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Volunteers clean up historic cemetery along the Buffalo National River

Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 4:55 PM CST
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ST. JOE, Ark. (KY3) - A historic cemetery along the Buffalo National River looks cleaner after a volunteer-assisted project to clear the cemetery of brush and install a new fence.

The Nars (Narrows) Cemetery, located near the Woolum Water Access, is a historic burial site for some of the area’s earliest settlers. Gravestones in the cemetery range anywhere from the 1860s to the late 1960s. While an exact number is unsure, there are more than 30 cemeteries recognized and maintained by Buffalo National River Park officials.

The Buffalo National River is known for its beautiful scenery but also carries a lot of historic significance for both locals and guests.

”There is so much more than scenery that the Buffalo National River preserves, we have an amazing history that can be found in this space,” said Cassie Branstetter, who is the volunteer coordinator for the Buffalo National River. “These historic places are really unique spots to have a chance and step back in time almost and meet the individuals who made a home here. A lot of effort goes into managing the public land here.”

It is a history Reta Ruff knows. A native to the area, her family settled before the Civil War.

”My Hendricks family, Mary Hendricks and Jose Harvey Hendricks lived just up near the Nars,” she said. “They settled in a spot along the Bluffs and my family has been here ever since. (Jose) died in the Civil War and is buried in here.”

Spanning 98,000 acres, taking care of all of the Buffalo National River historic sites can be difficult.

”Many cemeteries are inside of the boundary of Buffalo National River,” said Branstetter. “A lot of effort goes into managing the public land here and volunteer efforts allow people to get involved with conservation plus get a glimpse of how much land we maintain.”

The latest project is showing the Nars Cemetery needed attention by clearing out brush in hopes to uncover more headstones and rebuilding a fence around the property.

”I think we’re going to get all the brush cleared this time which was quite a feat itself,” said Branstetter. “We’ll have another project soon to put the new fencing up.”

If you would like to be involved with future volunteer efforts along the Buffalo National River you can reach out to Cassie Branstetter at cassie_branstetter@nps.gov or (870) 365-2744.

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