It's a strange irony that a cemetery should be the perfect place to make history come to life. After all, the achievements of our city's founders can be found in museums and library archives. But somehow, honoring those visionaries at their final resting place while refusing to put the memories of their life to rest is a paradox that makes sense.
For the fourth year running, the Evergreen Cemetery Living History Walking Tour will be held on the grounds of Evergreen Cemetery, enticing history buffs and the curious alike with the promise of seldom-heard stories and little-known facts. This year the event has been taken over by the Evergreen Cemetery Benevolent Society, a nonprofit group.
During the tour, individuals are taken to different locations in the cemetery where historically significant people are buried. At each grave is an actor decked out in period costume, talking and behaving like the very person interred beneath their feet. The actor gives a presentation about the events of that person's life, and the audience is encouraged to ask questions.
Each year the organizers select different people to re-enact, though some, like General William Jackson Palmer, are a mainstay. Among those being represented this year are Helen Hunt Jackson, Winfield Scott Stratton, Henry and Elizabeth McAllister, Buckskin Charlie White, Benjamin Bish, Molly Kathleen of Cripple Creek fame, one of the boys who discovered Cave of the Winds, and an unknown Civil War soldier.
The actors put a lot of work into these re-creations. Heavy research is necessary to get a good feel of the personality of the individual who will be impersonated. Diaries must be read, historic newspaper articles perused, and living descendants contacted for interviews.
Dianne Hartshorn, who is in charge of organizing the tour, is familiar with the elements of an authentic re-creation. She will be performing as Mary Bacon. Bacon was chosen due to the fact that her tomb was recently vandalized
Vandalism is not uncommon in cemeteries. Hartshorn hopes that the tour will help garner the respect that cemeteries deserve. Not only will money be raised to preserve this part of our community that is named on the National Register of Historic Places, but also people can learn about our city's history and rightfully honor it.
Hartshorn is aware that some may view the location of the event as disagreeable.
"I want to get away from associations with the cemetery as creepy or ghouly," she said. "It's a historical place. It's part of our community. We just need to get people out here."
Once they are there, Hartshorn says that the tours are a way for both children and adults to experience history in a more lively way.
"People remember more when they can actually see and hear the things they are learning," she said. "It really leaves an impression."
Hartshorn says people, after taking the tour, walk away with "a deeper knowledge of our unique and cultured history and a respect for the past. We can appreciate what we have now by being aware of what others have contributed and sacrificed to get us here."
-- Tamara Matthews
capsule Evergreen Cemetery Living History Walking Tour
Evergreen Cemetery, 1005 S. Hancock Ave.
Saturday, Aug. 14, 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
$6 adults, free for children 12 and under
For more info call 630-7328 or 578-6646
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