The Fowler Cemetery is located approximately two miles east of Damascus, along the southeastern border of Van Buren County. The property is just over an acre and is representative of small, rural family cemeteries found throughout Arkansas. There are eighty-nine marked burials on the grounds. While the cemetery mostly contains members of the Fowler family, there are also individuals from other local families who were related to the Fowlers by marriage. It was listed on the Arkansas Register of Historic Places on August 5, 2020.
The Fowlers were one of the many families attracted to the Damascus area in the late nineteenth century, during the cotton farming boom. The family initially settled in the Muddy Bayou area, along the White and Faulkner county line. David Fowler, along with his wife Lauriet Scrimpsher Fowler and their younger children, moved to present-day Oklahoma in 1856, but his eldest son, David Baxter Fowler, stayed behind in Arkansas. By 1870, Fowler had married Sarah Malinda Hogue. The couple had thirteen children between 1871 and 1893. By 1890, the Fowlers had moved from eastern Faulkner County to the Damascus area. Although they moved around quite a bit in the following years, they always stayed near Damascus.
Around 1903, the Fowler Cemetery was established by David B. Fowler on property he owned. The earliest graves are those of Luther M. Fowler (1883–1903) and Jane Sledge (1855–1903). Almost all of David B. and Sarah Fowlers’ children would eventually be buried in the cemetery, as well as their grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren, along with their in-laws and spouses. Two of David B. Fowler’s siblings were also laid to rest in the cemetery: John Martin Fowler and Rebecca M. Fowler Miller. It is not known when these two, along with Rebecca’s husband Archibald, came to the Damascus area, only that they were buried in the Fowler Cemetery.
The area around the cemetery features rolling hills with a mixture of pastureland and timberland. The cemetery is situated on the crest of one of these hills, with scenic views of the surrounding landscape. The grounds of the cemetery feature several large cedar and oak trees, as well as a number of ornamental shrubs, such as crepe myrtles, junipers, and box elders. A flagpole stands at the crest of the hill, roughly in the center of the cemetery.
The graves are more or less arranged in rows running from north to south, although there are several graves within the cemetery that do not conform to this arrangement. Additionally, the rows do not start and stop in line with one another, creating a much more informal appearance than what is found in a more traditional cemetery. The material used for the grave markers includes fieldstone, bronze, cast concrete, and polished granite. While most of the markers in the cemetery are utilitarian in nature, with only basic information on them, there are a few that display notable iconography, including open books, heavenly gates, roses, wedding bands, evening primrose, lambs, and doves. Two graves also include inscribed messages. One reads “There with Jesus,” and the other reads “At Rest in Heaven.” There are also at least seven U.S. Army markers. Of these, four are granite lawn-type markers, two are bronze mounted on granite lawn-type markers, and one is a government-issued headstone. Additionally, many of the oldest graves in the cemetery have more modern, though still simple, markers.
For additional information:
Caroll, Hazel. History of Van Buren County. Conway, AR: River Road Press, 1982.
“Fowler Cemetery.” Arkansas Register of Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/arkansas-register-listings/fowler-cemetery (accessed February 18, 2021).
Ryman, Eleanor Bowling, ed. Van Buren County History. Conway, AR: River Road Press, 1982.
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