Wilhite Cemetery

aka: Sims Cemetery

The Sims family graveyard is the oldest known cemetery near what later became the community of Pine Ridge, then Waters (Montgomery County). It is in the woods on unmarked private property off of Arkansas Highway 88, approximately two miles east of the MontgomeryPolk County line. The cemetery has about sixty-five graves. In the twenty-first century, access is limited.

The Sims and Wilhite families were among the settlers who traveled by wagon train during the mid-1800s to what is now the Ouachita National Forest. Most were southern farmers looking for wooded hills with game and fish to feed their families.

Many of the Sims women married Wilhite men, and the Sims Cemetery became known as the Wilhite Cemetery, although it remained Sims property. Most graves were marked with slate or stone with no names or dates. The earliest burial date known is that of Robert Wilburn “Bill” Dees (1823–1870), first husband of Annette (Ann) Malinda Sims Dees, who was the daughter of cemetery owner William Sims (1803–1871) and Jeanetta (Jenny) Sally Sims (1806–1883); William and Jenny Sims are buried in the Sims Cemetery with their three daughters.

Others identified are Nancy Jane Sims Locke; Levi Reed, Co. C, Fourth Regiment, Arkansas Infantry, CS; Reed’s wife Francis Sarah Ann Sims Reed and daughter Sarah Malinda “Lindy” Reed Tatum Hoyle (1861–1939); Lorenzo Dowell “Dow” Wilhite (1855–1945); his first wife Annette Malinda Sims Dees Wilhite, his second wife Molly Ann (Fryar) Wilhite, and their daughters Tilda and Cannie; and Mary Hays Wilhite, first wife of George Wilhite. Only the Sarah Reed Hoyle and Lorenzo Wilhite graves have commercially made headstones. Primitive slate and stone markers in long straight rows were uncovered in 2018. Of the estimated sixty-five graves in the cemetery, none are recent.

The Hicks and Hill families bought the Sims property, including the graveyard, when they moved to the area in the 1890s and soon had marital ties to the Sims and Wilhite families. However, most burials after that were in the nearby Pine Ridge/Waters Cemetery (established in 1886), including twenty-nine Wilhites and seventeen Hickses but no Simses. The Sims property has changed hands several times since, but rarely was graveyard upkeep done. Over the years, trees grew up through graves, underbrush and poison ivy covered everything, old markers were hidden or destroyed, and access points became entirely overgrown.

In the early 2010s, B. F. Hoyle and his son Edward identified the property owners and obtained permission to proceed, and with the help of friends, began clean-up and identification of all the graves. They announced plans to protect and improve the cemetery, have it removed from the “abandoned” category, and document more of its history. A Californian who relocated to Pine Ridge in the 2000s discovered that his Wilhite ancestors are buried just a few feet behind his house.

For additional information:
Montgomery County Historical Society. Montgomery County Our Heritage. 2 vols. Mount Ida, AR: Montgomery County Historical Society, 1986, 1990.

Kathryn Moore Stucker
Lum and Abner Museum


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