At the top of Rock Street in Fayetteville, among the huge trees that cover Mount Sequoyah, is the final resting place of one of Fayetteville’s founding families, the Walker family. Because of the historical significance of this small burial ground, the descendents have decided to pass on ownership of this hallowed ground and entrust its care and restoration to the Southern Memorial Association of Washington County.
The Southern Memorial Association of Washington County was founded by about 40 Fayetteville women in 1872 and is the oldest non-profit, continuous organization founded by women in the state of Arkansas. It was this association which purchased the present cemetery grounds from the Walker family in order to establish the Confederate Cemetery in 1873, and for over 138 years area women have worked tirelessly to provide a beautiful resting place for over 600 Confederate soldiers whose remains lie in this now historic cemetery. It was the women of the Southern Memorial Association who organized the removal of the bodies of the soldiers from mass graves at the battlegrounds of Prairie Grove, Pea Ridge and the Battle of Fayetteville as well as from the roadsides and the woodlands where they fell and then their re-interment in the Confederate Cemetery. Most of the soldiers reinterred in the cemetery remain unknown, but the founding ladies did record the names of 121 men whose bodies rest in the cemetery they worked so hard to obtain.
Buried in the historic Walker Cemetery is David Walker. He was born in 1806 in Kentucky. It is he who has left the largest imprint on the history and development of Fayetteville, Washington County, and the state of Arkansas. David first came to Fayetteville in 1830 with very little but grit and determination, but used them both with such fortunate results that in 1833 he returned briefly to Kentucky to marry Jane Lewis Washington, the granddaughter of President George Washington’s first cousin, Warner Washington.
David and Jane Walker settled down in Fayetteville, where they proceeded to raise six children. His law practice grew quickly because he was a man that people instinctively trusted. Jane’s mother, Rebecca Smith Washington, like David’s parents, immigrated to Arkansas from Kentucky in 1836. These family members lie buried with their kinsmen within the grounds of the Walker Cemetery.
David Walker was a member of Arkansas’ first constitutional convention. He was an Arkansas State Senator in 1840. He became a member of the Arkansas Supreme Court three times, twice serving as Associate Justice and once as Chief Justice. In 1861 Judge David Walker was a pro-Union delegate to the State Convention that met to decide whether to secede from the Union or not. He was chosen president of that convention, and fought for the preservation of the union up to the last hopeless hour. He gave in to the inevitable and offered his services to the new Confederacy. He was commissioned a Colonel in the Confederate Army, serving in South Arkansas as a Judge of the Military Court in General Sterling Price’s Army.
After the ravages of the War Between the States, Judge Walker managed to rebuild most of his business and legal affairs. He, like many, lost much during the war, including a son. He was a member of the Building Committee to secure the University of Arkansas for Fayetteville in 1871. He was the spokesman for Arkansas at the 1876 centennial of the United States of America which was held in Philadelphia. It can be said that Fayetteville owes much of its importance in early state circles to Judge David Walker, who epitomized public-spirited leadership, judicial wisdom, and lifelong respect for education.
To quote Walter J Lemke, founder of the Washington County Historical Society and the first Dean of the Journalism Department at the University of Arkansas, “His influence on our state’s development far transcends that of many of the politicians, soldiers, and others who are featured in Arkansas school histories…He gained fame and fortune for himself and a better life for his fellow-citizens”.
David Walker lived to be 73 years old and died in 1879. His monument is the largest in the Walker Cemetery. Also buried there are two of the founding ladies of the Southern Memorial Association, David Walker’s daughter, Mary Walker and her daughter Miss Sue Walker.
The Southern Memorial Association will accept the deed of ownership to the Walker Cemetery property on August 6, 2011 at 9:00 am. The event will take place at the Walker Cemetery and the public is cordially invited to attend the brief ceremony.
The Southern Memorial Association’s purpose has always been to maintain a beautiful resting place for the Confederate dead and acquiring the Walker Cemetery, its purpose will also be the same, to maintain a beautiful resting place for the Walker family members.
The Southern Memorial Association receives no public funding and has no financial support from any foundations or endowments ever in its history. It continues to exist only by its membership dues and gracious donations from individuals.
For more information call 479-824-3910 or 479-527-9301
Contact Person: Linda Doede, Historian SMA