Historians, city leaders dedicate cemetery discovered by builders
As a piper played "Amazing Grace," a respectful crowd gathered Thursday afternoon at Kirkpatrick Cemetery off Arkansas 5 North in Bryant for a ceremony to dedicate the hallowed spot that had fallen victim to neglect and was nearly lost from history.
The Bryant Historical Society hosted the ceremony that resulted from the efforts of Bryant Alderman Steve Gladden, a past president of the society, and other society members.
The current generation of the Kirkpatrick family was unaware of the cemetery's existence, according to Patsy Kirkpatrick Kuhn, who participated in the event.
Kirkpatrick's grandfather, John Paisley Kirkpatrick, and other members of her family are buried at the site.
Paisley Kirkpatrick was the nephew of the Rev. Hugh Kirkpatrick, one of the first ordained pastors of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America, according to the Rev. Jack Ryan, a Cumberland Presbyterian minister and a chaplain with the Veterans Administration Medical Center's Fort Roots facility in North Little Rock.
Ryan pointed out the significance of the cemetery to his denomination. The newest Cumberland Presbyterian body in Arkansas — Cumberland Presbyterian Fellowship — is located just adjacent to the cemetery and holds services there every Sunday morning.
Noting the Kirkpatrick family's connection to the Cumberland Presbyterian denomination, Ryan said, "It seems significant that this is the land we chose for our church."
Ryan also read the 23rd Psalm and gave a prayer of consecration.
Rae Ann Fields, executive director of the Bryant Area Chamber of Commerce, welcomed those attending the observance. At the conclusion of the ceremony, she placed a wreath near the entrance to the cemetery.
The blue, white and gold wreath represent the colors of the Kirkpatrick clan.
Patsy Kirkpatrick Kuhn said she had never developed an interest in her lineage before becoming involved with the Historical Society.
When she learned about the cemetery — which was discovered during the construction of the adjacent buildings that now houses the Cumberland Presbyterian Fellowship — she developed an interest in preserving the site.
"Our heritage is important," she said. "And this place was almost lost forever."
The cemetery has been added to the Arkansas Register of Historic Places. A wrought iron fence surrounds the marked graves, although it is believed there are additional burial spots that remain unidentified.
Bricks marking one of the graves at the cemetery came from the original Kirkpatrick homeplace, Patsy Kirkpatrick Kuhn said.
She introduced Debbie Broadway and Carolann Boone, who, along with Kuhn, served on a committee that pursued the cemetery project
"This is now an historical site," Gladden said. He pointed out that the Kirkpatrick home was located at the site of one of the city's water towers.
He also noted that Arkansas 5, which runs alongside the area, was once a stagecoach road used by settlers on their way to Texas.
"Imagine how hard it was to cut out the trees to form a road," he said as he pointed to undeveloped areas nearby.
As part of that process, many of the settlers decided to remain in the area, Gladden said.
"Many camped out in this area and couldn't go farther," he said."They found this was good land here and stayed in the Benton and Bryant areas.
"That's how this town grew," Gladden added.
Noting his pride in the success of saving the cemetery, he said, "A lot of cemeteries like this in the South have been forgotten," he said, "but this is our past and we can be proud of it."
Also speaking briefly at the event was Bryant Mayor Jill Dabbs.
Serving as piper for the ceremony was Richard Manson, who, in addition to "Amazing Grace," played "Going Home" and "Flowers of the Forest," a traditional Scottish memorial song for war veterans.