The Nichols Cemetery is located in Marked Tree, Arkansas. Our cemetery is managed by a Board of Directors and maintained each year through donations from members and descendants of the Nichols family. Our goal is to maintain a peaceful resting place for our loved ones. Many improvements have been added in the last few years, including sidewalks, a cremation memorial, and an arched entryway with the Nichols family name.  Below is a story written by a member of our family.  

Nichols Cemetery

The story goes that George Nichols came from Dunklin County, Missouri in the 1850's in a boat and on the Little River, he found a spot he liked and decided to stay. Over the years, he cleared several hundred acres on both sides of the river. As people moved in they would clear the land for crops. The total acreage that he accumulated was approximately 2,500 acres.

Rivers were a very important mode of transportation in the early years. Little River and the St. Francis had steamboats running from town to town. Fishing for food was also important, since people could make extra money by selling fish to be shipped north by rail. Mussel shelling was done in the summer after their crops were laid by. These shells were sold to make buttons.

Boats were also used on the rivers to transport goods and people to the markets to buy needed supplies (the modern day taxi).

As the timber was cleared in the area, the mode of transporting logs to the sawmill was by river. The logs would be cut and stacked on the riverbank until they had a large stack. The logs were then put in the river and bound together, then floated down the river to the nearest sawmill. Prior to a sawmill coming to Marked Tree, the logs would be rafted into the St. Francis River and south to the nearest mill. The settlers were entrepreneurs having to sell the timber and crops to survive.

Outbreaks of diseases would sometimes cause the death of several members of a family (influenza, diphtheria, and others).

With the community growing and the need for a cemetery, George Nichols donated property that was on a ridge or possibly an Indian Mound. If you started in the center and observed the elevation around you, you will see that it is on a high ridge. The Indian mounds were plentiful in the area where George Nichols homesteaded and pottery has been found in this area. His homestead was on Little River in the community known as Nichols. The stories that have been passed down over the years is that the graves are of people who lived in the community, but during high water it was dry ground, and people from other communities were buried due to the high ground. The earliest marker in the cemetery is dated 1899.

You will notice that the stones are not aligned North and South, and people randomly buried in the cemetery. There are many graves that were never marked with a headstone because families could not afford to purchase them and small markers that were put on the graves have deteriorated and rusted leaving many graves unmarked.

We do have some well-known people buried in the cemetery, one being Ike Williams. His whiskey was famous in New York, Chicago and the west. The story goes that he was an excellent distiller and that his whiskey was superior to other distillers. Back in prohibition days there were numerous whiskey stills in this part of the country. This was big business with runners distributing the whiskey in surrounding areas. It was difficult for the revenue agents to keep them under control. About the only way for the agents to find one was to walk upon it or for someone to get mad and report it. This happened when some of the wives would get angry because their husbands were visiting the still too often and would give the agents a general direction of its location. There is a story that has been told about a still south of Marked Tree that one of the Nichols' boys was involved in. Revenue agents raided the still and as they were running through the woods with rifle bullets flying around them he was only in his underwear and was nicknamed kildeer legs. The storyteller did not know his first name.

In the early days, law and order was handled by the people in the community. Of course, there were no judges at this time in this area of the state. The judge and jury were usually the members of the community. Most travelling was by horseback and people did not leave home without a rifle or handgun for self defense against predators and outlaws.

Then came the railroad, which made it possible for the farmers to have cattle drives to Marked Tree and load their cattle on cattle cars that were sent to St. Louis and Kansas City for slaughter.

“The story goes that George Nichols and several other cattle owners had driven their cattle to Marked Tree and were sleeping in a cattle car on a railroad siding in Marked Tree. They were going home the next day. Bandits decided they were going to rob the group and they proceeded to break in the rail car. In the end of the car was a small window with bars used for ventilation. The water was up and the rail was covered with water just beyond where the car was in which they were sleeping. When the bandits realized they were armed and started shooting they decided to leave. As each of the bandits ran and came in sight from the window they were picked off one by one. The next morning there were six of the bandits lying on the railroad. The cattle farmers reported what had happened to the deputy sheriff on duty in Marked Tree. No charges were filed because it was in self-defense.”

As the area grew there was a house on at least every forty acres and some on twenty acres. Farming had become a livelihood for families in this Mississippi River Delta. This was rich farming soil. There were landowners, renters, sharecroppers, and day-workers who made their living farming.

As the community continued to grow it was decided that a school was needed in the community since home schooling was not possible due to limited education.

A school was built and it was called the Nichols School. The school was of modern construction, being built with lumber cut and milled and siding that was beginning to be used at that time. Teachers were hired and a school district was formed and each family paid for their children’s education, just as we do today. However, prior to the Nichols School there was a school near Leatherwood Bridge. One of the persons who attended the school would tell how wild hogs were bedded down and you could see the heat from the hogs rising.

The roads in the area were just trails and generally followed the river. The county charged each landowner with the responsibility of keeping the potholes in the trails filled in and the road passable. As time passed, the roads were changed in order to decrease the distance between towns. They were then laid out on section lines. Bridges were built and the farmers, in lieu of road taxes, could use their mules and slips to build the road and cut the ditches on each side for draining. As money became available through county and state taxes the roads were graveled. The road that goes near the cemetery was taken over by the state and became Highway 40. The road was graveled, bridges were improved and people had access to the cities in less time. Teams of mules and wagons were used extensively, even after there were automobiles. Farmers would load their wagon with cotton and take to gins either in Lepanto or Marked Tree. After the cotton was ginned they would sell it.

All of the farmers had hogs, chickens, corn, mules, horses, and beef and were quite equipped to take care of their families. Every family had a corncrib and had slots in the sides to finish drying the corn. The corn was used to feed livestock, for seed for next years crop, and for human consumption. They would also have some of the corn ground coarse to feed the baby chickens that were raised for eating. Gristmill owners would generally grind on the halves.

George Nichols’ first house was a log cabin and he later built a house. The log cabin was later used for storing corn by taking out the filler between the logs for circulation.

The wildlife in the area was plentiful with bear, wild hogs, deer, turkey, cougar, and other wild animals. The forests were massive and canopied so that underbrush, weeds, and grass could not grow. This was a perfect setting for hunting turkey. Some of the trees were five and six feet through. One example is the large white oak that fell at the cemetery was actually wider than 6’. It fell in 1998 and had 138 rings making the age of the tree 138 years. The latest that this tree would have come up is 1860. The tree had been burned on one side and a strong wind blew the tree down. History was proven by the growth rings. When you counted back to 1930, the rings were close together and other years when we had the floods of 1918, 1927, and 1937 the rings were far apart. The area was also rich in Indian history. Little River and St. Francis, prior to the levee being built, was approximately 5 miles apart. The Indians built several mounds in the Nichols community, some of which were ceremonial, burial, and those made for living. When the high water came in, settlers would drive the livestock to the mounds. The Indians had either died or left when the settlers came. There are people buried on the mounds that died during the floods when the water was over the Nichols Cemetery. *Note: The National Conservatory has purchased one of the mounds. Many artifacts such as arrows, pottery, and tomahawks have been found in the area, but were not recorded.

There are many stories told, some probably true and others exaggerated.

Wayne Nichols

September 2003

 

 

 

The Warranty Deed on our land reads as follows:

WARRANTY DEED - WITH RELINQUISHMENT OF DOWER

Know All Men by These Presents:

THAT WE, George W. Nichols and Susan Olif Nichols his wife, for and in consideration of the sum of one Dollars, to us in hand paid by Andrew Nichols the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged, do hereby grant, bargain, sell and convey unto the said Andrew Nichols and unto his heirs and assigns forever the following: The west one half (1/2) of the north east one quarter (1/4) of south east one quarter (1/4) of section seven (7) township eleven (11) north range seven (7) east in Poinsett County Arkansas, containing twenty (20) acres

To have and to hold the same unto said Andrew Nichols and unto his heirs and assigns forever, with all appurtenances thereto belonging. And We hereby covenant with the said Andrew Nichols that we will forever warrant and defend the title to said lands against all lawful claims whatever.

And I, Susan Olif Nichols, wife of the said George W. Nichols for and in consideration of the said sum of money, do hereby release and relinquish unto the said Andrew Nichols all my rights of Dower and Homestead in and to the said land.

WITNESS our hands and seals on this 14th day of  July 1903.

George W. Nichols

Susan Olif Nichols

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

STATE OF ARKANSAS

County of Poinsett

Be it remembered, that on this day came before me, the undersigned, a Notary Public with and for the county aforesaid, duly commissioned and acting, George W. Nichols to me well known as the grantor in the foregoeing Deed, and stated that he had executed the same for the consideration and purpose therein mentioned and set forth. And on the same day also, voluntarily appeared before me, the said Susan Olif Nichols wife of the said George W. Nichols to me well known and in the absence of her said husband declared that she had of her own free will, signed and sealed the Relinquishment of Dower and Homestead in the foregoing Deed for the considerations and purposes therein contained and set forth, without cumpulsion or undue influence of the said husband.

My commission expires: 5/23 1906                                                                                  M.W. Hazel             N.P.

 

 

 

George Nichols registered the land on January 11, 1895 

 M1               Sec. NO                 T                          P                        Acres

 W                     7                      11 N                      7 E                      170.23

W                      8                      11 N                      7 E                         -0-

 
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