too white and washed out. Because the bamboo was so thick it was difficult to get back far enough for the flash to work properly. While not the best pictures in the world it was evidence we had found the Stephenson Family Cemetery.
Below is a slide show that reveals the location of the Stephenson Family Cemetery. The slides automatically change every 10-15 seconds depending on the speed of your computer and it will continuely repeat the slide show. There are 7 slides.
Grave stone of Samuel Charles Stephenson One can see the density of the bamboo that is behind the grave stone. I cleared away as much as I could by hand in order to get this picture. This picture was taken on July 5, 2007.
The cemetery is located on the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge, south of the old Revel store about 1.9 miles. Park on the side of the road and walk about 200 yards in a slightly southwesterly direction. The one acre cemetery was deeded by Margaret Lucinda Carricker Garret Stephenson in 1899 to J. W. Revel, a local farmer, and upon his death the county judge could appoint a new trustee for the cemetery. Click here to review a copy of the deed. The one acre cemetery from the original farm is now part of the Wildlife Refuge. More information about the Wildlife Refuge can be found by clicking here and/or here.
People that I believe to be buried in the Cemetery: (and there may be more--I'm still researching)
Nathan Stephenson 1844/45 - 1871
Samual Charles Stephenson 1844- 1898
Benjamin Thomas Stephenson (Civil War Vet) 1843 - 1917
Margaret Lucinda Carricker Garrett Stephenson 1842 - 1899
Charles A. Garrett 1869 - 1883
Goldie Edna Hargis 1898 - 1899
Henry Geraldine Hargis 1906 - 1908
Maggie Lou Stephenson 1904
Benjamin Thomas Stephenson (my dad's brother) 1907 - 1913
Sally Ann Stephenson Dec 10, 1872
Fannie Lien Ada Stephenson Sept 24, 1874
Inglish Henry Stephenson March 18, 1883
Elisha Vick died Oct 1, 1878
One former slave that came from North Carolina with the three brothers