Oak Grove Cemetery, in Conway, Arkansas, was established in 1880. The ten-acre historic section of the cemetery is on the National Register of Historic Places. Although burials have been conducted at Oak Grove since its origin and the 24-acre tract is now two-thirds full, there was a period when it was not so well cared for.
Family plots at Oak Grove Cemetery were maintained by family members for years. In recent times, except for attention to individual gravesites by families, little was being done to maintain or groom the Cemetery property.
In 1997, when my mother-in-law passed away, we attempted to make arrangements for her interment. We lived some 400 miles from Conway and it took a couple of days and several phone calls to find anyone who knew anything about Oak Grove Cemetery or how to arrange a burial there. We finally located someone who offered to give our name and number to a man who we were told was the “Sexton.”
The Sexton called within twenty-four hours and explained that few people in the area were taking an active role in the Cemetery. He was trying to keep the property mowed and cleaned up. When we told him we were simply planning to bury an urn, he offered to prepare the gravesite for us.
We arranged a date and agreed on a price for his work. Although he was very accommodating, the whole thing seemed a little eerie and very “unofficial”. He sounded like someone who was doing this project in his spare time because no one else would.
We had last visited Oak Grove Cemetery several years before. Upon arrival, we were taken aback by the apparent lack of attention to the grounds. We found our way to the gravesite along the narrow, gravel, grass-grown lanes. A man from across the way dismounted a mowing tractor and approached us. He introduced himself as the Sexton and apologized for the condition of the place. He explained that he was doing all he could.
Over the next couple of years, the same conditions continued. Weeds were occasionally being cut but that was about all. We soon moved further from Conway and didn’t visit the Cemetery for several years.
On a recent visit to Oak Grove, we noticed that significant work had been done, and the Cemetery was getting some much needed attention. A flag pole — flying the American flag — had been erected. A gazebo had been built, and a plaque with the history of Oak Grove Cemetery had been installed. An attractive new sign had been placed near the entrance. There was grass on the grounds choking out the weeds.
According to recent local Conway news, the Oak Grove Cemetery Board had become quite active and has been planning clean-up and maintenance projects lately. In addition, the Board has announced proposed construction of a columbarium garden to be located near the gazebo.
We are happy to see that the old Historic Oak Grove Cemetery is finally getting the attention it has long deserved.