FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas’ first congressman has a new tombstone.
The Fayetteville Evergreen Cemetery Association paid $22,500 to replace the crumbling tombstone of Archibald Yell, for whom Yell County and Yellville were named.
The new, 10-foot-tall obelisk was installed in the cemetery in mid-April, said Marilyn Heifner, president of the cemetery association’s board.
Money for the new monument was raised from several people, including five of Yell’s great-great-great-grandchildren who live in Tennessee.
Susan Thomas of Monteagle, Tenn., said she didn’t know anything about her great-great-great-grandfather Archibald Yell until the University of Arkansas Press published a book about him in 1988.
“Not being Arkansans, we just didn’t realize his leadership in the state,” she said. “Needless to say, we are so proud to be able to claim Archibald as our ancestor. He was such an outstanding and interesting person.”
The old cemetery monument couldn’t be repaired, Heifner said. It was “sugaring,” meaning the marble slabs were turning to a fine white powder. It will be moved, possibly to Yell’s law office building on the grounds of Headquarters House, a historic house museum in Fayetteville, she said.
The new monument, made by Norton Arts of Little Rock, is solid marble, Heifner said. The old tombstone had marble slabs attached to a concrete base.
The wording on the original monument included some errors, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture. For one thing, it says he was born in North Carolina, when most sources say it was Tennessee.
The cemetery association didn’t try to correct any errors on the tombstone.
“We reproduced it the way it was on the original tombstone because that was the advice we got from all the other historians,” Heifner said.
Located just south of Dickson Street near the University of Arkansas campus, Evergreen Cemetery was Fayetteville’s first public cemetery. It’s now 10 acres and contains about 3,700 graves, including those of other noted Fayetteville natives, such as U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright and the architect Edward Durell Stone.
Besides being Arkansas’ first congressman in 1836, Yell was the state’s second governor, serving from 1840 to 1844.
Yell died in 1847 in the Battle of Buena Vista in the Mexican-American War.
Initially, Yell was buried near the battlefield at Saltillo in Mexico. Five months later, Yell’s body was brought back to Arkansas and buried in the family cemetery near Waxhaws, the name he gave his house just south of Fayetteville.
He was preceded in death by three wives, two of whom are named on his tombstone. Yell’s first wife died while they were living in Tennessee and was buried there.
In 1872 or 1874, all of the bodies from the family cemetery at Waxhaws were removed and reburied in Evergreen Cemetery, according to the encyclopedia article.
The Department of Arkansas Heritage recently completed a yearlong project documenting the graves of Arkansas governors.