There’s a group on Facebook dedicated to Saline County history and it’s chock-full of photos and memories, but occasionally, there is a standout story. The story below is one of those. The group is Saline County History and Memories and the person who posted is Dennis Kent, Ph.D. He comes from many generations of Saline County relatives. Recently Dr. Kent got his great-great-grandfather’s headstone replaced with the help of the Veterans Association (VA). Years of neglect and vandalism at Hughes Cemetery on the south side of Benton had left many of the grave sites in disarray. This, along with overgrowth of grass and brush made it difficult to pay respects to loved ones. But the state of the road leading to the cemetery made it near impossible to visit. Dr. Kent gives all the details in his post, copied below with his permission. All photos here are also his. KARK 4 did a story in June on the state of the cemetery that likely contributed to the cleanup effort.
After months of planning, hard work, dedication, and many gracious volunteers, Benton’s Hughes Cemetery has been restored tremendously! This once forgotten cemetery has much of Benton and Saline county’s history and memories dating back to the late 1850s and can now be visited by all. Hughes cemetery was last cleaned by local Boy Scout Troop 17 in 2009.
Over the past few years many grave sites have been abused and vandalized. My GGF’s 1912 gravesite was one of these. His headstone was actually pulled from the ground several times, had ATV tire tracks across it, and shot twice in the center with a rifle.
Approx. 3 months ago this cemetery was almost impossible to reach by car due to a very neglected dirt/graveled S. Richards street. This road was filled with potholes and gullies. Tree limbs and overgrowth had practically consumed this road. After a certain LR TV station aired a documentary in June of this forgotten cemetery things begin to change for the better.
Most of our thanks and gratitude go directly to Mr. Jim Thompson for making these amazing changes. The Benton Street Dept came out and filled the potholes and gullies and will regrade this gravel road soon. They also brought in mowers and other tools to cut back all overhanging limbs and overgrowth from this road (S. Richards St.).
On Saturday, July 14, 2018, some of my family members, Jim Thompson, Robert Cagle, and I met here to help with the Hughes Cemetery cleanup. On Monday and Tuesday (July 16-17th) Mr. Thompson organized a work release program of approx. 11 inmates to help clear the overgrowth of this cemetery. I understand one inmate’s specific job was to remove all or most of the poison ivy/oak from these gravesites. Mr. Thompson also had an understanding that the Benton Police Dept will now patrol this road and cemetery on a regular basis.
This forgotten cemetery has been put back on the map and citizens of Benton and Saline county are coming out, showing their respect for their dearly departed, and placing fresh flower arrangements on various gravesites at Hughes. There’s still lots of work to do however, this recent progress is amazing!
Here [above] are before and after photos of my GGF Thomas White Barksdale’s newly replaced headstone. He was born 9/27/1838 and passed away on 9/24/1912. He served his country during the civil war (CSA) as a 2 Corpl. He was taken prisoner on July 13, 1861. He and his wife Bessie had three daughters: Virginia, Easley (my grandmother), and Alice.
The VA supplied for free his headstone replacement under the condition that our family surrendered the original. Our family was allowed to keep a small piece of the bottom corner of this damaged headstone as a remembrance. We cousins passed this small piece of his headstone over to GGF Barksdale’s oldest living descendant, his granddaughter, Mrs. JoAnne Thompson Weiss.
Feel free to check out my FB page for more posted videos of our volunteer work and the beautiful fresh flower arrangements at Hughes Cemetery. Blessings.