“Let the women of the South organize memorial associations, for it is the women who must see that those who gave their lives for the greatest cause the world has ever known must live forever in the hearts of the Southern people.”
This was the appeal that Father Abram Joseph Ryan made in the spring of the year 1866. Father Ryan, the “Poet-Priest of the Confederacy,” was a Catholic priest, journalist, and poet who served as a Chaplain in the Confederate Army.
Following in this spirit, about 40 women met on Monday June 10, 1872, at the Methodist Church South, to begin the task of securing a piece of land which would be the permanent resting place for Confederate dead. Just one year later on Tuesday June 10, 1873, the ladies dedicated the Confederate Cemetery and the first graves were decorated. The largest crowd ever assembled in the county since the burial of Col. Archibald Yell gathered that day to attend the first annual Southern Memorial Day ceremony.
Today, the Confederate Cemetery, located at the top of East Rock Street, is still privately owned and maintained by the Southern Memorial Association of Washington County, Arkansas, holds to the same purpose and devotion as the ladies of 1872: to maintain a beautiful resting place for the Confederate soldiers who lie at rest within its historic rock wall.
In August of 2011, the Southern Memorial Association assumed ownership of the Walker Cemetery adjacent to the Confederate Cemetery and just about one year later the Walker Cemetery achieved National Register of Historic Places status.
The Southern Memorial Association is the oldest, continuous organization founded by women in Washington County, as well as in the State of Arkansas. Although it has not yet been documented, the Fayetteville Confederate Cemetery may very well be the largest all-Confederate Cemetery established by women in the entire United States. What also makes it unique is that the organization which established this cemetery never disbanded and is still in existence today!
The Southern Memorial Association is a non-profit 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization which depends on donations for maintenance and preservation of the Confederate Cemetery and the Walker Cemetery. All donations made to the Southern Memorial Association for the care of these cemeteries are tax deductible.