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BERRY CEMETERY

EARLE, CRITTENDEN COUNTY, ARKANSAS

(Tyronza Township)

 

 

(Photo taken May, 2001)

 

“ANGEL IN THE FIELD”

 

Only one grave exists in this cemetery. 

This grave is located 2 miles north of Earle on Highway 149,

on the east side of the highway.

 

Reverend George Berry Washington

 

Born December 25, 1864 ~ Died August 30, 1928

 

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The following article appeared in a local newspaper, about 1884

 

“GUARDIAN ANGEL” ON NATIONAL REGISTER by Steve Watts

 

EARLE – Not many people can show the world they have a guardian angel, but thanks to the National Register of Historic Places the city of Earle can.

 

“The guardian angel”, a statue that has stood watch over the grave of Rev. George Berry Washington for 65 years, has been nominated by the Arkansas Department of Arkansas Heritage as an historic site.

 

Washington, who died in 1928, was a former slave who went on to become one of Crittenden County’s eight largest landowners, owning 1,145 acres at the time of his death.

 

He also pastored a Baptist church and owned a commissary and a cotton gin.

 

The 13-foot statue and a short wall surrounding it were erected as a memorial by his wife and two daughters.  It is isolated in a cotton field about 100 feet from Highway 149 where it sits atop a 10-foot Indian mound.

 

The epitaph on the monument was taken from a 19th Century gospel hymn and probably selected by Washington himself.  It reads:

 

“Hallelujah! Tis Done.

I believe in the Son.

I am saved by the Blood of the Crucified One.”

 

Even without the nomination, “the guardian angel” has already become an attraction for passersby, even earning the attention of regional painter Carroll Cloar – whose painting of the statue “Angel in the Thorn Patch” has been exhibited by the Brooks Museum of Art.

 

If the statue is included on the National Register it can only make the angel with a flower in its hand even more recognized.

 

 

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The following was taken from the "Earle Epic"

 

MEMORIAL TO GEORGE BERRY WASHINGTON

 

It is often asked -- the 13 ft. statue of a white winged angel, holding a rose in her hand,

perched on a small old Indian mound in plowed field 35 ft. from the roadside about a mile north of Earle on Highway 149.

 

George Berry Washington is buried there.  He was a preacher, farmer, ginner and owner of a country store.  He owned several hundred acres of land.  He was born December 25, 1864 and died suddenly Aug. 30, 1928.  George Berry or "Elder" Berry as he was sometimes called was uneducated, but he believed in education and sent his two daughters; Irene and Lizzie to school

in Memphis.  This memorial represented the devotion of his wife Lucy and two daughters.  They wanted the statue placed where they could see it, just across the road from the old home.  They desired it to be on high ground and called it their "guardian angel".  Appearing on the monument which is enclosed by a low stone wall having ornate posts with an old woodmen of the world sign are these words.

 

"Hallelujah! Tis done

I believe in the Son

I am saved by the blood

Of the crucified One"

 

The George Berry Washington family did not know when they marked the resting place of their husband and father on a lonely high mound that one day an eminent artist would capture the setting on canvas and display it along with his other works in prominent art showings.  Carroll Cloar who also was a neighbor of George Berry, later entitled this work "Angel in the Thorn Patch".

 

All that remains to mark the old Washington homestead across the highway are scant drooping old cedars looking at the world like a frail, bent old man.  The plot's celestial-like gate has fallen, but the automobiles travel by at a high speed and jets fly over head while the imposing angel still stands in memory of George Berry Washington.

 

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Taken from "A History of Crittenden County Arkansas"

by Margaret Elizabeth Woolfolk

 

George Berry Washington, one of Crittenden County's most successful black farmers and a native Arkansawyer, was born with the name of George Washington, Jr.  Although the date of his birth is not known, his tombstone, located in what is known as the Berry Cemetery off Arkansas Highway 149 north of Earle at the confluence of Gibson Bayou and the Tyronza River,

lists it as December 25, 1864.

 

He started buying land in 1883 and by 1911 owned more than 1,000 acres.  He also had a store and cotton gin near his home.  Washington was a leader in Prince Hall Freemasonry and pastor of

St. Peter's Missionary Baptist Church, about 2.5 miles north of his home.  He deeded five acres of land for the Gibson Bayou Cemetery.  Washington died August 30, 1928, and was buried on a mound overlooking his land.  Over his grave is a fine marble monument surmounted by the figure of a winged angel holding a rose. 

 

The Berry Cemetery occupies a part of an earlier Indian settlement which extended over a two-acre area.  It appears to be affiliated with the Mississippian tradition (estimated 900-1700 A. D.)

 

Washington's holdings were lost by his heirs during the Depression of the 1930's.

 

 

Carroll Cloar, who has won worldwide recognition as an artist, is a native of Earle and has used Earle themes in many of his works.  Some of his paintings are in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Arts in New York City.

 

 

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© Deborah Lunsford Yates, 2000 - 2002

Last updated Wednesday, June 19, 2002, 11:29:48 PM CST