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East Ender - Highlights

Salem Cemetery has changes in the works

The Salem Cemetery Committee is making plans to add more plots and change some policies. In 2013, the committee began the long process of purchasing 2.35 adjacent acres to add to the 6.54 acres already in existence. With the land now owned by the cemetery, clearing that land and preparing the soil has begun.

            Committee member Abner Garner said they believe an additional 1,500 plots will be available in the new phase. Currently, only 1,000 plots are open in the original phase and 350 of those are reserved. Reservations are no longer being accepted. Each year on average, according to Garner, about 40 burials take place, so it might be 10-15 years before the new area is used, but the committee wanted to be prepared and feared the cemetery would eventually be landlocked.


Flat headstones

            In the new phase, the committee is also discussing ways to help cut expenses, mostly maintenance, and is considering new rules for the addition to include flat headstones only. Richard Wilkerson, the secretary/treasurer for the committee says the cemetery runs completely off donations and spends about $15,000 annually. Much of that expense is lawn mowing and weed-eating. He shared that it can take up to 32 hours to weed-eat around all the current headstones. 

            “If you look at other cemeteries, they all have flat head stones so it can be mowed right over. Or they spray Round-up and there is dead grass all around the standing headstones,” said Wilkerson.

            Other plans for the new section will include extending the fence along Arch Street and possibly adding another entrance that would start at Arch Street and travel along the southern border of the property close to Harvest Foods.


Operates on donations

            Current policy states that there is no charge for burial, making this cemetery in East End unique. Several area churches such as East Union Missionary Baptist, East End Baptist, East End Assembly of God and Lorance Drive Church of Christ help with yearly or monthly donations.  Numerous families donate monthly or yearly as well.

            “Our most frequent donation is about $200 year,” said Wilkerson. Many individuals choose to donate monthly a small amount. “You can put $20 in your budget a month for a donation easier than a check for $240 at one time.”

            Garner and Wilkerson say the committee hopes they will never have to set a flat fee for the cemetery and hope families will feel the responsibility to pitch in to support the need.


Committee of volunteers

            All committee members are volunteers and some spend as much as 10 to 20 hours a week volunteering. Every time a burial takes place, two committee members are there to mark the site and discuss procedures with the family. 

            The requirements outlined for burial at the cemetery include any person who has immediate family already buried there. It also includes any person who lives within a four-mile radius of Salem Cemetery and a resident of the area for a minimum of five years. “That’s as the crow flies,” said Wilkerson. 

            The eastern portion would include Maple Creek Farms and the southern/western section would include Sardis Road at Fairview as examples. The committee is discussing whether to change policy to state Saline County only, so that the boundaries end at the county line.

            Other requirements include a steel or concrete box. The opening and closing of the gravesite is handled by the funeral home and only by one of the approved grave diggers, so that there is liability coverage.

            Flowers on a new grave must be removed within one month. Flowers on the existing grave must be placed on the headstone only and no additional items of any kind can be placed anywhere on the gravesite.

            The committee has been trying to get updated contact names, addresses, phone numbers and emails for each person buried in the cemetery. Anyone wanting to update information should contact the committee by mail at 3413 Lorance Dr., Little Rock, AR 72206.

            Salem Cemetery Committee members besides Wilkerson and Garner include Robbie Haynes, Steve Jones, Edie Cole, James Spann, Billy Kilmer, Stan Cunningham, Byron Hicks, and David Ashley.


Since 1840

            The cemetery has been in existence since about 1840 when the Hiram Cole family buried two children on the property. According to documents provided by the committee, the Cole family donated approximately two acres of land to the community and designated it as a burial site.