FORDYCE, Ark. – Looking into one’s history can lead to the discovery of distant relatives, lost connections, and stories from our past, but for one woman, that search led to a missing cemetery.
The final resting place of some of Fordyce’s ancestors sits at the end of a dirt road, less than a mile into the woods off Highway 273.
The plot had been unknown to many family members looking for their lost loved ones; but now, it’s been uncovered.
Angela Young was overwhelmed the first time she saw the quiet plot, home to the grave of her grandmother. The burial site had been missing for decades; but with Young’s hard work, had finally been found.
“I wanted to cry,” Young remembers thinking the first time she laid eyes on the scene. “My mother had never seen her mother’s grave.”
Young’s mother, Jeanette Johnson Banks, had searched for the site for nearly 70 years. Johnson Banks’ mother had died when she was just 12 and she never knew where she was buried. The answer was with
Young’s great great grandfather, lying in wait to be found again.
“That will be resolved within my spirit from being able to see this,” exclaimed Johnson Banks, emotional after finding the grave. She said the moment will help to bring some closure and begin to answer years of questions.
But the discovery wasn’t an accident; Young worked from her home state of California, enlisting the help of total strangers from Arkansas and beyond. That list includes a Camden Boy Scout troop, newfound relatives in Central Arkansas, and genealogy groups offering resources and research.
Otey Moss was one such connection – a new friend made in Young’s search for answers. He saw that she had posted in an ancestry group searching for the cemetery and was the first to find the lost graves.
“She couldn’t find where the cemetery actually was,” Moss said. “I’m in the area, why can’t I just look for it?”
It took Moss three tries to find the plot, then in poor condition and hidden within the forest. “The grass was considerably higher,” Moss remembers, “it was really wet.”
That’s when Boy Scout Troop 6 stepped in to help clean up, even adding a plaque with the cemetery’s name. That ended up being the final piece in Young and Johnson Banks’ journey; after years, Johnson Banks was able to see her mother’s grave in person and say goodbye.
“Finally, we are able to find it,” she said. “I’m just thankful today.”
One of the reasons the cemetery was so hard to find was that it was named wrong; “Find a Grave” and other websites list the plot as “Thompson Cemetery”. The correct name is “Thomas” and has since been updated.