Column: Second cemetery tour to be an incredible history lesson

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 22, 2002

Before the 2001 event occurred: &uot;A cemetery walk? You’ve got to be kidding!&uot; After the 2001 event: &uot;That was a fascinating and fun afternoon. When will you do it again? Wasn’t it great? I never thought I’d see…&uot;

Last year when a group of museum volunteers decided to hold a fund-raiser in Graceland Cemetery, and the Graceland Board of Directors graciously agreed to provide its support, most people that we discussed it with thought we were a little bit strange. After the event, &uot;Echoes From the Past: A Walk Into History,&uot; everyone involved and the visitors were so enthused that we’ve decided to try it again.

Please put a big star on your calendar on Sunday, June 30. You are invited to visit Graceland and to meet several of the people who are buried there. Re-enactors will be sharing the lives and accomplishments of men and women who made an impact on Freeborn County.

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Several of the re-enactors will be portraying family members. Glenn Ruble will be sharing the story of his great-grandfather John Ruble and the part he played in the settlement of this part of Freeborn County. Don Wedge will define the Reverend Russell Abbott and his contributions to education in Albert Lea. Dr. Ralph Faville, Jr. of St. Paul will be portraying his grandfather, Frank Faville who was mayor of Albert Lea from 1923 to 1929, and Pat Zimmerman of Minnetonka, will be on hand to describe her grandfather, Frank Faville as she remembers him.

You will meet several others: &uot;Gas&uot; Hanson, who started out as a blacksmith and went on to form a company known throughout the world, played by Mark Jones; the Simms sisters, whose musical careers brought them fame and whose sad stories have made them legend in Albert Lea, played by Anne Ehrhardt and Joan Muschler; Augustus Armstrong, state legislator, played by Jonathon Green; Margaret Godley, the charming wife of John G. Godley, a Civil War veteran, portrayed by Kelly Schultz; Isaac Botsford, who was involved in most of the development of Freeborn County during its first 35 years, played by Dave Paschka; and Dr. Elizabeth Stacy, the only practicing physician in Freeborn County during the Civil War will be portrayed by me, Bev Jackson. Tom Ehrhardt, president of the Graceland Cemetery Board, will be on hand to share the unique history of the cemetery.

The tour hours will begin at 12:30 p.m. and continue throughout the afternoon with the last group beginning at 3:30 p.m. Tours will start every 10 minutes or whenever there is a group gathered, and will be accompanied by an escort, a member of Lutheran Brotherhood #8482. This organization is providing matching funds up to $500 for this event. Bayview Funeral Home will be providing refreshments halfway through the tour, and Boy Scout Troop #40 from Salem Lutheran Church will direct parking. The cost is $4 for adults and $2 for children 12 and under.

Walking among the grave sites at Graceland over uneven ground may be difficult for some people, so please take this into consideration. We will make every effort to see that you are comfortable.

I have found that the development of this event is an incredible history lesson. As the re-enactors gathered to discuss their characters (and I use this word loosely), bits and pieces of county history would surface &045; stories that never make it to the history books. Who married whom, personalities, business relationships, unique individuals who made things happen no matter how tough the going or how humble the beginnings or even whose toes they stomped on.

We’ve learned that what is written is not always accurate, that historians make typos, and oftentimes have not thoroughly researched their subjects. My search for information on the life of Dr. Stacy has led me to the archivist of the University of Michigan Medical School and to a genealogist in New York and to more questions than I can find answers for. It makes the quest fascinating and frustrating.

This event, &uot;Echoes From the Past: A Walk Into History,&uot; promises to give you an afternoon of unusual stories, the chance to see people that you’ve known for many years step into the lives of others, and the unusual opportunity to learn history as it is found in a cemetery. Please join us for stories, for history, for lemonade, and for fun.

Bev Jackson is executive director of the Freeborn County Historical Museum.