Unmarked graves discovered at Eureka Springs Cemetery
By Haley Schichtl
You can always learn something new about the community at Eureka Springs Cemetery, even if you visit the grounds regularly.
That's what cemetery superintendent Pat Lujan experienced when he recently discovered more than two dozen unmarked graves, including a headstone for a pauper’s grave dating back to 1912.
“There was a debris pile there … I was walking in there at night, looking at all the sunken graves –– they’re really noticeable because they’re all sunken and all in a straight row,” Lujan said. “We looked at the map, and the map shows all of them with X's and didn’t have names for any of them.”
After finding the headstone, Lujan and cemetery sexton Gloria Stevens found 28 other unmarked graves.
“I dug around each grave and did not find any other stones,” Stevens said.
The stone had the name James Daniel Huckabay, with the birth date 1850 and death date 1912.
“There was another stone for Sarah Lovell, that I don’t know when it was placed there, but there’s two stones for her,” Stevens said. “The family went in there at some point and raised those up and built a little stone wall around the grave, but then it drops off into a hollow where the 28 graves are. Mr. Huckabay’s stone was covered in probably 10 inches of debris.”
Stevens said she looked up his name and found him listed in the old sextons’ records as being in both the potter’s field and pauper’s field, which are two different areas. She said there was a law that said paupers’ graves could not be marked, but Huckabay’s was so she is unsure what to call his grave.
“For the potters, usually the family could not afford a grave, and a lot of times the funeral home or county would pay for it. The paupers’ graves –– you could not record a name or anything about the person,” Stevens said. “And back in the 1800s and early 1900s, you didn’t have a full-time stonemason, or carver. They would come around every five or 10 years and then do several stones at one time. So that was another thing –– some people didn’t have headstones because there was no carver here.”
Lujan said there is a lot of history in cemeteries.
“At this cemetery, as you come into the gate on the left hand side, is what they used to call the black section of the cemetery,” Lujan said. “That used to be in the very back of the cemetery, but they switched the gate, and now it’s in the very entrance.”
Lujan said he started working on the cemetery almost four years ago and it was in bad shape when he took over.
“We’re starting to fill graves, we have a good 3,000 graves that are sunken so bad,” Lujan said. “Older graves, where the coffins have disintegrated and are just big holes in the ground, we’re starting to fill those and level them off.”
He said the new cemetery commission has done a lot for him, making sure he has the equipment he needs so his job is much easier.
“We have people who buy some of these old homes in Eureka Springs, who actually find out who built the house and come out to the grave and look for the gravesite of that person,” Lujan said. “It’s just a beautiful cemetery, and now that we’ve got it all cleaned up, we have regular walkers that come out here.”