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A towboat ferry on the Ouachita River and a cemetery for black settlers of Conway County have been added to the National Register of Historic Places along with five Arkansas properties built in the 1960s.

"This is the first ferryboat we've ever listed in Arkansas," said Mark Christ, a spokesman for the state's Historic Preservation Program, which announced the new National Register listings Wednesday.

Administered by the National Park service, the National Register is the official list of the nation's historic places worthy of preservation.

The Moro Bay Ferry at Moro Bay State Park in Bradley County was a towboat and barge that operated on the Ouachita River from 1965 to 1992, according to the nomination. The towboat was built by Barbour Metal Boat Works of Missouri.

It ferried traffic across the river as part of Arkansas 15 (now U.S. 63).

"Before railroads, the Ouachita River was the primary means of travel in the region, and many cotton barges used it to make their way from south Arkansas to New Orleans," according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture. "In days past, the only way to get across the river was by ferry.

"The Moro Bay Ferry started in 1828 just after the Indians were moved along the Trail of Tears and just before Arkansas became a state in 1836."

At that time, it was called Burk's Ferry and was operated by a cable system.

By early 1965, when a modern ferry was under construction at Moro Bay, there were 15 ferries operating in Arkansas, according to the nomination.

Ferries were an important part of the Arkansas highway system before being replaced by bridges.

"The Moro Bay Ferry was likely the last ferry built in the state," according to the nomination. "By the 1970s, the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department began a concerted effort to replace the ferries remaining on the state's highway system with bridges. Due to the efforts, of the 13 ferries that were operating on the system in 1970, only six remained in operation a decade later in 1980."

According to the nomination form, the barge at Moro Bay is 60 feet long, 20 feet wide and 4 feet deep. It has ramps at each end to allow vehicle access. The towboat is 35 feet long, 9.5 feet wide and 3.5 feet deep, according to the nomination. Those figures don't include the superstructure, which are parts like the pilothouse that rise above the main deck.

The ferry is about 300 feet south of the eastern landing and about 100 feet east of the riverbank, "although it occasionally still floats in the river during floods," according to the nomination.

"They've got some pylons there, and when the river comes up it just floats in the river," said Bobbie Sutterfield, the office manager at Moro Bay State Park.

She said the towboat and barge are "strictly exhibits now."

"Kids like to play on it and pretend they're driving it," she said.

Sutterfield said she remembers when the ferry was in use.

"It would hold six cars at a time," she said.

Bold Pilgrim Cemetery near Overcup, about 7 miles north of Morrilton, is "the single resource associated with a community that no longer exists," Christ said.

"The community of Bold Pilgrim seems to have faded early in the 20th century," according to the nomination.

The 1.3-acre cemetery includes 500 to 600 graves, some of which date to the 1880s, according to the nomination. The vast majority of the graves are unmarked, but 102 of them have headstones that are still legible, documenting the names of the deceased.

Bold Pilgrim Cemetery is the final resting place for many black settlers from South Carolina.

"The cemetery is the last historic, physical remains of an African-American community made up of former slaves and their families who traveled from South Carolina to Arkansas in the 1870s through the 1890s," according to the nomination. "These immigrants were a part of the large-scale, post-Civil War exodus of blacks from areas in the Deep South, including South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia to available lands to the west."

Many of those families eventually settled in Arkansas "after discovering a place where land was affordable and economic and political opportunities existed," according to the nomination.

The other five Arkansas properties that made the list were all built in the 1960s. They include:

• Thomas Gray house in Little Rock, which was built in 1963.

• Cecil M. Buffalo Jr. house in Little Rock, built in 1968.

• Dr. Neil Crow Sr. house in Fort Smith, built in 1967-68.

• Clay County Courthouse, Eastern District, at Piggott, built in 1966-67.

• Clay County Courthouse, Western District, at Corning, also built in 1966-67.

"The three residences and two courthouses reflect the evolution of architecture styles following the second World War," Christ said.

Metro on 09/27/2018

Print Headline: Ferry, black settlers' cemetery among sites to make National Register

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