Living History Cemetery Tours
Locals Portray Historic Chattooga Characters
Saturday, October 10, 2015 saw the first-ever living history tour of the Summerville Cemetery. Despite ominous-looking rain clouds, about thirty people attended the walking tour. A dozen costumed characters were brought to life, and many more of the cemetery’s residents were discussed along the walking tour.
Lovejoy and Cleghorn Murders
Guests were transported by shuttle from the historic Summerville Depot and were greeted at the front gate by Ella Cox and by Steve Strickland, who shared the history of how the cemetery came into being. Strickland then introduced the group to Mrs. Martha Hinton Lovejoy Johnson (portrayed by MichaelAnn Bailey). Mrs. Bailey, in her pink gown with hoop skirt and lace trim, looked every bit the genteel, mid-nineteenth-century lady as she regaled the group with how well the Lovejoy children had married. Her rendition of how Martha’s husband had been murdered in a Summerville saloon in 1840 was perfectly spell-binding, particularly the description of the damage that can be done with a drawing knife!
Peggy Baldwin played the role of Mrs. Octavia Jones Cleghorn. Standing before the stately Cleghorn mausoleum, she recounted how Mrs. Cleghorn had created the original 1880s park at Willow Spring. She then gave a moving account of the tragic murder of young Minnie Cleghorn, Octavia’s daughter.
Civil War Doctor, Centenarian Musician and Ladies’ Hats
John Turner, local artist and former high school art and drama teacher, brought Dr. Robert Young Rudicil to life with a great deal of southern charm and humor. Ella Cox portrayed Miss Annie Pitts, whom several of the tour guests remembered. Miss Annie, a popular local music teacher, lived to be almost 102 years old.
Nancy Daniel portrayed Miss Lois McWhorter, local milliner. As she concluded her presentation as Miss Lois, Nancy asked the group to look around at all of the old tombstones with ladies’ names, and said, “I made hats for all of them!”
1840s Historian and Hospital Founder
Reba Welch portrayed school teacher Mrs. Lucy Burnett Johnson who, in 1923, published her firsthand account of life in Summerville in the 1840s. Mrs. Welch brought along samples of the school books Mrs. Johnson would have used when she taught school in Summerville in the mid-1800s.
Bill Barker, after spending the morning portraying Sequoyah at the Depot for guests arriving by train from Chattanooga, quickly donned another costume to become Dr. William B. Hair. He gave an interesting history of how Dr. Hair led the effort to create the first Summerville-Trion Hospital. It is interesting to note that Barker’s home on East Washington Street is next door to Dr. Hair’s Summerville home.
Fiery Baptist Preacher and Smith Knox
Tim Day of Menlo captured the essence of the nineteenth century preacher as he portrayed Rev. D.T. Espy, one of the cornerstones of the Baptist denomination in Chattooga County. Day conveyed the interesting family tradition that Rev. Espy’s lifelong stuttering problem disappeared when he preached, only to reappear when he was not in the pulpit.
The final characters who were represented on the tour were Smith and Charlotte Taylor Knox, ably portrayed by Zach Martin and Mrs. Maxine Mosley West. They told how Smith Knox, born a slave, managed to create his own shoemaking business and buy his freedom, and then to buy that of his wife. This writer would like to note that Mrs. West and her son, Brian, actually purchased the original Smith Knox home and restored it a few years ago.
An encore presentation of the tour on October 24 saw additional characters protrayed. Mary Sturdivant Tookes was portrayed by Mrs. Arbie Avery and Mr. James Lee McGinnis was portrayed by grandson Gene McGinnis. Contributions made during the program are being used to begin repairing broken tombstones in the oldest block of the cemetery.
Plans are already in the works for the October 2016 tours, which will be a cooperative program between the Chattooga County Historical Society and the Summerville Main Street Program. Don’t miss it this journey into our history!