The New Hope Baptist Church Cemetery, Historic Section, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 21, 1992. Its history is contained in the nomination below:
The historic section of the cemetery at the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church is eligible under Criterion A as the only extant historic resource directly associated with the historic black community within Lake Village, Arkansas during the period of significance.
As noted in the associated historic context, Minority Settlement in the Mississippi River Counties of the Arkansas Delta, 1870-1930, Chicot County contained the largest percentage of black population in the entire state up until the end of World War I and the northern migration that saw the relocation of large portions of the black population from throughout the former slave states to the northern urban centers. This high percentage of black residents in the county was solely due to the prevalence of the cotton growing industry within that dominated its economy both before and after the Civil War. Chicot County, like all of the counties bordering the Mississippi, boasted of some of the finest arable land in the entire nation, due to its abundance of alluvial flood plain (accounting for over four-fifths of the total land area within its borders). The richness of the soil, combined with the high temperatures that prevail in this part of the state, provided some of the best cotton-growing land in the entire nation – as of 1890 making Chicot County the most productive cotton-growing county per acre in the entire nation with the sole exception of East Carroll Parish in Louisiana – in spite of the fact that the farmers did little to replenish the soil’s nutrients and that each cotton crop extracts a relatively high percentage of those nutrients during its growing cycle. Naturally, the local black population – working as slaves – was instrumental to the success of this economy prior to the Civil War; however, due to the prevalence of the tenant farming system after the war ( as noted in the above-referenced historic context), they remained instrumental in this slightly-revised version of the plantation economy throughout its tenture in the South. The veracity of this statement was especially accurate for Chicot County, the percentage of the black population of which grew from seventy-five percent in 1890 to eighty-seven percent just ten years later, in 1900.
Lake Village was actually the third county seat in Chicot County, established as such in 1857 (incorporated in 1860) after the first county seat at Columbia was washed away by the Mississippi River and the second, temporary county seat at Masona, at the head of Bayou Macon, was relocated to this site. Though the railroad did not arrive until after 1890, the central location of the community within the county and its accessibility via the Mississippi River and Lake Chicot elevated it in importance as a local governmental, commercial and transportation hub. Many wealthy plantation owners that owned considerable amounts of property throughout the county retained residences here for social and business purposes, usually maintaining small “urban farmsteads,” as they have come to be known, complete with a host of servants that maintained the property and oversaw the daily routines of cooking, cleaning, entertaining, etc. Given the abundance of negro residents within the county, these “domestics” were almost always black.
It was largely this population of blacks living and working within the community of Lake Village that attended the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, which has been on this site since 1860, though it was originally built upon private land as a plantation church, which was by far the norm throughout Arkansas plantations. As the community of Lake Village grew, particularly after the Civil War, this church became the central church for Lake Village’s black community, and its cemetery the principal burial site for its deceased. The church continued to serve this racial community throughout the late nineteenth century and into the twentieth century, and it continues to serve an almost exclusively black congregation today. However, due to the high concentration of burials within the surrounding cemetery, few new burials occur here today.
The historic section of the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church cemetery is the extant historic resource most directly associated with Lake Village’s historic black community, and, in fact, the only known such resource; as such, it is associated with the historic context Minority Settlement in the Mississippi River Counties of the Arkansas Delta, 1870-1930. As a property directly associated with one of the minorities identified in that context, it qualifies as one of the property types so defined. Furthermore, apart from the above-referenced oral history, virtually no documentation of that community and its history has survived from which to gain further information. Finally, the aforementioned historic context – easily reveals its considerable impact upon the local economy of Lake Village and Chicot County during the historic period. As such, though its status as a cemetery does qualify it as a Criteria Consideration, it is eligible under Criterion A through its direct association with this community and this congregation.