Hughes Cemetery

aka: Potter's Field
aka: County Cemetery

Hughes Cemetery, located at the end of South Richards Street in Benton (Saline County), is the final resting place of former state representative, and co-founder of Benton, Green B. Hughes. The cemetery is located between Depot Creek, which is a tributary of the Saline River, and the Union Pacific tracks near the Christy Acres neighborhood in Benton. Left largely ignored by the City of Benton, the area continued to become overgrown until 2004, when the Hughes Cemetery Association was founded to help take care of cemetery. Hughes Cemetery was added to the Arkansas Register of Historic Places in 2019.

Hughes Cemetery takes its name from former merchant, judge, and state representative–turned-farmer Green B. Hughes, who died on June 24, 1858. Hughes was born in North Carolina in 1800 and later moved to Arkansas. After Arkansas statehood was achieved in 1836, Hughes was appointed postmaster at Benton. From 1846 to 1848, Hughes served as a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives. Hughes, his wife Louisa, their daughter Catherine, and Catherine’s husband Sam Steele are buried at Hughes Cemetery. Their graves are no longer marked, as their markers were apparently stolen or destroyed by vandals.

On August 2, 1838, William S. Lockert, sometimes spelled “Lockhart,” purchased “the southwest quarter of the southeast quarter of section fifteen” in what became Saline Township, now Benton. On October 13, 1837, Lockert had sold some land to David D. Cole, whose widow, Nancy, sold it to Hughes on July 4, 1843, for $125. The Cole-Hughes deed also described what is believed to be the land where Hughes Cemetery now sits. In September 1860, after the death of Louisa West Hughes, an agreement was reached among the Hughes heirs in which some land in Benton was deeded to one of the Hugheses’ two sons, John Lockert Hughes. But a deed dated March 1, 1882, between John L. Hughes and William A. Thompson was the first to mention the cemetery itself. John L. Hughes said that Thompson got everything on the lot “excepting 100 yards square embracing the old graveyard lying on or near Hughes Mill Creek.”

In 1976, a complete burial index was issued for Hughes Cemetery, a.k.a. “Potter’s Field.” It was recorded and compiled by Mrs. W. Bernard Baber of Benton. “Hughes Mill Creek” today is known as Depot Creek, as there is a train depot just north of it in present-day Benton. Depot Creek runs between a pair of Union Pacific tracks and Willow Street. After changing hands many times over the years, a deed mentioning the same piece of land between the Rock Island and Missouri Pacific Railroad lines was filed between the Duke family and the City of Benton on December 29, 1997. In 2004, the Saline Courier featured a story on the creation of the Hughes Cemetery Association, a group formed to “obtain historical designation for the site in order to obtain grant money that can assist with the cemetery’s preservation and restoration.”

County Judge Lanny Fite, Mayor Rick Holland, Fire Chief Ben Blankenship, and Ed Albares, Benton’s community economic director, met with members of the newly formed Hughes Cemetery Association. Fite pointed out that “the title company found a record in 1860 of John L. Hughes conveying ownership of the cemetery to the county,” but there was no mention of it after 1862. George and Richard Hughes, both descendants of Green B. Hughes, said that they were interested in claiming ownership of the cemetery. Fite said that the county was not interested, as it would be impossible to maintain every cemetery in Saline County. Fite recommended using a crew from the Benton Work Release Center for maintenance of the property. The Hughes Cemetery Association completed a new burial index in 2004.

In 2009, a local chapter of the Boy Scouts of America cleaned the area and put up a sign and an iron gate to keep vehicles out. Another clean up took place after KARK News aired a report on Hughes Cemetery in June 2018 in which Benton resident Jim Thompson showed how overgrown and neglected the area had become. Thompson said the burials numbered “139 known, several unknown.” Thompson later organized a work release program to help clear the overgrown cemetery.

Hughes Cemetery was added to the Arkansas Register of Historic Places on August 17, 2019. Hughes Cemetery continues to fall victim to vandalism, but it is routinely cleaned by dedicated citizens and crews from the Benton Work Release Center when needed.

For additional information:
Barber, Mrs. W. Bernard, compiler. “County Cemetery or Potter’s Field.” Saline County Cemeteries, Section V. http://files.usgwarchives.net/ar/saline/cemeteries/hughes.txt (accessed August 5, 2020).

Hollenbeck, Lynda. “In Need of Care: Residents Seek to Form Hughes Cemetery Association.” Saline Courier, July 18, 2004, p. 1B.

“Hughes Cemetery.” Arkansas Register of Historic Places listing. Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/arkansas-register-listings/hughes-cemetery (accessed August 5, 2020).

McCoy, Mitch. ”Man Says Cemetery Has Been Forgotten About, Asks For Help.” KARK News. June 13, 2018. https://www.kark.com/news/local-news/man-says-cemetery-has-been-forgotten-about-asks-for-help-cleaning-it-up/1237850831/. (accessed August 5, 2020).

Poole, Shelli. “Cemetery Going to Ruins, Headstones Desecrated, City of Benton and Volunteers Step Up.” MySaline.com. July 30, 2018. https://www.mysaline.com/hughes-cemetery/. (accessed August 5, 2020).

Cody Lynn Berry
Benton, Arkansas

Last Updated: 08/05/2020