For Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I traveled to Tillar, Ark., with my aunt to visit the Dr. John Martin Taylor House (also known as the Hollywood Plantation). The Arkansas Archeological Survey – University of Arkansas Monticello (UAM) Research Station was hosting a cemetery clean up of the Taylor family cemetery and Valley Farm cemetery, the nearby African American cemetery.
The two-story, dog-trot log house was built in 1846 alongside Bayou Bartholomew (which by the way is the world’s longest bayou). The 11,000-acre plantation was inhabited until the 1940s, and is on the National Registry of Historic Places. It has since been donated to UAM and is being restored as an education site for people to visit to learn the history of one of Arkansas’ earliest major cotton plantations.
The Taylors were from Kentucky. According to the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program (AHPP), the Hollywood Plantation got its name from all the native holly trees on the property. The family brought over slaves from its Kentucky plantation — there were 83 slaves according to the 1850 Census and 101 slaves by 1860. After the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863, those slaves were given the option to stay on as tenant labor or travel back to the Kentucky plantation with the owner’s wife. That trip in fall 1863 was documented, according to AHPP.
We did get to tour the old Taylor house before work began. The house was built with slave labor, and our tour guide showed us a handprint that remains in the wall of a second-floor bedroom. I just want to know the story behind it — the upper story is the most original to the 1840s.
Our work for the day was primarily cleaning up the land in the Valley Farm cemetery. This is also believed to be the site of the plantation’s original slave burying grounds. According to staff, there are about 18 known graves (ranging from 1906 to 1926) there, and not all of the headstones for those graves could be found. See below for more pictures from the day: