Still as stone:a glimpse into Siloam’s past

The Hico Cemetery in Siloam Springs, Ark. sits at the top of the bluff, just before the road curves and leads into what was once the town of Hico. The tombstones have been replaced in a circle, all facing the large rededication stone in the middle. Gravel and dead pine needles fill the space between the stones.

The history of two small Southern towns lies etched in the weathered stone memorials.

John V. Hargrove’s grave serves as a remembrance. The dates Feb. 17, 1834 and Aug. 8, 1884 are carved above the declaration “The true founder of Siloam Springs”.

Hargrove’s tombstone does not tell the full story, though. Hargrove dedicated his life to founding Siloam Springs, but the town’s people had lost faith in him, believing the railroads would never come to bring much needed industry. His funeral address, delivered on Aug. 8, 1884, by the Rev. Estes addressed the solemn cause of Hargrove’s death.

“It is our painful duty to record the death of our worthy citizen J.V. Hargrove: who, in a melancholy state of mind, saw fit to take his own life.” Estes went on to chastise the town’s people for their treatment of Hargrove and asked that they at least show him kindness in death.

Across the street, the Baptist Cemetery shows even greater signs of decay. 14 monuments stand in this cemetery, though there are approximately 30 more graves no longer bearing a marker. Of the headstones left, two of them are completely unknown and a third only bears the initials S.W.P.

Don Warden, the curator of the local museum, is one of the few people who know the stories of those buried at Hico Cemtery and the old Baptist Cemetery. He said many of these stories go forgotten until someone decides to research their ancestry.

Members of the Siloam Springs community took a special interest in the Hico Cemetery in 1976 when they first restored the area and reset the headstones, adding a large dedication stone in the center.

Hico was a Confederate stronghold while Siloam Springs was founded by a Union soldier and other Union supporters.

The many Confederate soldiers buried in the Hico Cemetery do not leave indication of their service to the South unlike their Union neighbors. Such an example would be the Sager family.

John Sager’s grave does not declare his statues as a soldier in the Confederate Army. Those standing at his gravestone do not know he served with a Cherokee regiment. They also do not know he, his brother and a friend were returning home, traveling at night to avoid Union troops and sympathizers, when they were ambushed by Pin Indians, a warrior sub group of the Cherokee, near Box Spring just outside of what was then Hico, Ark.

The date of the Pipe Spring Incident is on his tombstone: March 10, 1862, the day Siloam Spring’s first settler lost his son.

His father Simon Sager, one of the first settler’s in the area, is also buried in Hico, near his son, and he also lost his life as a result of Civil War hostilities. Simon Sager was killed two years later on the afternoon of Aug. 8, 1864, by Pin Indians while they were claiming to arrest Sager.

Mrs. Sager, who was 60 years old and her daughter, a soon-to-be teenage mother, then took Simon Sager’s body to Hico Cemetery. The two women began to dig his grave alone before a group of mysterious armed men came, took their shovels and dug the grave. After the men finished and the grave was filled the next afternoon, they left and were not seen again.

The graves themselves are still buried in the yard around the renovated center where the stones sit.

Hardgrove’s dreams for Siloam Springs did come true. Eventually the railroad did come through town and people from all over did come to Siloam Springs for its pure, clean springs. Factories, chicken plants and large retail offices moved to the area and in 1919 a college—John Brown University— was founded in Siloam Springs.

But Hico did disappear, the only trace of the town in a road bearing its name and the Hico and Baptist Cemeteries. Some of the surnames found on the graves can still be found in engagement announcements, business billboards and on office buildings in the area. Their stories are still kept and studied by others interested in finding out more about local history.

As the Baptist Cemetery’s dedication stone says: “Those who will not pass this way again, they in faith in God and have left hope in us.”