22nd Annual Cemetery Walk Remembers Lives of Past Galenians
Local actors present living histories at Greenwood Cemetery, Grace Episcopal
Every June, the Galena-Jo Daviess County Historical Society remembers the lives and contributions of past Galenians with its annual Cemetery Walk. Local performers portray select individuals buried in Galena’s Greenwood Cemetery and recount their lives in front of live audiences. The 22nd Annual Cemetery Walk will be held at Greenwood Cemetery, in Galena, IL, on June 13 & 14, with tours starting every 20 minutes between the hours of 2:00 and 4:30 PM. A seated, indoor performance will be held at Grace Episcopal Church in Galena, on June 20, at 8:00 PM. Tickets will be available at the performances for $15.
“Greenwood is a link to our past, like an open history book,” said Ronn Toebaas, writer and director. “The cemetery is a place to celebrate life and to connect with Galena history in a very tangible way. We have an outstanding cast of local actors to bring these wonderful stories to life.”
Many interesting and notable Galenians will be portrayed this year, including John Turney (played by Mark Haman), who was Galena’s first lawyer and had a tremendous influence in the city’s early development. He helped establish many municipal offices and services, including fire safety and rescue companies. He is considered one of Galena’s founding fathers and will tell his story of frontier life in early Galena.
Doctor Thomas Livermore (Ted Williams) was a dentist in Galena prior to the Civil War and will speak to the rudimentary beginnings of dentistry. During the presentation from Doctor Livermore, two dental patients (Dave Yonda and Marion Roberts) will be inspected and performed upon by the doctor.
2015 marks the year in which the nation commemorates the 150th anniversary of Lee’s surrender to Grant and the impending victory of the Union Army. With this, it is appropriate that the Cemetery Walk highlight two of Galena’s nine Civil War generals. General Augustus Chetlain (Kevin Melancon) was instrumental in organizing and training 17,000 black soldiers during the War. Under Grant’s presidential administration, Chetlain later served as U.S. Consul-General in Brussels, Belgium.
The audience will also be visited by both of Augustus Chetlain’s wives. The story of his first wife, Emily Tinny (LaVon Petsche) was one of tragedy. She died early in their relationship and was originally buried in Galena’s Old City Cemetery, but was later removed and buried next to Chetlain in Greenwood.
Chetlain’s second wife, Annie M. Smith (Nancy Hyman), was the widow of Colonel Melanchon Smith. She assumed Smith’s role as Postmaster in Rockford, IL while he fought for the Union cause. After Smith’s death, she met Chetlain and quickly remarried. This marriage, the second for both Annie and Augustus, ended on a low note. After their residence in Brussels, they separated. She died in Canada.
General William Rowley (Gary Jobgen) was aide-de-camp to Grant during the Civil War and saw action at Fort Donnelson, Shiloh, and Vicksburg. He will recount these events and reflect on the sad realities and losses the war precipitated. Rowley returned to Galena after the war and opened a real estate and insurance business. General Rowley was another of Galena’s nine Civil War Generals.
The next act will recount the difficult life of Mrs. Lucy Venable (Robyn Davis). Lucy’s husband suffered from a painful, terminal illness. Lack of medical knowledge and the difficulties brought on by it were so harsh that he committed suicide. Lucy will tell his story and her own, while also speaking of the prevalence of suicides before doctors had means of effectively alleviating pain and before many safety nets were available to help patients avoid financial ruin.
The final stop on this year’s Cemetery Walk will be with Annie Edwards (Susan Barg). This performance should lighten the mood, as the Edwards lived a life of relative luxury in a well-to-do neighborhood on Galena’s “Quality Hill”. Her family came to money operating lumber businesses throughout Wisconsin. They owned properties in and around Hazel Green and Galena. Their Hazel Green home was lost to a tornado, but her life was one of comparative ease.
Toebaas concluded by saying, “it is an amazing testament to the community’s past that we continue to find such fascinating stories to share. This also helps keep the performances fresh year after year.” Ronn Toebaas writes and directs the performance, historical research is done by Scott Wolfe and Kris Chapman, Bryan Ackerman is the stage manager, Michelle Blanchard is costumer, and Pam Ohms does the music for the indoor performance.
The Cemetery Walk can be enjoyed year round with a collection of scripts from previous performances. Entitled Voices from the Grave, this book also includes a map and GPS coordinates for the gravesites of the individuals featured in the text. The book can be purchased at the Galena & U.S. Grant Museum (211 S. Bench Street), Gateway to History (403 S. Main Street), and onsite the day of the performances. The event is hosted by the Galena-Jo Daviess County Historical Society.
Tickets will be available at the gate for $15. Proceeds benefit the Galena-Jo Daviess County Historical Society. Cash and check only.