Tag Archives: Rambo Cemetery

Cecil Clarence Watts

Here’s one for all of my Watts cousins out there.

Cecil was the first born child of Marcus Houston Watts and Minnie Rosettie Bohannon (or Bohannan). He was born on Thursday, 1 May 1919 in the Watts community of Red River Township, Searcy County, Arkansas.


On Tuesday, 20 January 1920, census enumerator Fredrick Houghton visited the farm of Mark Watts in Red River Township. Mr. Houghton recorded Mark, Minnie – his wife of two years – and their eight month old son Cecil. The farm was owned by the Watts family.


1920 Census, Red River Township, Searcy County, Arkansas.

Tuesday, 29 October 1929, the United States stock market crashed, beginning the Great Depression, a decade-long period of high unemployment, reduced spending, and uncertainty about the future of the economy.


Census enumerator William Cotton came to a farm in Shady Grove Township of Searcy County on 23 April 1930. There he found Mark Watts and family, renting the farm with its value recorded as $10. Mark and Minnie had four sons: Cecil C., 10; Donald L., 8; Sam D., 3 and 5/12; and Carriel C., 3/12. Their only daughter was Hazel M., 6. Cecil had attended school and could read and write, but not the other children. The census indicated that Mark was a veteran of the World War.


1930 Census, Shady Grove Township, Searcy County, Arkansas.

By 1935 the Watts family had moved back to Red River Township.

CCC 80th Anniversary:  1933 - 2013In 1933, as part of the New Deal programs designed to stimulate the ailing U.S. economy, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which provided jobs related to the conservation and development of natural resources in rural lands owned by the government. Army Reserve officers were placed in charge of the CCC camps.

Probably around 1937, when he would have been eighteen years old, Cecil joined the Civilian Conservation Corps. The CCC paid Cecil $30 a month, of which $25 was sent to his parents, as required.

On Friday, 1 September 1939, halfway around the world, the German military invaded Poland. Two days later, France and Great Britain declared war on Germany. These acts would come to have dire consequences for young Cecil Watts of rural Searcy County.


1940 Census Mark Watts

1940 Census, Red River Township, Searcy County, Arkansas.

The 1940 census was enumerated in Red River Township on Tuesday, 14 May 1940 by Ella Parks. The Watts farm was valued at $500. Cecil, age 21, had a seventh grade education and was single. He was a laborer with the Civilian Conservation Corps, had worked every week in 1939, and earned a total of $270 in wages.

President Roosevelt, in response to the war in Europe, signed into law the Selective Service and Training Act on Monday, 16 September 1940, enacting the first peacetime conscription in U.S. history. All men between the ages of 21 and 35 years were required to register with local draft boards starting on Wednesday, 16 October 1940.

Cecil Watts Draft Card Front

Front of Cecil’s draft card, October 1940.

Cecil, 21, registered with the draft board in Marshall on the appointed date. His draft card included his full name, Cecil Clarence Watts, his birth date, and gave his home address as Watts, Searcy County, Arkansas. The “person who will always know your address” was “Mr. Mark H. Watts,” his father. Cecil’s employer and place of employment were both entered as “none,” which suggests that Cecil had left the Civilian Conservation Corps by this time. The back of the card noted a physical description of Cecil: white; five feet, seven inches in height; 130 pounds; brown eyes; brown hair; light complexion. The card was signed by registrar Lindsey M. Parks (of some relation to census enumerator Ella Parks, no doubt).

On Sunday, 7 December 1941, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan at Pearl Harbor Naval Base, Hawaii. The following day, the United States declared war on Japan. The Axis states, of which Japan was a member, responded by declaring war on the United States.

In early 1942, with a military draft now in effect and the nation at war, any federal program not directly associated with the war effort was not a priority. A committee of the United States Congress recommended to discontinue the Civilian Conservation Corps by 1 July 1942.

Cecil Watts Uniform

Cecil circa 1942, shortly after enlisting in the Army. It’s difficult to tell, but it seems as if he’s not yet wearing any insignia of rank on his sleeve.

The military had to be on Cecil’s mind. His father, Mark Watts, was a veteran of the Great War – now being called World War I. The CCC camps where Cecil had been working and living operated in a military fashion by officers from the Army Reserve. There was a surge of national patriotism following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. And with the impending end of the CCC, Cecil would need a job. On Thursday, 19 March 1942, Cecil joined the United States Army, whether by voluntary enlistment or draft is not clear.


Technician Fifth Grade rank insignia, which Cecil would’ve been wearing on his sleeve by 1944.

By December 1944, Cecil was a Technician Fifth Grade serving with the 85th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, 5th Armored Division in Germany. According to the 85th Cavalry’s after action report, on Sunday, 10 December 1944, most of the Squadron “moved to assembly area vicinity KLEINHAU, Germany and prepared to execute mission under control of 4th Cavalry Group.” The general mission assigned to the Squadron was to seize and hold ground from the German military.

“During the period 11 – 22 December 1944, the enemy held the sector opposing our attack with estimated two (2) battalions of 941 Infantry Regiment and two (2) battalions of 6th Parachute Regiment supported by estimated five (5) battalions artillery and unknown number of 80mm and 120mm mortars. At least one platoon of Mark V tanks was also used by the enemy in his defense. Enemy was well trained and extremely accurate in his artillery and mortar fire and seemed to have an abundance of ammunition. Morale of troops was only fair but they were aggressive and not disposed to surrender readily.”

The 85th suffered severe losses from enemy artillery and mortar fire. Technician Fifth Grade Cecil Clarence Watts was killed in action on Monday, 18 December 1944. His body was returned to his family in Watts, Arkansas and he was interred at Rambo Cemetery.

On 24 December 1944, the 85th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron was relieved of their mission and moved to a new assembly area in Hoof, Belgium.

On 13 May 1948, Mark Watts applied for a government-issued headstone for Cecil’s grave. (It’s unknown how Cecil’s grave was marked between 1944 and 1948.) The OQMG form 623, Application for Headstone or Marker, recorded Cecil’s dates of birth, enlistment, and death, his unit, and his military serial number, 37107380. The application was verified on 19 May 1948. The headstone shipped from Columbus, Mississippi on 31 July 1948, to be delivered to the freight station at Marshall, where the North Arkansas Funeral Home of Pyatt, Marion County, Arkansas, would transport it to Rambo Cemetery to be placed at Cecil’s grave.

Cecil Watts Headstone Application

Application for Headstone or Marker, 1948.

Military marker for Cecil C. Watts, Technician Fifth Grade. Don't know the relationship.

Cecil Watts headstone at Rambo Cemetery, Searcy County, Arkansas, April 2010.

Cecil’s name is included on the Searcy County Veterans Memorial located at the county courthouse in Marshall, Arkansas.

Graham Connection

Cecil was at least twice connected to the Grahams of Searcy County. First, he was the grand nephew of John Henry Graham and Mary Matilda Bohannon through the Bohannon side of his family. Second, he was the nephew of Jesse Cornelius Graham and Callie Watts through the Watts side of his family.


A complete list of sources appears on Page 2.


The Mystery of Louise

In December 2012, I published an article called 1518 Wilson Avenue that recounted how I had found William M. Watts in the 1940 census for Chicago, Illinois. Go read it now. I’ll wait.

Now, as you recall (since you just read the article, right?), William was married to a person unfamiliar to me, a mystery woman named Louise who was born in Massachusetts around 1920. I’ve been digging ever since then to learn more about Louise with no success. She’s been a brick wall.

I recently came across a family tree on Ancestry.com that listed William’s spouse as Tura Leona Ragland. The marriage records at FamilySearch revealed that William and Tura were married on 18 December 1941 in Searcy County, Arkansas.

Whatever happened to Louise occurred between 1 April 1940 in Chicago and 18 December 1941 in Arkansas.

Just as I had first learned about Louise through the winding trail of chaotic genealogy, thus did I also discover her fate. While researching something else entirely (yesterday’s article on John Alexander Bohannon), I found myself at the web site for the Arkansas Department of Health, which has an online service to search for and order death certificates (which I also wrote about in December 2012). I began entering in family surnames and searching in Searcy County, first “Graham,” then “Bohannon,” then “Watts,” and on page two of the “Watts” results is where Louise appeared.

Name: Louise Watts

State of Birth: Massachusetts

County of Death: Searcy

Date of Death: 16 January 1941

She died nine months after the 1940 census.

With that one new bit of information, her date of death, I did a new search at Ancestry.com. I found her in the Arkansas Death Index, which listed her as Louise G. Watts, her middle initial now revealed.

I did a new search at Find A Grave, which returned an entry for Louise Gertrude Watts, interred at Rambo Cemetery, a place I’ve been many times. I had visited Rambo Cemetery in April 2010 and again in June 2011, and I wondered if I had taken a picture of her grave marker. I had, in 2010.

Louise Gertrude Watts.

Louise Watts’ headstone at Rambo Cemetery, April 2010.

There was another photograph of a different grave marker of the exact style of Louise’s marker. It was for a child, an infant girl named Lillian Ruth Watts, “a flower, too soon faded.”

Infant girl Lillian Ruth Watts.

Lillian Watts’ headstone at Rambo Cemetery, April 2010.

Louise died nine months after the 1940 census. Lillian was born twelve days before Louise died. I didn’t need a birth certificate to tell me what happened – complications from childbirth led to Louise’s death, and baby Lillian soon followed.

Louise Death Search Detail

Death certificate search results at the Arkansas Department of Health web site. Note Louise’s maiden name on Lillian’s entry.

“In after-time we’ll meet her.”

Civil War Service Record of William Alexander Watts, Jr.

The Second Regiment, Arkansas Cavalry Volunteers, United States Army, was organized at Helena, Arkansas, and Pilot Knob, Missouri in July of 1862. The unit was assigned to duty at Helena, Arkansas until April 1863, whereupon it relocated to Fayetteville, Arkansas until July 1863, when it again relocated to Cassville, Missouri.

It was on 12 July 1863 there at Cassville when a young farmer from “Cercey Co”, Arkansas, eighteen-years-old William Alexander Watts, Junior, volunteered “to serve as a Soldier in the Army of the United States of America” for the next three years.  The examining surgeon recorded that William had “hasel” eyes, “fare” hair, a “fare” complexion, and was five feet five inches tall. William was granted the rank of Private and assigned to Company E.

Company E’s available muster rolls recorded Private Watts as present for duty on the following dates:

Private Watts appeared on company Returns as absent on detached service for August 1864 and as assigned the extra duty of cook in October 1864.

Private Watts was mustered-out of service on 20 August 1865 in Memphis, Tennessee, having only served two years of his three-year enlistment. The Company Muster-out Roll recorded that he was last paid up to 28 February 1865.

The Company Descriptive Book provided this slightly different physical description of William:

  • Age: 20
  • Height: 5’6″
  • Complexion: Light
  • Eyes: Dark
  • Hair: Dark
  • Where born: “Sercy Co”, Arkansas
  • Occupation: Farmer

On 3 February 1891, forty-four years old William filed for an Invalid class Veterans Pension.

William Alexander Watts, Junior died on 9 May 1930 at the age of 83. He was interred at Rambo Cemetery, Searcy County, Arkansas and his grave marked with a Civil War Service Marker.

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Arkansas Cavalry Volunteers, Second Regiment”, compiled by Edward G. Gerdes from microfilm records at the National Archives. Viewed 28 September 2011.

Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Arkansas”, “Watts, William A.”, from the National Archives, available online at Fold3.com.  Viewed 28 September 2011.

Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900”, from the National Archives, available online at Fold3.com. Viewed 28 September 2011.

Find A Grave: Memorial for William A. Watts, Jr.

Grave marker photographed by Ashli B. Graham on 4 June 2011 at Rambo Cemetery, Searcy County, Arkansas.

Obituary: Daniel Paig Graham

This is the obituary for my grandpa, Daniel Graham, originally published in the Marshall Mountain Wave.


Daniel Paig1 Graham, 73, of Marshall, died March 15 in the Baptist Medical Center in Little Rock.

He was born August 12, 1909 in Searcy County.  He was a retired painter and a member of the Rambo Freewill Baptist Church in Marshall.

Survivors include his wife, Blanche; three sons, Leroy of Marshall, William of Harvey, Illinois, and Jimmy Dale of East Prairie, Illinois2, a daughter, Janice Booker of Halls, Tennessee; a sister, Emma Mainord of Parcel, Oklahoma; 12 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren.

Services were March 19 in Coffman Chapel with Rev. Allen Brock officiating.

Burial was in Mainord Cemetery, Marshall, by Coffman Funeral Home.


1. Daniel’s middle name was spelled “Page” according to the John Henry Graham Family Data Sheet by Nellie Collins Allen, as transcribed from the Graham Family Bible.

2. East Prairie is in Missouri, not Illinois.


“Daniel Paig Graham”, Marshall Mountain Wave, 24 March 1983.

How I Spent My Arkansas Vacation

A couple of weeks ago I took a week’s vacation from work so that I could attend the North Arkansas Ancestor Fair and the Graham family reunion, both in Marshall, Arkansas.  This will be a recap of the highlights.

Travellin’ Down

Left Chicagoland and drove south.  Our goal the first day was simply to travel to East Saint Louis, Illinois for an overnight hotel stay, and then visit the Gateway Arch in Saint Louis before continuing on.  That didn’t work out so well.  As we were packing up the car at the hotel the following morning I noticed that the rear left tire seemed low.  “That’s why, right there,” said my wife Ashli as she pointed to a nail embedded in the tire.  So instead of going to the Gateway Arch we went to Walmart to get the tire patched.  With the morning gone, we then travelled on to Marshall, promising to visit the Arch on the way back.

Arrived in Marshall in the early evening and got a room at the Sunset Hotel.  Dinner at the nearby Sunset Restaurant. Everyone stopped what they were doing to look at us when we entered. “Who are these strangers?” they must’ve been thinking.

A (Half) Day at the Fair

Following breakfast at the Sunset Restaurant (“Didn’t I see y’all last night?” the waitress asked us. “Yes,” I said, “and you’ll see us again tonight!”), we spent the morning at the first sessions of the North Arkansas Ancestor Fair, which was held at the still-under-construction Veterans Memorial Hall.  While I was at the sessions on finding Civil War ancestors, Ashli and the kids wandered over to a nearby flea market. Yeah, this vacation was really all for me, they were just along for the ride.

The Searcy County Memorial Association is accepting donations to complete the hall’s construction, and a $100 donation will get donors a plaque with the name of a veteran that they wish to honor.  I thought about getting a plaque to honor William Thomas Graham, my grand uncle that served in the Army during World War I.

Lunch at Sonic, then we ditched the second half of the fair to visit the Searcy County Library.  The library has a very good genealogy wing with numerous books and records on the county and its citizens.  I spent the afternoon going through the various volumes of obituaries from the local papers, furiously typing some into the my iPad because I didn’t have any change for the copier.  As the afternoon went on, more and more people from the fair began to show up at the library, and I heard how the afternoon session had become so hot as to be unbearable.

Dinner at the Sunset Restaurant (leaving just before the fair’s mixer dinner commenced), then met up with mom and dad, who had come over from Alabama for the Graham family reunion.  We followed dad out to East Lawn Cemetery to lay flowers upon the graves of Uncle Leroy and Aunt Lorice, then Ashli and I wandered around the cemetery taking photos of any name that rang any bell in the family tree.  Then we all drove over to Sulphur Springs Cemetery to visit the graves of Uncle Millard and Aunt Ermadean Kelley and for more pictures.

Saturday Cemetery Tour

Breakfast at the Sunset with mom and dad.  Then they went to visit dad’s cousin Doyle Graham while we went to the Genealogy Swap Meet at the “civic center”.  I put that in quotes because that’s what the building was called in the fair’s promotional material, but there was no such sign at the actual building, which led us to drive way past our destination in search of this place before we turned around, decided that brown brick building we passed must have been it, and finally arrived.  Went from table to table looking over stuff and chatting with folks.  Had a nice conversation with Barbara Van Camp, who runs the Watts Family site at MyFamily.com and organizes the annual Watts family reunion in Marshall. I’m sure she won’t mind if I plug it, so plan now to attend the Watts reunion in October!

Met with mom and dad at Kelley’s Restaurant (I wondered if the owner was related to uncle Millard, but we didn’t learn the answer (but it’s probably “probably”)), then went in search of Shady Grove Cemetery, where most of the Searcy County Grahams are buried.  We drove down Arkansas Highway 254 for so long that dad became unsure of the direction and pulled over.  As I was pulling in behind him, I noticed that he’d pulled over right at the cemetery!  I parked the car and got out, then the realization dawned on dad that we were there and he parked, too.  Ashli took a lot of photographs here, and I noted that someone had placed newer stones for Jesse and Sarah Graham – their original stones were so weather-worn that they were altogether unreadable.  Took several photographs of the marker for William Thomas Graham, which named the Army unit that he served with in the war, which I hadn’t previously known.

We then went up the mountain to visit Rambo Cemetery, where my grandparents (dad’s parents) are buried.  Saturday was Decoration Day at Rambo so mom brought flowers, and with my daughter’s help they placed them on the graves of grandma and grandpa and Uncle Charles and Aunt Ruby.  Just after the flowers were placed, dad’s sister Aunt Jan showed up with one of her daughters, Marie, and her family, so there was a little impromptu reunion as we all wandered around the cemetery.

As we were leaving the cemetery I asked dad if he could remember the way to the Rambo School.  He did, and so we followed him there.  I was surprised to see that it was abandoned and weathered, as I had heard that it had been refurbished and was being used as a community center.  That had been true, but that was also some time ago, and now the school stands unused.  Dad tried the door and it was unlocked, so we stepped inside for a moment. There were still rows of chairs and tables inside, and it looked like it had been used for church services. Dad told us how it looked when he went to school there.  Back outside the school, it occurred to me to ask dad exactly where he had been born.  “In a cabin right up the road” he said, “I could probably find the land but I bet the cabin is gone.”  He offered to take us but I declined.  It was getting late, the kids were getting tired and so was mom.  They all stayed in the car here – only Ashli, dad and me explored the school.

Dinner that evening was just Ashli and me at Pizza Hut while the kids stayed at the hotel. We were getting tired of the Sunset Restaurant.

Graham Reunion

Didn’t meet mom and dad for breakfast – skipped it altogether.  They went to visit dad’s niece while we continued our cemetery tour at the little Marshall Cemetery there in town.  Didn’t recognize any names from my research, but we snapped a few photographs of whatever interested us.

I decided I wanted to visit Bear Creek Cemetery, so we went out driving down Arkansas Highway 27 to find it.  Never did find it, but we ended up at Canaan Cemetery where we snapped a few photos of the possibly related.

Long about that time mom called on the cell phone to ask where we were since they were about to serve lunch at the reunion, so we hightailed it up the mountain and to the fire department.  Ate lunch and reminisced with some cousins I hadn’t seen in nearly two decades.  Ashli and the kids sat at the table behind me, mostly keeping to themselves and probably wishing we’d go to the Buffalo River for a swim.

Travellin’ Up

Left the reunion and hit the wide open road.  Stopped briefly at the Buffalo River to try for that swim, but it was so crowded we decided against it, so we went on.  Got a hotel room in Sullivan, Missouri, then ate dinner at a Jack in the Box, which I hadn’t been to since the late 1970s, when all the ones in Illinois closed.

Breakfast at Cracker Barrel, then on to Saint Louis and the Gateway Arch!  It was confusing to find the entrance to the arch’s parking lot.  Ended up accidently taking a turn that put me on the Eads Bridge over the swollen Mississippi River.  There was a traffic signal at the Illinois end of the bridge, and at Ashli’s insistence I did a u-turn to head back across.  In mid-u-turn, I spotted an East Saint Louis police car pulling up to the traffic light (the East Saint Louis Police Department is right there!).  I swore and kept on going back across the bridge, checking the rear-view mirror the entire time to see if the police was following, but he didn’t.  I guess he didn’t want the hassle of following me into another state jurisdiction for a traffic violation.

The Gateway Arch has a tram system to take visitors to the top.  The cars of the tram seat five people, but they are small and cramped, and the doors are tiny.  It looks and feels a bit like entering a pod from some 1960s time travel movie.  As I was purchasing the tickets, the salesperson asked if any of us were “claustrophobic, afraid of heights or prone to motion sickness”.  I replied, “Not yet.”

The sky was clear and sunny, so the view from the observation area was great.  To the east we could see Illinois and the flooding it had endured from the Mississippi River, and to the west was the city of Saint Louis.  I could feel the arch swaying, and it would vibrate as the trams arrived at the top.

After we left the arch, the rest of the trip was unremarkable.  We got home safely, unloaded the car, and went to bed.

Obituary: Callie (Watts) Graham

Originally published in The Marshall Republican on Thursday, 2 October 1958.

Callie Graham, Wife of Jesse Graham, Died

Mrs. Callie Graham, aged 64, wife of Jesse Graham, died Saturday.  The family had resided in the Rambo and Watts communities for a number of years.

Mrs. Graham was born October 18, 1893.  She professed faith in Christ early in life and lived a devoted Christian life until her death.  She was a member of the Free Will Baptist Church, having affiliated with that church when she was 16 years of age.

She is survived by her husband and four children, Mrs. Ruby Scott and Albert Graham, both of Leslie, and Alvin and Alpha Graham of Marysville, Calif., and 12 grandchildren.  Brothers and sisters surviving include Ollie Watts of Canalou, Mo., Mrs. Rose Savage of Russellville, Ark, Mrs. Leona Bohannon of Canalou, Mo, Mark Watts of Leslie, MiKinley Watts of Holdenville, Okla., Mary Watts of Benton, Ark., and a number of other relatives and friends.

Funeral services were held Sunday, conducted by Rev. Paul Jones of Marshall, assisted by Eld. Fate Mize and Eld. Ralph Rains.  Burial was in the Mainord Cemetery near Watts with Coffman Funeral Home in charge of arrangements.

Pallbearers included Dempsey Graham, DJ Lathum, Jerry Watts, Kennith Martin, Dalph Martin, and Dan Barnes, all nephews of the deceased.

Flower girls were Rebecca Griffith, Betty Griffith, Kathaleen Griffith, Helen Walker, Patsy Treat, Kay Treat, Louise Graham, Sue Walker and Eualene Rhymes.

Obituary: Blanche B. (Watts) Graham

I recently wrote to the Roller-Coffman Funeral Home in Marshall, Arkansas to see if they had kept copies of the obituaries for my grandparents Daniel and Blanche Graham.  While they did not have Daniel’s, they did have Blanche’s, and Linda Steen of the funeral home very kindly sent to me a copy of it, which I have transcribed here.

Blanche Graham of Marshall died in the Marshall Nursing Center, Tuesday February 16, 1993, at the age of 77.

She was a housewife, and Baptist.

Survived by three sons:  Vernon L. Graham of Marshall, AR.  William C. Graham of Harvey, IL.  Jimmie D. Graham of East Prairie, MO.

One daughter:  Janice L. Booker of Halls, TN.

One sister:  Mrs Ermadean Kelley of Marshall, AR.

Twelve grandchildren.

Thirteen great grandchildren.

One great-great grandchild.


North Arkansas Chapel
Marshall, Arkansas
2:00 P.M.
Saturday, February 20, 1993


Reverend Billy Joe Reid


Mainord Cemetery
Marshall, AR

Coffman Funeral Home
Marshall, AR


Roller-Coffman Funeral Home, Marshall, Arkansas.

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