The Norristown Cemetery is the last remnant of Norristown, an early settlement in Pope County. The earliest dated marker in the cemetery is from 1853 and the most recent from 1934. The cemetery was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 14, 1995.
Norristown was designated the county seat in the early 1830s and served as such until the 1840 creation of Yell County from part of Pope County necessitated the movement of the seat to Dover (Pope County), a more central location. The town experienced two military engagements during the Civil War, the first on May 19, 1864, and the second on September 6, 1864. The town suffered a decline in population after construction of the Little Rock and Fort Smith Railroad was completed to the north in the 1870s, and many moved to Russellville (Pope County). Parts of the settlement were eroded by the Arkansas River. By the end of the nineteenth century, most of the town had disappeared.
The cemetery includes around thirty marked graves and an unknown number of unmarked graves. The grave of Mary Ann Norris Brearley, who died on October 4, 1853, is one of the oldest in the cemetery. The Brearley family was one of the first to settle in the area, around 1829. About half of the markers in the cemetery appear to have been constructed by professionals, while the remaining markers are comparatively crude in design. Few examples of figural representation are present, with almost all of the gravestones containing basic information about the deceased. Several large arrangements of field stones surround sections of the cemetery, apparently denoting the location of otherwise unmarked graves. There appears to be only one distinct family plot, which includes four graves surrounded by a field stone wall.
At the time of the nomination to the National Register, the cemetery was in poor condition. Several markers had been destroyed by vandals or by exposure to the elements. Efforts were undertaken (and are ongoing) to preserve the cemetery by descendants of the former residents of Norristown and by companies that own land nearby.
For additional information:
“Norristown Cemetery.” National Register for Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Office, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/PP0345.nr.pdf (accessed December 20, 2019).
Vance, David. Early History of Pope County. Mabelvale, AR: Foreman-Payne, 1970.
Henderson State University
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