By Rick Kennedy, updated
At first mention, it would appear that Sam Houston, the legendary Governor of Texas, and Thomas McRae, the 26th Governor of Arkansas, would have little, if anything, in common, yet both storied individuals are the list of dignitaries that have had their monuments restored by Rusty Brenner of the Texas Cemetery Restoration Co.
Brenner and a work crew were in Prescott over the past three days and into the weekend with the goal of restoring McRae’s resting site along with 25 others in Prescott’s storied De Ane Cemetery off Highway 371.
In a phone interview after working the site during the week, Brenner said “This project is something we’ve looked at for a couple of years; this is part of history, and part of local history. We are excited to be part of preserving that.”
From what he examined in Prescott, Brenner’s evaluation saw some stones that were fractured, but most showed signs typical of weather, biological growth, and years of neglect.
“This is common to many small-town cemeteries we see, lichens and other biological growth, wear from weather and neglect. The well-known National cemeteries such as Vicksburg, Mississippi have federal resources behind them for upkeep and maintenance that most small-town cemeteries don’t have,” Brenner said.
Brenner’s work at Prescott is not his first in small-town Arkansas; he has also been involved in renovations in Fouke and Murfreesboro.
Brenner praised officials at the Nevada County Depot for the project, saying “Their efforts to restore this historical cemetery shows community pride, and projects like these can uplift a community.”
Brenner also noted that monuments, gravestones, and tombstones are a form of record history themselves, and he often sees his role as “part of historical preservation.”
“Every community has a story. In their own way, these sites tell the stories of these communities and the families that lived there. For many families and individuals, these monuments are the only piece of information that has survived over time, whether it be for 50 years or 150 years,” he said.
Nevada County Depot and Museum Director Judy Duke said that McRae still had modern day relatives in the area, and she noted that several McRae family members were buried with the former Arkansas Governor, who served from 1921 to 1925 and died in Prescott on June 2, 1929.
Local history cites that McRae had started his law practice in Rosston in 1873 before the Nevada County seat was moved to Prescott. McRae and his family relocated to Prescott in 1877, where he was part of the Smoot and McRae law firm. Also known in the local real estate business, McRae returned to Prescott to practice law after serving two terms as Arkansas governor.
“The McRae family plot is there in the De Ane Cemetery,” Duke said.
The restoration plan in place now evolved from an earlier grant, which aimed to place historical markers annually for prominent Prescott and Nevada County figures. Duke said that McRae as a former Arkansas governor was slated as the first choice; however, as the plan developed, it was observed that many of the 1930’s area headstones, including McRae’s, were in disrepair or damaged.
Brenner noted Wednesday that some were off their bases completely, and he said “Prescott had good records of this cemetery, so we were able to place them to their proper locations.”
The De Ane cemetery spans both sides of Hwy 371, moving out of downtown Prescott and towards the Interstate and nearby Firestone plant. The left side of the cemetery has a short street, appropriately called De Ann Street. Duke said that this portion of the cemetery is a part of the Naitonal Historic Register.
By Rick Kennedy, updated