Greene County Arkansas

Daily Press

Paragould, Arkansas

October, 2008


Gone, but not forgotten

87 years later, a Confederate veteran’s grave receives a headstone



Bertig Cemetery was once on an island in the middle of the St. Francis River, but since the levee was built, the waters receded and the river is now about 100 yards away. Clovis DeMent, who has family buried here, said there’s reason to believe some of the graves are from as far back as the late 1880s. But many of the graves remain unmarked, their presence detected only by the slight indentations in the earth.

But on this day, Oct. 11, one grave will go unmarked no longer. A crowd of about 40 milled in an open area: some are students from a school nearby in Cardwell, Mo.; others held cameras and chatted with kinfolk; still others are dressed in the drab grays of replica Confederate Army uniforms, right down to the boots and the sabers.

The crowd is here to memorialize Thomas Jefferson Shaw, a Civil War veteran who served in the 5th Regiment, Missouri Infantry State Guard, 8th Division. His wartime service was spent as a scout in Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry. He was wounded at Shiloh and recovered from his wounds at a plantation in Cornith, Miss., according to family history.

After the war, he married America Ophelia Baldridge and had six children. A daughter, Maddie Maude, was born in Paragould. He would spend the rest of his days as a justice of the peace and sheriff in Clarkton, Mo., until he went to visit his daughter, Eula DeMent, at her home in Bertig in 1921. There he would die and be buried in an unmarked grave in the Bertig Cemetery

Clovis DeMent knows the location of Shaw’s grave because DeMent’s father was present at his funeral.

The intervening years had not been kind to the quiet graveyard on the edge of a soybean field. DeMent said the cemetery was “grown up” with weeds and underbrush until about 15 years ago.

“You couldn’t walk through here,” he said. “I promised myself I was going to take care of it for as long as I can.”

He and other family members kept the grass mowed and tried to locate and map as many of the graves as they could. Then a couple of years ago, he got a call from Tommy French of Baton Rouge, La., another great-grandson of Shaw’s.

“I didn’t know he existed until he called me,” DeMent said.

French was in search of Shaw’s grave, and it was the one thing DeMent could help him with.

When French first came to visit four years ago, he said he decided then to get Shaw a headstone. Through his efforts, the Veterans Administration supplied the headstone, a plain, simple marker.

The ceremony Oct. 11 to dedicate the headstone was no simple affair, however. Representatives from the Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy were on hand to pay honor to the veteran with a Confederate memorial service. Danny Honnoll, commander of Shaver Camp No. 1655, Sons of Confederate Veterans, presided.

It was clear from Honnoll’s remarks about Shaw the man, the soldier and the Confederate, that Honnoll was not only honoring him, but a bygone time and a heritage that most present still held dear.

As the ceremony ended, Honnoll invited the crowd to sing. The gathered voices rang out into the bright fall afternoon, clear and heartfelt:

“I wish I were in the land of cotton, old times there are not forgotten ... “


click to enlarge photo



The above article and photograph has been graciously contributed to this website by:

The Paragould Daily Press/ Janie  Ginocchio

Very kindly we have been allowed to publish a photograph of Thomas Jefferson Shaw in his CSA uniform which can be viewed at: Thomas Jefferson Shaw


Thank you, Janie and the Daily Press for your interest in the History of Greene County, Arkansas

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