#46 Understanding African American Grave Markers in Arkansas

Our family — the Wilks, Wilkes, Gray, Lee, Owen, Weed and Wead — made their homes in Arkansas during the 19th and early 20th centuries. That is where many also paid into burial insurance offered by fraternal organizations. The insurance also paid for grave markers that also came with special fraternal graphics.

See the source image
No relation, however, this is an example of the Mosaic Templars inscription on a headstone in Arkansas.

Those special insignas headstones offer huge clues to the organizations your ancestors were affiliated with such as those associated with the Good Genes Genealogy heritage. While we are offering a glimpse into the fraternal insurance-based burials in other states.

Our Arkansas ancestors

On our maternal side – Gray, Wilks, Wilkes — were in northwest Arkansas before moving across the state line into Missouri. Ann’s paternal side — Lee, Weed, Wead — were in the southeast, Arkansas Delta area. The maternal Owen family resided in Hope, Arkansas, before they and other African Americans were put on trains and buses and pushed out to northern cities. Our mothers — born with the surname Owen — are direct descendants of that migration from Hope. The father of Angeline Cecil Owen (Ann) and Lyla Janet Owen (Mark) was a young man when his father and sister landed in Kansas City, Missouri, shortly after the death of Grandfather Eugene Owen, Jr. ‘s mother, Armentha in 1925.

Not only was Great Grandmother Armentha Powers Owen buried in the “black” cemetery in Hope, Arkansas, other ancestors’ graves are in the state. To learn a little more about our relatives and other researchers of Arkansas family histories, consult the guide to cemeteries based on insurance companies and fraternal markers on graves.

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