Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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May 4, 2014

Oakwood Odyssey to offer up stories from town’s past

Corsicana — The Oakwood Odyssey is offering up stories of power, action, war and peace, all within the confines of Oakwood Cemetery in Corsicana.

Often called Ghost Walks, the cemetery tours have actors portray various people buried in the cemetery, and Corsicana’s ghosts have some interesting tales to tell. The Odyssey will take place from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, May 10. Each 40-minute tour will leave from the 15th Street entrance to the cemetery. It’s a walking tour, so people are encouraged to wear comfortable shoes. Tickets are $10.

Docents will lead groups of 15 to 20 guests to various graves in the cemetery, and local actors dressed in period costume will talk about the person buried there, and explain something about the times during which they lived.

Among the people being portrayed is the woman killed by Black Diamond the famous circus elephant, the first woman judge, the oil field victims of a massive explosion in the ‘20s, the only Texas governor to die in office, and Madam Dora, whose customers were the thousands of oil field workers who flooded into the area during the boom years.

More than two dozen people are involved in bringing the Odyssey to life, including the actors, docents, and researchers.

Dana Stubbs, genealogy librarian at the Corsicana Public Library, has been to about 15 similar walks in other cities, and she encouraged the Genealogy Society to do it locally.

“I was impressed with the historical aspect of it,” said Lea Murray, president of the society.

Although there’s a touch of the macabre — not all the people on the tour died peacefully — it’s meant to be respectful, to recognize the contributions these people played in making our town.

“It is a solemn place,” Murray said.

Becky Follis will portray Belle Sutherland, a businesswoman in the 1920s, wife of the owner of Sutherland Funeral Home and furniture. Becky admits to having a bit of stage fright. Her acting experience in the past has been minor spots in school and church plays.

“I’m kind of nervous about it,” she said. “This is the first time I’ve ever done this, and especially in the cemetery for three hours.”

“I’m nervous about it, but I think it will be fun,” Follis added.

Robert Keathley, a former history teacher at Corsicana High School, has done research for a historical marker at the cemetery before, but in the Odyssey he’ll be portraying one of the 13 people killed in the famous McKie oil fire in 1923.

“At first I was going to be Dr. Hamill, but then they said we need you to be an oil field casualty,” Keathley said. “I’ll just give a brief description of what I felt like that morning. They didn’t have time to put their hands together to say a prayer. It was just ‘whoomp.’”

Barbara Honea will play Beatrice George who became a judge in her husband’s stead when he got sent overseas during World War II.

“She was just an interesting character,” Honea said. “I love genealogy. I love history.”

Honea was lucky in that she had actually met Beatrice, who took up playing dominoes when she moved into a nursing home later in life.

“I don’t mind acting crazy,” Honea said. “I won’t have a problem getting her personality, but I want to be accurate, not Barbara trying to be Beatrice. I think it’ll be fun.”

Cindy Graham, 27, who works at the library, is playing the nurse of Dr. Dan Hamill, while her paramedic husband, Matt Graham, plays the doctor.

“I just thought it was really interesting,” Cindy said. “I grew up near Oakwood. I rode my bike through there. I find these things interesting. I love history and learning about people.”

“I think it makes you feel more proud to be from a certain area to learn about the history of it,” Cindy Graham explained. “You don’t get involved in a community if you don’t know about the past.”

Tickets are still available, although the small tours are limited. To buy tickets, call the library at (903) 654-4808.

    —————

Janet Jacobs may be reached via e-mail at jjacobs@corsicanadailysun.com.

 

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